Why I Watch The Bachelor




Writing this post strangely feels like writing a confession, but here it goes - I watch the Bachelor.

I was really late to the Bachelor train, since I only started watching with Sean's season.  Derek was traveling at that time, and every Monday night I would snuggle on the couch with a newborn Gwen and tune in.  I did the same in 2014 when I was pregnant with Clyde, and again in 2015 when I was pregnant with Clarice.  And now I nurse Clarice every Monday night while watching Ben make his picks (I'm not holding my breath on him finding a wife, but you never know).  I even rope Derek into watching with me, and my sister and I talk on the phone to discuss the Bachelor happenings.

Learning To Laugh




I was standing in the kitchen, making dinner and cleaning up, when I heard it.  A little hiccup-type sound.  Wyatt was laughing, and I was afraid Clarice was upset about something, so I rounded the corner to see Clarice on the couch, giggling at Wyatt's antics.

Clarice has laughed since about two and half months old, and it usually sound like a drawn out "huh/hee" sound.  But this time she hiccup-giggled along with it.  It's hilarious to watch her laugh, because it is almost like she doesn't know how and it surprises her when it bubbles out.  It grows from a "ha" noise to a gurgle-chuckle.  I can't even describe it, but I love it so much.

Thin Ice (A Review)



Figure skating is one of my favorite sports to watch - maybe because it is so far out of the range of anything I can do.  I can't even ice skate, at least not well.  I blame my weak ankles, but my lack of coordination could also play a part.

You also know that I love a good suspense/mystery, so combine that with a figure-skating main character, and we have a winner!  Thin Ice by Irene Hannon opens with Christy Reed finding out that her sister, who was thought to have died in a fire, may not be dead after all.  When she gets a note from a kidnapper, she contacts the FBI and meets Lance McGregor.  As the notes keep coming, Christy and Lance try to figure out who might be playing this cruel game.

Three Reasons To Celebrate Valentine's Day


 (This post is brought to you in partnership with Tommy Nelson.*)


Did you know that people actually throw “I Hate Valentine’s Day” parties? 

I have seen the idea portrayed in movies before, but I didn’t realize it was an actual thing.  I can understand how some people might dislike the holiday.  Some might think it is just another marketing opportunity for candy, card, and gift companies, and some people are opposed because all the focus on romantic love highlight’s singleness in a painful way.

Why I Don't Care If Valentine's Is A "Hallmark Holiday"



I am one of those people that happens to love Valentine's Day.  People say it's a Hallmark holiday, to which I say, yeah, yeah, yeah.  I still love it, and I think part of the reason is that I have many lovely memories associated with it.

7 Things To Save For A Baby Box




Sitting in a closet in my house is a plastic tub.  It doesn't look like much, but it's one of those things that always goes on the list of things I would take if we were evacuated for a natural disaster.  Because inside, carefully preserved by my mom, are keepsakes from my childhood.  It's my baby box.

It resides in my closet, but my baby box has been a part of my life for a while.  Growing up I remember how fun it was to open up our baby boxes every now and then and have my mom show us all the things she had saved from our baby days.  There were stories and memories to go with each item, and hearing the stories from my mom's perspective made me feel special.  Every time we opened it I looked forward to starting baby boxes for my kids one day, and maybe giving them a few of the things from mine. 

Now I have four children, and I have little baby boxes started for each of them. What do you put in a baby box?  I'm glad you asked.  These are a few basics that I have included in my kids' boxes.

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Photos.  

We take so many pictures of our kids these days, but so few get printed up.  I recommend taking a picture of your darling with each of the following items and including the photos in your box! It's so interesting to look at some of the things in my own baby box, and then see pictures of myself as a baby with those same items.  So print up a few of those pictures, and tuck them in your child's box.



Coming home outfit.  

