This is a sponsored post on behalf of Denny’s. All opinions are my own.

Caring Kid

I’ve always been a “do-gooder.” From as far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to help people, show them that someone cared, and just be there. I’m sure that totally explains my initial desire to go into law, and my subsequent career in social work. Just a natural “do-gooder,” I guess. Unfortunately, I think that my desire to help comes from the fact that I really, really wanted someone to help me as a child. Coming from a family that had very little, I can attest to what it feels like to go without. And quite frankly, it sucks. It’s like you’re living on the outside of life. You can see all these things happening around you, but you’re not a part of them. It’s like everyone is leading a life that you can see, but can’t touch. Like I said, it sucks. One thing that being poor taught me, though, was the importance of caring about other people. When our family had nothing, there were so many people that reached out helping hands. From helping us get furniture, to making sure that my brother and I experienced childhood things like amusement parks, slumber parties, etc, to giving us clothes and shoes when we needed them.  As a child, I admit that I thought it was super embarrassing to be wearing my friends’ hand me downs, but I was thankful nonetheless. When I look back on those times, it’s amazing to me how far I’ve come and how those experiences shaped me into the person I am today. One of the beautiful things that my childhood experiences gave me was the ability to care. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have been the person that I am today, had I not gone through what I went through as a child. I can’t say that. I definitely think that hardships mold you and can make you into a better person if you allow them to, but do you have to go through hardships to become caring? To be a better person? Absolutely not. I mean, if I have any say so in it, my daughter will never go through a hardship that I and her father can’t handle. However, my expectation is that she still become a caring person and that begins by becoming a caring kid. View Post

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Easy snacks in ziplock in cookie jar for easy, diy snack station.

School’s out for summer! Psyche! School’s actually quite in, or at least it will be in within the next few weeks or so. Just like every other parent in America with school age children, we are officially in back-to-school prep mode. This means going school supply shopping, figuring out what we’re going to do for lunch and getting ready to jump into our new back-to-school routine. I know that usually this time of year comes with a lot of excitement for both parents and kids. I’ve already started daydreaming about all the ways I’m going to make this year amazing for Jam. So, I’m saying goodbye to the PTA, goodbye to the District Advisory Committee, and hello to more mindful, engaged parenting. This includes making sure that everything has a place, and that everything is in its place, starting with snacks.

Seriously, am I the only parent in the world that has a hungry, hungry hippo child by the time they get home from school? My child, as tiny as she is, is like The Hulk when it comes to snacking after school. From the time the car door slams when she gets picked up from school, all I hear is, “Mommy, I’m so hungry!” Once we’re home, it’s hardcore foraging and constant questions like, “Can you make me this? Do we have that? Why don’t we ever have foooood!?!”

Ya’ll, the struggle is real. View Post

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birthday

A few weeks ago, Jam turned 7.

I’m not sure what it is about turning 7, but it just seems like she’s not a baby anymore. She so grown up, you know? From waking up when she’s told, to showing care and compassion for others, to saving money and setting goals. Now don’t get me wrong–we still have our days, but for the most part, I can tell that my little girl is becoming my big girl. This year, we decided to celebrate her special day with a solo birthday celebration.

white frosting cupcake with confetti sprinkles and a number 7 candle

Why a solo celebration?

As an introverted mom, I have a hard time with parties. There’s just too much…activity. There’s too much noise and too much movement. And that’s just being at a party! I couldn’t imagine hosting one. With that said, I do realize that one day, I’ll have to bite the bullet and throw a party for Jam. She wants it and honestly, I believe that every child should have a party. Birthdays truly are a big deal. While I’m sure there are some parents that feel like I do, I know that there are other parents that actually would like to throw a major soiree, but can’t for various reasons. Maybe it’s a lack of funds, or as in our case, a lack of space? Or maybe (just maybe) a huge party is not the kid’s style? As a child, I also thought I wanted a party, but deep down I know that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. So over the years, I’ve found some great alternatives for parties. I’ve celebrated my birthday with an intimate dinner with my close friends, been whisked away on an impromptu getaway with only my husband, and on some birthdays I’ve just been left alone to have my own “private party” as India Arie would say. I’m no amateur when it comes to celebrating birthdays solo. View Post

Today I signed my last lease agreement. Next year this time, I won’t be an apartment dweller, but a homeowner. Yay! Cue the band.

