Inspiring Youth with The Allstate Foundation Good Starts Young at WE Day.

This post was sponsored by The Allstate Foundation. All opinions are mine.

We Day occurred at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota on November 8. It was my first time experiencing and I was quite blown away. I had the pleasure of bringing my 8-year-old with me and it was so neat to see her eyes bright with inspiration. I barely realized that she is actually in that stage categorized as "tween" and everything the We Movement stands for, in is in support and empowerment of her generation.

I was able to join with the The Allstate Foundation to share some of their incredible work in the local community and nationally. Let me share some of their vision, mission and incredible impact with you:

-The Allstate Foundation’s Good Starts Young initiative aims to inspire the next generation of leaders and history makers to reach their full potential, serve causes greater than themselves and make the world a better place. 

-The Allstate Foundation is also the Co-Title Sponsor of WE Day MN, enabling thousands of local youth to participate in WE Day to feel inspired to take on the world. 

-In 2017, more than 5.2 million youth have participated in programs sponsored by The Allstate Foundation’s Good Starts Young initiative, including WE programs like WE Schools.

-WE and The Allstate Foundation teamed up to create WE Volunteer Now, a campaign that enables youth to join with their peers and others in their community to address social issues by planning and leading volunteer projects.

-WE is a non profit organization that offers programs to broaden students’ understanding of social issues and help them learn how to take action.

 

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It was so incredible to watch my 8 year old daughter's eyes beam with excitement for everything going on around her. There was inspirational speakers and people around every corner. Youth filling the arena with passion and ideas and creativity. 

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There was such a stellar line up of speakers and entertainers including The Allstate Foundation Good Starts Young Ambassador Alyson Stoner, Ann Curry, Grace VanderWaal, Jessie Reyez, JoJo Siwa, Margaret Trudeau and so many more! They graced the stage with their wisdom, energy and encouragement. 

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We got to be in the presence of some lovely other bloggers + their children and venture through this event together. This was our first WE day and I certainly hope not our last. This is a great event I encourage everyone to attend in an effort to raise up incredible leaders in this younger generation. They have so much potential inside of them and so much creativity to share with the world. 

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I firsthand witnessed the impact the message had on my own daughter. 

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We got to hear the heart of WE co-founder, Craig Kielburger, and how he created the WE movement so many years ago and continues to expand and build upon it, making a difference in so many peoples lives. 

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The message here is simple: celebrating everyday change-makers. And that's a pretty worthy cause to support and be a part of. 

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Learn how to impact change and get involved with sponsored programs by The Allstate Foundation Good Starts Young.

You can also find opportunities to rally together and take action within your community by checking out the We Volunteer Now Program.

This post was sponsored by The Allstate Foundation. All opinions are mine.

Sheltering my children.

I've always said that my main reason for homeschooling is because I wanted to spend time with my children. I didn't want to send them away for 8-9 hours a day all week long. I didn't want to only see them on nights and weekends. I wanted to be the main influence in their lives and build a foundation of our faith in their hearts.

I also said that since my husband and I began our marriage on opposite views of the whole homeschooling idea, that we would take it year by year and kid by kid and give them what they needed at the time. We were going to be very flexible. 

When we moved to our new home in March, our house was located in a prime position with a charter school within walking distance of our home. In fact, I can see the school from my kitchen window. We thought that maybe this would be the year to send the two older girls to school (3rd grade + 1st grade) and I would do Pre-K with our son and really focus on my businesses this year. 

We were excited about the thought and I also dealt with apprehensions because I felt like part of my identity was being a homeschooling mom. What if I had to let that go? What would people think? Truthfully, I got over that quick, because it doesn't matter what others think. It matters what God thinks and our obedience to Him. I also knew that I would really miss the girls and it would be a hard adjustment to send them away every day. Regardless, we moved forward and enrolled them in  school and waited for them to move up on the waiting list.