We have two boys and two girls, and even though we are utilizing the hand-me downs, one thing I do not re-use is my kids' going-home outfits.  For each of the kids I bought a special outfit after finding out the gender specifically for them to wear home from the hospital, and when they outgrew it, it went into the box.

Baby book.  

Do I forget to fill things out some of the blanks in baby books?  Yes.  But I do try to write down as many milestones and memories as I can.  I don't think it matters if every blank space is filled - they kids will love to read about themselves as babies someday.  Hint: baby books don't have to be fancy or perfect - a notebook with a few memories is just as special!

Magazine or newspaper from birthdate.  

It's just fun to see what the world was like when you were born!  Include some publication from the year your kids were born that they can flip through (and maybe laugh at) someday.

Something from the nursery.  

This could be a special blanket that you made or bought, personalized artwork, a monogrammed item - anything that holds significance for you.  Bonus point if it's something your child can use for their own kids one day!

Favorite baby toys.  

Anything that your child particularly enjoyed at one time and that you would like to keep can go in the box.  Don't go crazy - you can't keep everything!  But it's nice to include a few of their treasured toys.  In Clyde's box we have a wubbanub that he was particularly attached to when he was a newborn - it was a short-lived phase, but I had to keep it!


Baby shoes.

There is something incredibly precious about baby feet.  Baby shoes are the perfect thing to include because it is a symbol of just how tiny they were at one time, and how much they have grown!  

If you are looking for the perfect baby shoes for your little darling, I have a great shop for you!  We just received these adorable shoes for Clarice, and I am just in love with them!

(Note: We received this pair of shoes for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.)

These little shoes are called Moccasinis, hand-crafted baby moccasins from this new Etsy shop.  These are soft, flexible baby shoes, so they are comfortable and gentle enough for even brand-new babies to wear.  They come in tiny sizes (like these that fit Clarice's three-month feet), up to toddler sizes!  Jessica, the owner of Moccasins and my friend, was even able to make these so they fit Clarice's itty bitty feet exactly.  You can check out the Moccasini shop here to see all the styles, or follow on Facebook to keep updated on new inventory!



As I said, I know the owner of this shop personally, and she does beautiful work - these shoes are so well-made.  There are many different styles to choose from, for baby girls and boys.  I am going to cram Clarice's feet into these as long as I can because they are so cute - and when she outgrows them, they will be a perfect reminder of just how tiny her feet were when I dig them out and look at them when she's grown!

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Even though my heart breaks a little each time I put something inside it, I am looking forward to sharing these baby boxes with my kids someday.  I treasure each of these little days with my babies, and I hope someday they can look through their boxes and know how much I love them and treasure every minute I have with them.


Are you creating any sort of keepsake box for your kids?  
What do you put in your kids' boxes?






Three Goal-Filtering Questions (With Grit & Grace Linkup)


Do any of you use a filter for your goals?  

In recent years, I have become a bit too ambitious with my goals.  I have all these big plans and before you know it I have set so many goals that I barely have time to breathe, I get overwhelmed, and I end up becoming stress-paralyzed (it really is a thing)!  

For me, I have found that it is better to focus on one or two goals at a time, instead of creating a big list of goals that will paralyze me into not even accomplishing the easy things.  Because when I get stress-paralyzed, my default is plopping on the couch with whipped-creamed coffee and Netflix and binge-watch the afternoon away while that kids nap and/or play (surely I can’t be the only one?).

If I were to create an expansive list of goals with four young kids at home I would be setting myself up for failure!  At this life stage there are a few questions I need to ask before setting goals, to filter out the ones that are stress-paralyzers.

Is this going to add too much pressure to my life?  
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Some pressure can be good, but I tend to put too much pressure on myself to meet expectations (real or imagined) of other people, and adding my own expectations to the list doesn’t help matters.  If a goal is too big, or if it’s going to add too much stress, I need to at the very least cut it down into manageable chunks. 

Is this goal going to take away time from my family?  