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In addition to working and saving like woah, this also means that we’ve officially become house hunters. Eek! Almost every weekend, we jump in the car as a family and ride through Omaha’s many, many neighborhoods, oohing and ahhing over what our city as to offer. We pull up in the driveway (if the home is vacant) to see how it would feel coming home every evening. Does it feel like home? Would I be proud to look up and see this home, my home, every day?

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Does the front door look and feel welcoming? Can I imagine looking out my front door or bay window and seeing my daughter and her friends walking up the sidewalk from school? It may seem like we’re putting a lot of pressure on this “driveway test” and that we’re being silly, but we’re honestly very serious. As a family, we’ve experienced what it’s like to be uncomfortable in our own home and it’s not cool. Not cool at all. So we test. If the home passes the “pull in test,” we grab a flyer, make note of the realtor, and conduct a little research once we get home.

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As I said before, we’re still a year out from buying. We have sooo many things to get into place that it’s kind of overwhelming. Credit, a preapproval, down payment, closing costs, etc are just a few things that we’re working on to be as competitive as possible come 2016. So that’s why we’re starting so early.

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We are so stinkin’ excited…and nervous. Since we’ll be the first ones in our immediate families to own homes, we’re literally starting from scratch. I’m researching everything I can with relation to home ownership and talking to everyone who’s willing to talk to me. Luckily, I have some awesome co-workers that are willing to share their knowledge about the home buying process and steps we should take. They’re even commending us for putting so much thought into and for starting so early! I found that hilarious because I figured that was what everybody did.

So the countdown to getting those keys for the Morris’ humble abode is in full effect!

What advice would you give new “house hunters?”

Plan an amazing summer filled with family activities, good food, and good times easily with these few steps.

For the last couple of years, it’s felt like summer has just passed us by. School ends, summer care begins, and boom, before you know it, it’s time for back to school shopping. It sucks!!! As a kid, I would wait impatiently for the last bell to ring and for sweet, sweet freedom. Freedom from homework, freedom from nagging teachers, and freedom from all things structure. Our family usually didn’t have any plans other than spending time with each other, but I still looked forward to it though. As a grownup, I notice that I still get that exciting feeling, but it usually amounts to nothing. Like I said, our summers have been summer care and back to school shopping. We’ve taken one or two road trips, but nothing spectacular. Last summer, I actually think we only went swimming once. Womp, womp. This year, I’m determined to plan an amazing summer for myself and for my family.

How to Plan an Amazing Summer

Step 1. Throw caution to the wind. This seems to go against the planning theme, but bear with me for a minute. Every year, I long for a day at the beach, a road trip, water parks, picnics, camping, etc., and every year another year goes by with my wishes unfilled. And it’s because I get caught up in the details. If we go camping, we’ll need this, this, and this and we don’t have any of it! Omaha doesn’t have beaches! We’ll have to fly somewhere, which will cost money and then we’ll have to take time off from work and on and on and on. Sadly, I can’t focus on the big picture because I’m too bogged down by the details. This year, I’m switching my focus from “how” to “why.” Why this trip to the beach is what we need to unwind from the week. Why we want to spend time as a family roasting marshmallows under the stars. It’s all about the why.

Step 2. Take some action. This should be the easiest step, but for us, it’s the hardest. I’m definitely the picky one of our bunch and if things aren’t right i.e. perfect, it’s not happening and the day/night/outing is ruined. Ugh, I’ve got to break that mindset, ya’ll. Nothing will ever be perfect. Most times, it won’t even get close to perfect and that’s got to be okay. Maybe we won’t make it to the beach this summer, but we can definitely make it to the lake that’s a half hour away. Some action is better than no action and some action gets you closer than sitting still.

Step 3. Choose to be present. An amazing summer is not complete without pictures, right? Well kinda. It’s totally okay to memorialize the first marshmallow roast or that cannonball that I’ll dare Hubz to do in film. But I can’t miss the moments that follow because I’m trying to get the perfect shot for Instagram or my blog. The shot is great, but the laughter and stories that follow are what matter.

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Step 4. Create a summer bucket list. This is something that we’ve never done. We’ve never been intentional about how we spend our time or what we do as a family. In the past, I’ve made a list (without my family’s input) of things I think we should do, but the list stayed tucked away and was eventually forgotten. Not this year. This year, the list is leaving the blog. It’ll be posted in our home, for all of us to see. That way, on those weekends that we’re crying boredom i.e. being lazy, we can check our list and get moving.

WaterPark

How are you planning to have an amazing summer?