At some point in the waiting process, little things began to happen that slowly changed our perspective. And one Sunday at church, it all changed. All I can say is that it was a radical Holy Spirit change and on the way home from church, I turned to my husband and said, "I'm having second thoughts about sending the girls to school." He looked at me and said, "I've been double thinking it too!" Boom. God had been telling us both the same thing. I love when He confirms that in us. 

It wasn't a feeling based out of jitters. It wasn't a decision based out of fear. Through our conversation of God's revelation to us, we realized that homeschooling wasn't just a flimsy choice we were going to make year by year anymore but instead, a CALLING on our lives and for our kids. This is what we were called to do and how we are to raise them and we have been given this time to create a firm foundation of their character and faith in these very impressionable years.

 

Kids are so vulnerable at a young age. My kids are not perfect by any means and teach them about character and integrity daily. But if they spend even a few hours with someone who is very aggressive, angry and hits and kicks people, my kids will begin to take on those characteristics. If my kids are with someone who talks differently from them, within a matter of hours, I can hear their speech start to change. My daughter made a new friend, who didn't like the color pink, and so, she began to not like the color pink. Clearly, that does not mean that I am going to lock them in the house, never to see any other human in life. But it also means, I need to make very conscious decisions to raise them how God has called me to steward them. Because if very little things can affect their thoughts and actions, so will the big things.

 

I'm not an expert in this at all but I'm trying to lead up to a realization. I had a wonderful conversation with my mom about our decision to choose homeschooling and realizing it was our calling. It was not based out of fear, but it is based on the premise that God has given us these children to raise and steward and we want to protect them and teach them and train them ourselves. And we are capable, because God has equipped us.

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I told my mom how I obviously don't want to shelter our kids. We want them to experience the world and learn about life and in that, know that our victory is in Jesus Christ and they are FREE in Him. But I was adamant, that I don't want to shelter our kids in that.

And my mom, the wise woman she is, challenged me in that. She encouraged me TO shelter our kids. The world has such a negative connotation on sheltering. It is viewed as not exposing them to the world and keeping them locked up in a house without any socialization so they become weird and awkward. But no... let's really look at this.

Psalm 27:5

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

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God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

Psalm 91:1

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

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God is our refuge. He covers us. He keeps us safe and protects us. He is our shield and our hiding place. So WHY... why, would He not want the same for our children. Why would he not want us to create an atmosphere of that protection for the kids he has given us to steward? God is all of those things to His children (us, as parents) and we must honor that and place our children in situations to be protected in that, not shoving them out in the world to figure it out and fend for themselves.

We are called to shelter them. It is a good thing to shelter them. We are their parents. We should shield them from the enemies traps and deceit. Especially when they are young. Their little hearts and minds don't have the capacity to know right and wrong yet, we must teach them. We must shield them and ask God to guide us in protecting them. Giving us wisdom and strength to help them flourish as they grow. 

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So, I'm not living out of fear of what they might learn from other kids, or what they might pick up in a school setting, but I'm obeying the call God has for me to yes, shelter them. To create a covering over their hearts and lives to raise them protected and comforted within how I feel God calling me to do. 

I'm not saying ya'll should homeschool your children. It's not for everyone. But I do want to challenge you, just as my mother did for me, to lose that negative view on sheltering our kids, and instead, hold them close, teach them the Word of God, and position them in a place to meet with Jesus daily. You only have so much time to plant seeds in their precious souls, so make it count now. Shelter them, just as God shelters us all. Implement a little parenting advice from the Almighty Father. 

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1 Year Blog Anniversary.

November 1, 2016 was the day it all launched. I had spent months and months building a website, preparing a blog, creating an Etsy shop and on November 1, it all launched to the public. It was so much work and I purposed to enjoy each moment of it.

My goal- to create a community of encouragement, love and finding joy in TODAY.

It has been 1 year since the launch of my website and blog and I am so grateful to God for what He has done in just 1 year!

I have faithfully posted 52 blog posts throughout this year- one every single Monday, without fail.

Now, there are some things I failed at. Can you say e-mail subscription campaigns? Yah... that didn't stay consistent. Esty shop.... didn't stay on top of that either.