I am smack-dab in the middle of the formative years with my kids, and I have to fight the urge to make myself too busy.  If a project or goal is going to take time away from my kids, I need to carefully consider it before committing.  I want to protect that extra time to read a book to my kids or take a spontaneous trip to the park without being stressed out about my to-do list.

Is this goal complicating or simplifying?  

My word for 2015 was “simplify”, and this is something that I want to continue to work on in 2016.  In this season of my life I am realizing that margin is really important.  I want to have that space to not only be there for my family, but just to rest.  When I don’t have rest, it is not good for my mental state, and it also damages my relationship with the Lord because my quiet time is typically the first thing I drop (sad, but true).  That is not okay, so protecting and working toward that margin is important in my goals.


Because I am trying to be really careful and intentional with my goals this year, I was excited about the opportunity to co-host a goals linkup with some of my blog friends!  How does this linkup fit in with the filtering questions I listed above?  I think spending a little time reflecting at the start of each month will naturally help me be more careful with my goals, evaluate the pressures from myself and others, and figure out what things need to improve and what things need to take a backseat so that I can leave room for that margin.


So what is my one and only goal for February?

I want to develop an intentional daily routine.

I’m not going to lie, some days it’s all I can do around here to keep this house from descending into utter chaos!  Part of that is just life with four kids under five years old (only for another week - my baby is about to turn five!).  But part of the chaos is due to the fact that every day looks entirely different.  Some days we sleep in, and some days I’m up at 5:00 AM.  Some days the kids get a nap, and some days they don’t.  Some times we manage a craft project, and some days we watch TV all day (I’m being brutally honest now).  

I think our lives will be a lot more orderly and productive if I can develop a routine.  Notice I did not say a schedule.  If I try to keep a strict schedule, not only will I fail, but I will totally stress myself out (a violation of the first goal filter listed above).  By "routine", I mean that I want to have an order of things we will do each day, and stick to it. as much as possible  The times may be different, and we may have to rearrange a few things sometimes, but a little structure would be good for all of us.  This is what I am thinking our routine will include:

-Getting up to do my devotions before the kids come looking for me in the morning.  (If I don’t do devotions in the morning, I’ve found it doesn’t get done - and time with the Lord is too important to be as sporadic as I have let it become.)

-School work and/or craft each day before lunch.  (This will be good practice for consistency since Wyatt will start kindergarten at home next fall.)

-Nap/quiet time for the kids in afternoon, during which I will take time to write at least twice a week. (I need to force myself to get a little writing time in so I don’t stress and squeeze out my margin when I have a deadline looming!)

-Start dinner as soon as the kids get up from their naps. (As opposed to five minutes before or after Derek walks through the door.)

I am hoping by the time we do another With Grit and Grace linkup, I will be able to report a typical “day in the life” to you, because there will actually be a typical day!

What kind of “filter questions” do you use for your goals?  Do you have a consistent daily routine?






And finally, whip up your own February goal(s) in the next week or two and link them up below, Friends!  I’d love to read about what you want to work on! 

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Welcome to With Grit & Grace  – a monthly goal link-up focused on supporting each other as we work towards our goals! Please join us on the first Wednesday of each month at 7:00 a.m. EST to share your goals and progress for the week, month, or year. We are all about building a positive community; please remember to read, comment, and share the posts of others – and let them know you found them at With Grit & Grace!
Just a reminder…
  • All forms of goal posts are welcome. They can be for a specific area in your life, or your general goals for the day, week, month, or year. We love to hear updates on your progress, too.
  • Make sure to use the URL specific to your post and not your blog’s home page.
  • Link back to With Grit & Grace with our button or link in your post or party page.
  • Comment on the post prior to yours in the link-up. Support others through comments and shares – don’t forget to tell them you found them at With Grit & Grace.
  • By linking up, you give us permission to feature an image on our blog and social media. Proper credit and links will be given.
  • Join in on social media with: #withgritandgrace.
  • We want to support you! Please follow your hosts in some way.