But you know what, my blog grew. My readership grew. My Instagram grew. I was purposeful for an entire year on investing in my online presence, building relationships, creating my essential oil business empire through it and following the Lord's lead. And I'm so excited of what is yet to come to and where it will go.

And I have to say THANK YOU to YOU!!! For being along on the journey with me. For reading along, for interacting with me and commenting and sharing. You are freakin' amazing! Whenever I post something on Instagram, my thoughts are, "Does this add value to someones life?" And if I know that it could impact even ONE single person, I'm going for it.

So, I hope that over the past year, even one little word impacted you. I have big plans for the next year and I'm so thrilled you will be along for the journey!

In honor of the celebration, I have teamed up with some super awesome people for a giveaway. It's all happening over on my Instagram and there will be 12 winners (1 per IG account participating.) All you need to do is hop over there, follow the accounts and tag some friends in the comments! (Winners will be announced on November 1st on each accounts page!)

Thanks for celebrating with me! All the glory to God for all He is doing in each of our lives!

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Wrinkles.

I think I was 27 years old when I first started noticing the wrinkles on my face.

The signs of aging.

I felt way too young to start having wrinkles and instantly regretted those years of tanning beds and laying in the sun all day long. It had all caught up with me.

I started noticing the wrinkles on my face in every picture. The streaks of folded skin fanning the edges of my eyes like a delicately creased ripple of water. But, it was on my face. It always bothered me. My dimples had now morphed into long lines instead of cute little dotted imprints on my cheeks. I even contemplated smiling "less largely" to avoid the squishing of my skin together. Why did I care so much? Why was this bothering me so much?

Fast forward 3 years and I looked at my husband at church one day and told him to smile. No wrinkles. Dude is 2 years older than me and not a wrinkle in sight. I responded to his smile with, "Darn you and your beautiful melanin-saturated skin." He is quite handsome.

I felt (and heard) myself begin to really complain about it. My wrinkles. I've never really cared about the affects of aging. I've never stressed over the fact of getting older. Maybe that is, until those wrinkles started settling in and getting REAL comfortable in their newfound home, on my face.

Then one day, we were celebrating life with my family. I was sitting on the floor, playing with my baby Zion and my dad was chatting with my sisters and I. He was telling us a story and he began laughing. My dads' laugh literally warms your heart. It begins in his gut and takes the breath away from his lungs and comes out of his mouth in the most enchanting and contagious way.

My dad's laughter as he dances with my sister on her wedding day.

My dad's laughter as he dances with my sister on her wedding day.

And as he was laughing, I noticed the wrinkles around his eyes. And all the wrinkles that graced his face. And all I could think about was how many laughs he had to laugh in his 58 years of life to earn those wrinkles. How many gut-wrenching moments of pure joy did he get to experience in order for those wrinkles to begin making their impact on his face. How many funny stories, how many beaming smiles did he get to endure to be able to claim those wrinkles as permanent residents? I felt like he wore them with pride.

Like they were a pure badge of honor.

It was beautiful.

It was this perfect mix of maturity and child-likeness. His joy displayed in physical from that he developed from life experience.

My dad cracking up during a family photoshoot. 

My dad cracking up during a family photoshoot. 

And I went home that day, imagining my dads smile. And hearing my dads laughter in my mind. And how I naturally viewed his wrinkles. And then realized how I approached my own aging signs. And those two viewpoints did not coincide. I admire.... absolutely cherish every piece of who my dad is. The scars on his face that tell his story. The creases around his eyes that signify the years of smiling. It is so endearing. And it's not something I always notice and appreciate. But, I'm beginning to allow it to shed a whole new light on how I view myself. That is quite a lovely lesson to learn.

Embracing the beauty of joy in a face.

Embracing the beauty of joy in a face.

So, I am in the process of viewing my own wrinkles just as I viewed my dads. A sign of joy. A picture of a life well-lived.

Age can be a beautiful thing. If we only look at it through a lens of gratitude.

My dads contagious laughter with all his sons.

My dads contagious laughter with all his sons.

Let the laughter burst forth and relish the very life you are living. Don't be held in bondage by things, by people, by expectations, or by... wrinkles. Let people see the joy in your smile. Let your wrinkles tell your story.

Daily homeschool.

I'm giving you a sneak peek into our homeschool day. I'll give you a warning, its messy, chaotic and loud. Some moments are more tranquil than others, but more often then not, it's crazy town. 

This is our 5th year homeschooling and it is a pure blessing from God. I am grateful to God each and every day I get to wake up and spend the day with my kids all day long. In years past, we would have our day completely scheduled out and if the kids were focused and determined, they could get there school work done by 10am and have the rest of the day to play. Sometimes though, on very distracted days, we wouldn't be done with school till 3 or 4 pm. We had no determined start or end time but we did have our work for the day completely mapped out. Those days that seemed to last forever were draining on the kids and on myself.

This year, we are trying a different approach. With me running multiple businesses from home, I need time to work every day while still keeping my job as mom and teacher first priority. That has meant a few things.

1. I have to say no to more things. No, I can't go get coffee this morning. No, I can't join this moms group. No, we can't go to this morning event. We need to keep our priority of school.

And IN THAT, I also want to have a perfect balance of flexibility. Sure, let's have our homeschool day be at the children's museum. Yep, we can take a break and run some errands. Yah, come on over and have a cup of tea for an hour.

There has to be a good balance. Which means that flexibility can occur, but not EVERY SINGLE DAY. Which could easily happen, in my case. I'm so go with the flow and truly believe life experiences and situations bring the greatest knowledge. But I am the sole teacher for my kids education and I have to take the job very seriously.

2. We have completely changed the structure of what our day looks like. To allow for schedule + flexibility, our school day starts at 8am and ends at 12pm. Which means, 4 hours of school per day. Yes, that is plenty enough time for a homeschooling to get all the education they need in a day. And yes, it means they have tons of imaginative play time the rest of the day to also grow and learn. 

We are usually all up and moving around by 6:30/7am which gives us time to have breakfast and spend some time in the Word and worship before jumping into school. We have a designated area in the house for our studies, which we rightly call "The Homeschool Room." 

If one of them finishes their assignments for the day before 12pm, I give them more activities to work on until lunch time. If they still have work do to after 12pm, we will save it for the next day. Our cut off time occurs right at noon and then the rest of the day is free play. I usually begin preparing supper around 4pm and we sit down to a big family dinner each night around 4:30/5pm when my hubby gets home from work. 

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In the afternoons, I am able to spend some time on my work while the kids play. This isn't very intense focused time for me. It is distracted and interrupted time because well, there are 5 kids running around. But this is my beautiful chaotic life and we make it work each day. Some days are peachier than others but we are together, and that is what matters to us.

Honestly, we are still getting into the flow of our new routine and it s a big learning process transitioning from our free summer hours. And here is the thing, I am teaching 3 children with 3 different age curriculums.

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This year, I wanted to try the All in One Homeschool online Christian curriculum. It has been working thus far for our first couple months of homeschool but I am looking into My Father's World for the second half of our year. Gotta love the freedom to do what we need and want. 

I also have plenty of supplemental workbooks and worksheets from various curriculums including the one we have used for the past 3 years: Christian Liberty Press. I set up one of the kids at my laptop and the other 2 with some workbooks. Honestly, I am just hopping in between kids. Sometimes, they have time to work on an assignment by themselves once I have told them instructions and sometimes I feel like a mad dog running back and forth in between children.

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Not to mention the 3 year old who is whining for attention for me and the 22 month old who is opening every bin of markers and crayons and scattering them across the floor.

Makkedah is 8 years old and doing a 3rd grade curriculum.

Samaria is 7 years old and doing a 1st grade curriculum.

Nehemiah is 5 years old and doing a Pre-K curriculum.

Shiloh and Zion are having the time of their lives making mayhem while we work on school.

For the 2 older girls Bible, History and Science lessons, I am actually teaching them together. Sometimes, all the kids will gather around the floor while I teach these subjects and we work on activities with them. It's been a nice section of the day for the girls to work together.