Is There A Purpose To Your Reading?





When I was in first grade, cliques were a big deal.  It mattered what group you belonged to, and once you were in a group you really couldn’t associate with other groups without risking being banned from your own group (I know because I was banned from my group by associating with someone who didn’t fit in).  The level of peer pressure that was placed on my little seven-year-old self by other seven-year-olds is actually a little disturbing when I think about it.

Anyway, we called these cliques “teams”.  And I still remember in first grade, forming my very first “team” with another girl based on the fact that we both read the Saddle Club books.  Books have been a big part of my life for a very long time.  

It was cool to be a part of our book-based group in first grade.  I’m not sure the book group would have been the cool group had our Saddle Club “team” survived until high school, but thankfully I was being homeschooled by then anyway, and me and my bookish friends all continued to read together.  We even wrote our own stories and read them aloud to each other - a writing club of sorts, and it was all so much fun.

I’ve carried my love of reading into adulthood, but I have to admit, it’s harder to stay motivated these days.  When four little kids are calling for your attention all day long, it is terribly tempting to use your moments of down-time to just veg and watch TV.  But it’s important to me to keep reading, to keep learning new things, even though I don’t have to anymore.

I love how Whitney has specific goals for her reading.  Instead of just setting a number of books as a goal or 2016, I have taken a cue from her and decided to be a little more intentional about my reading as well.




My goal for 2016 is to read one book for each of the following categories each month:


One Book To Strengthen My Relationships.

This could be a marriage or parenting book, a book about friendships, or a book to help me know myself better in an effort to improve my relationships.

One Book To Improve My Spiritual Health.

This could be a book that will instruct me biblically, a book on theology, a bible study, etc.  (One book I hope to read for this category is “Your God Is Too Small” - my pastor mentioned it a few years ago, and I have been wanting to read it ever since!)

One Book To Grow Intellectually.

I’d love to include a few more academic books on my to-read list.  This could include books about science, history, politics, or culture, or classic fiction.

One Book To Entertain.

I still have to fit some fun fiction in.  That’s where my love of books all started, after all.



The point of setting category goals like this is to hopefully stretch myself to read books that I am not always naturally drawn to, and to read books that will help me draw closer to Jesus and the people in my life.  I think it is perfectly acceptable to pick up a book that is easy to read, but I don't want to only pick up easy-reads.  The more you read, and the more difficult material you read, the easier it is to tackle those "hard" books that make you grow as a person.  I want to get to the end of this year being more capable of getting through a difficult book.  When you are working out physically and you want to see improvement, you have to push yourself to do something a littler harder each time.  It works the same way with reading.




If I stick with my goal, this should mean that I will read 48 books in 2016 (at least), and hopefully make it through some of my ever-growing to-read list! I am going to try to write a post each quarter to update you on my progress.  I am not worried about hitting the 48 book goal, because that is less than I read in 2015, but I do think it will be a challenge to stick with my categories.  It's a worthy challenge though.  Hopefully I’ll have some good, strong books to recommend to you throughout the year.

To see a few of the books that I hope to read this year, check out my shelf on Goodreads.  I'd also love to hear your recommendations for me!


Do you have any specific goals for your reading?  What was your first favorite book?







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Also, A New Linkup!

I also have something fun to share with all of you - I am going to be a co-host for a brand-new linkup this year!  With Grit & Grace will be a monthly linkup to share goals and accomplishments with each other.  

There is something about writing out goals that helps me be more tenacious in actually accomplishing them.  At the same time, if some goals don't get accomplished because more important things - like family - take precedence, that is okay and even healthy.  We want With Grit & Grace to be a goals community that encourages each other to work toward our goals but also give ourselves a break when life happens.  

I am looking forward to sharing my main goal for February along for the first linkup this Wednesday, the 3rd!  If you are a fellow blogger, share your goals on your blog and then head back here to linkup with us!



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