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And for many of Nehemiah's lessons, I have Shiloh come and sit and watch what we are doing so she can begin to learn the concepts as well. She is already picking up colors very well while observing the lessons I am going through with her big brother.

Combining some of the lessons has been a nice break for me, and fun for the kids. It's also the first time I have done something like that it only works for certain subjets. For instance, Makkedah and Samaria's math lessons are completely different levels, so it would not work as much in that instance.

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Truth is, I've never taught 3 kids at once. I've never taught 3rd grade before. I've never had a toddler AND a baby while having to teach the older 3. I'm learning as we go. Trial and error is okay with me. We are in this together and we are in this for the long haul so we might as well experiment now. 

I opened up a Q + A section on my Facebook page so wanted to make sure to address some of the questions that had popped up on there.

1. Do you use any "brain break" activities to give the kids a little break but not long enough to lose them? What style do you use? What has been the most difficult? What is your favorite part?

At 10am each day, we have tea team. So, we all pull up to the kitchen island and sit down to a warm cup of tea and a snack. It's the perfect 15 minute break that they really look forward to. If I find them feeling overwhelmed with worksheets or a particular lesson at some points, I will grab a coloring book for a break. Or I will grab the little different colored plastic math bears and have my 5 years create a " color army" with them and let him sort them by colors and count them. I'm all about utilizing tools and play for more learning. I wouldn't say I have a particular style of teaching them as of right now. And the most difficult thing right now is that my 22 month old son is like.... 5 kids in 1. He demands a lot of attention and so a lot of times, we are able to get more done once he takes a morning nap. My favorite part is just the blessing that we have very calm relaxed mornings and get to spend all day together. 

2. Do you ever feel like you need to get away? How do you make sure you still take care of you?

Oh, heck YES, I have times I just need to get away. I am very grateful that I don't have to say goodbye to my children for 7+ hours a day but I'm also a huge advocate that us mamas need to care for ourselves and fill our own cups so that we have more to give others. If there are just some evenings that I am overwhelmed and need a breather, I let my husband know and even if that just means running some errands, I volunteer. And most Sundays, we have an arrangement where I sneak away in the afternoons to the local Starbucks and do one of my favorite things: write. Knowing that I have a 3 hour window each weekend to myself, is a huge benefit. And sometimes, if I'm a little desperate for a break. There is no shame in me slapping on a Netlfix movie and taking a mid-afternoon bath. I'm a better mom for them when I even take that 20 minute pause to regroup.

3. How do you balance more than one child, especially when they're too young to learn more independently?

I kind of addressed this above but it is sometimes super messy with my little man who is loud and rambunctious and needs a lot of attention from me. I try to set him and my 3 year old down with some toys but he is usually only interested for a few minutes and is then onto the next thing. My 3 year old can get lost in some toys or a coloring activity or will join my 5 year old in his lessons on the computer. It looks different each day but we take it in stride. Sometimes, in this season of life, our most productive time is when the baby boy goes down for a nap.

4. How much is in a table and chair setting? How do you know what to teach each child each year? How do you do testing?

This is the first year we've had an actual spare room that we created to use for the purpose of homeschoolin (its actually what is supposed to be a formal dining room.) Prior to this year, we've just used our kitchen table for school and a hutch I got off Craigslist that we called our "Homeschool Hutch" which housed our entire curriculum. You don't need anything schnazzy or special to homeschool. And I shared a little bit about our curriculum above but there are so many options available. Whether it is pen and paper books or online or video based, the resources are endless. Some curriculums you can pick and choose which books and lessons you want for each subject and some companies have complete sets set up for each grade, ready to go. There are even some online courses where each student has their own teacher and the parent isn't the direct teacher. There are so many homeschool options! Testing is different for each state but in Minnesota, you don't need to notify the state/district of your intent to homeschool or results of testing until they are 7 years of age.

I hope this was beneficial for you and answered any lingering questions you had about homeschooling. It allows you to cater to each of your children's specific learning styles and give them the attention they need. There is help and assistance if you don't feel capable of the job but give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Have confidence in your ability to teach and train your child. I've dealt with my own insecurities in this matter as I only have as much as a high school education (I went to cosmetology school after high school and then got married and began having my lovely kids shortly after.) I could focus on my shortcomings and my lack of a college education, but really, I'm grateful for my freedom to homeschool my kids. And I'm so confident in the fact that God has equipped me for the task and continually guides me in this journey. He is my rock and the reason this all works out. 

Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any other questions I did not address!

 

Day at the Museum.

I truly cannot say enough good things about the new and improved Minnesota Children's Museum. From top to bottom, it's stellar.

And want to know what I REALLY think when I am there.

How much I love that my kids are not getting scolded by anyone or getting dirty looks from strangers.

 

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Seriously, I think we can all agree that kids are, in general, loud, energetic and yes, a little messy. Even the most well behaved kids get a bad rap from some people because, well, they are kids. They are already pre-judged simply because of their age. I've seen it happen first-hand time and time again.

I'll walk into Target with my cart loaded with 5 children and I see the eyes rolling the moment I walk through those motion-sensored doors. They hold their breath and wait for the ball to drop, the screams to ensue and the tantrums to be had. And even if its a relatively bumpless trip, there is still some old fart who just assumes the worst of my kids. 

My kids have been doing utterly nothing wrong at times. Times when I was even quite freakin' impressed with their obedient and calm behavior while out and about and SOMEONE finds something to complain about. Or something to nit pick about my kids. Like dang, lay off lady. They are MY kids, I got this. 

I'm totally going off on a rampage now. Let me get back to the point.

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At the Minnesota Children's Museum, my kids CAN BE KIDS. They can play and explore and adventure and everything is within the limits and bounds of what they can do. It is an open playgroud, science experiment, learning experience, imagination land where they can run and jump and be kids. Without any repurcusions or scolding. They have this wild freedom that is pure and exciting. The staff there are extraordinary and you can see in the making of this museum how much care and consideration they put into making a place that let's a child's mind and legs roam free. 

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One of my kids favorite spots (really the ENTIRE museum is their favorite) but they especially enjoy the Tip Top Terrace. On the most beautiful of days, they run out to the rooftop deck and explore their surroundings with the most intense of joy. 

With my 5 kids ranging from age 20 months to 8 years, it is a place where they all find something to play with. And play they do. Exploring with wild imagination. 

And the really cool thing for parents is, that once you walk through those doors, you can stand right there and see everything going on around you and your kids cannot escape that place until you open those doors. Kind of a nice perk for any mom, but really if you have more than 1 little you have to keep your eyes on.

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Something about that fresh air and the clear blue skies. The textures and sights to see. It's beautiful up there.

The plants surrounding the areas make this organic space so welcoming and feeling like a piece of home. The especially love climbing all the sculpture pieces out there and exploring the different structures along the fenced wall.

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There are so many wonderful portions to experience in the museum and I encourage you to check out them all! You don't want to miss anything!

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Watch your kids PLAY. Get lost in simple and extraordinary play time. No scolding, no rolling of eyes. Just pure childhood joy. With the most perfect of boundaries and limits that allow their brains to learn and grow through imaginative play and problem solving, with the safe confines of structured settings. It's one of the most loveliest places, set here in a precious piece of the Twin Cities. 

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Allow your kid to be a KID at MCM. The learn so much about confidence and finding genuine happiness. In that beautiful Tip Top Terrace, they find bliss in the skyline and experience glee with the fresh air and cool winds blowing by. The also learn control and how to be mindful in each moments they explore something new. Creative thinking is abounding as they see new and different possibilities set before them and search how objects can be used. It's all in all, a wonderful place to be a kid.

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#6

My husband was out of state for a family reunion and the morning of the day he was to return, I couldn't help but take a pregnancy test. I had already gotten 2 negative tests in the months prior and this was my 3rd cycle after weaning my son. I normally don't test until the actual expected day of my period but I decided to go for it. I told God that no matter what the results were, I would trust in Him. 

For all 5 of our prior babies my husband was always waiting right outside the bathroom door while I took the test. Almost every time, I read the test wrong and my husband would re-check it and excitingly announce that we were pregnant. It's kind of been our thing.

On this particular morning, I arose before the rest of the kids were awake and tip-toed to the bathroom. I put worship music on my phone as I waited to see the test results. Honestly, not filled with hopelessness, but not expecting a positive test.

The 3 minutes was up and I lifted up the test to gaze upon a beautiful double line.

I was pregnant.

I couldn't really contain my emotions. I immediately began crying and almost couldn't hold myself up any more. I dropped to my bathroom floor and was weeping. Then began laughing. In my family, we call that "cra-laughing." I kept thanking Jesus over and over and praised him on the bathroom floor that morning. 

Then I realized, I got to surprise my husband with the news this time so hopped on Pinterest to find a creative way to tell him. I've never had the chance to do it before. I had like, 5 minutes to get it all done before the kids woke up and we got ready to head to church. 

I came up with this little ditty and got the wine bottle all packaged up in the fridge. After church, we all headed to the airport to pick him up and once home I told him I had gotten him something special in the fridge but that the glass in the front had a weird label he should look at.

He pulled it out and read it and was in complete shock and kept thinking I was joking. Nope. Serious. Double Line. Another beautiful blessing from God. Here we go again!

He was in complete and utter shock and truly didn't believe me. We decided not to tell the kids right away because frankly, they can't keep a surprise for their life.

We could only hold the surprise in for a few weeks from them and then spilled the beans. We took our traditional pregnancy photo and Seborn held my pee-covered pregnancy stick. That's my man right there. (Also, that is an exaggeration, it wasn't pee-covered, there was just pee IN it- two TOTALLY different things.)

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Their expressions totally amuse me. 

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And this is how we told the kids. We told them we just wanted to take some pictures of them. We gave them directives for what to do and then daddy told them and they began screaming and cheering. So glad I was able to capture their reactions!

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Well documented sequence of events. 

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And officially announcing the pregnancy of the 6th amazing Yancy child. Due April 20, 2018. But let's be real... all 5 of my children were 9-12 days OVERDUE so this most likely will be a May baby. 

 

Thank you JESUS for LIFE!

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The Lights Fest.

It was a Saturday afternoon in September. We had just gotten our new 12-seater van (or bus, if you will) which our kids promptly named "Sally." It suited her well. 

For those of you who don't know, we welcomed 3 International students into our family in August who will be spending the whole school year living with us. Carlos is from Spain and Jerry and Evan are from different parts of China. It has been an absolute joy to have them in our lives.

So, on this particular Saturday, all 10 of us hopped into Sally and packed up the trunk with blankets and camping chairs. We headed out on our hour long drive to Wisconsin.

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It was one of those Saturdays where you kind of feel like doing nothing. We had nothing too much going on and it almost just felt right to do a fire at home and relax all day. But I had tickets. And I was really looking forward to our adventure.

We were headed to The Lights Fest.

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Only a few days prior, I had watched a youtube video about The Lights Fest that honestly, teared me up. This one is incredible too.

I somehow convinced my husband to take the hour trip with 10 people, knowing we wouldn't get back home till 11pm or so (and firecracker baby goes to bed at 7pm on a normal night.)

My heart was in it though. We had to be there. We had to experience this, together. I also convinced the 3 teenage boys that it was an opportunity they would not want to miss out on. I can be pretty persuasive. 

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For some reason, I just knew this was somewhere we needed to be. That it would make a difference in our lives.

Without knowing what that would look like, in the aftermath, I can confidently say that it did.

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There were food trucks and icecream and people all around us, upon arrival. We found an open spot and spread out our blankets and chairs. The kids ran through the nearby fields, we snatched up icecream and snuggled amongst the strangers and the dirt ground. It was the most beautiful evening.

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The crowds of people all waiting in graceful anticipation for the sun to set and the darkness to surround us. Waiting for the lights to appear.

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We laughed, we played and we began to create masterpieces on our lanterns. 

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Carlos and Nehemiah worked on one together and included all 3 flags from Spain, China and United States.

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Our family of 10.

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"The boys" as I so lovingly refer to them as, are hilarious. Shortly after they had moved in, Seborn said to me, "You know how the greatest gift we could give our kids is each other. I feel the same about the boys. I'm so glad they have each other to experience this with."

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And I didn't realize how important this night was to Makkedah until the night upon us. 

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I love this family.

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The girls were creating my lantern with me. It was so neat to see their passion and creativity come to life in it.

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And it was finally time as we each helped one another light and lift off our lanterns. Filled with our hopes, dreams, and loves in life. 

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The smiles on their faces...

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Makkedah had asked me if she could help let go of my lantern. I had found out that this was a sort of a dream come true for her. She did not know that lantern lighting was something in real life. She had only seen it in the Rapunzel movie and once the laterns began to float in the sky above her, her jaw dropped, you could almost hear her heart pounding, and the smile on her face was as brig as the lights.

I stood there with the lantern we had created together and we slowly lit it and every so gently pushed it up to soar into the sky. The expression on her face was priceless- absolutely joy-filled mixed with the most intense awe-struck enthusiasm. You can see video of our lighting below + her reaction.

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It was a dream come into reality for her that night. 

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Nehemiah shouted out, "This was the best night in the whole universe!"

And as I stood there, watching the sky above me filled with lights and dreams, I was filled with such contentment. Thankful to God for that very moment. 

It may have just been lights in the sky but it was absolutely magical. And it was an evening to remember and an experience that bonded us together. We created memories that night. Fighting over Bomb pops, sharing our cultures, playing flashlight tag, and sitting in the dirt in a field of strangers. It was quite the beautiful evening.

It's definitely one of those bucket list items I think everyone should add.

The Lights Fest

Kite Hill.

I am far from perfect, believe me. In so many areas of life. But right now, let's dive into healthy eating habits. Remember what I said, I'm not perfect. But I'm striving for better and better each day. 

First off, I have the biggest sweet tooth ever. I will take a piece of cake over a steak any day. I love sweets. And when I was pregnant like... every single year, it began to catch up with me. I started learning about clean eating. I began to make healthier eating choices. My portion sizes were controlled and what I was putting in my body was giving me nutrients and vitamins. Not just empty plastic calories.

 
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Through my lifestyle change, I began transitioning more and more of my toxic foods to foods that are nutrient dense and help my body thrive. And I became more knowledgeable about the importance of what we put in and on our bodies. And I really wanted that for my whole family.

I learned what is in actual milk. Like the gallons of cows milk my kids and I were guzzling each week. Yah... did you know? It's not just freakin' milk from a cows udder anymore folks... oh, heck no. They let a whole buttload of crap in there now. And freely for us to drink down.

It sickens me really. Just SOME of the ingredients put into cow's milk are:

1. Pus

2. Blood cells

3. Hormones

4. Antibiotics

5. Steroids

You can find all the nitty gritty disgustingness of it here. 

And with that, we no longer drink cows milk in our house. Almond milk to the rescue!

 

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And more recently, I watched the documentary What the Health (it is currently on Netflix and I highly recommend checking it out!) And after that... yah... I was weary of a lot of other things I was allowing in our mouths and stomachs. The short term and long term affects of the food we are taking in is alarming. 

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I have been on a journey to replace more and more of our food products with good, healthy, natural options. And it's really been a fun venture. And rewarding, knowing that I am benefiting my children's health and their futures. 

Truthfully, there are just so many improper ways that our society treats food. So many hormones and antibiotics pumped into animals and so many pesticides sprayed into our fields, that the quality of food is completely ruined. Instead of fueling our bodies, they are being poisoned. Slowly and silently.

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Now imagine my delight when I happened upon Kite Hill. They make artisan almond milk foods, which is basically a dream come true. They make cheeses, and yogurts, and desserts and drinks and cream cheese. Pure deliciousness that is good for you! Made ethically and with integrity.

They use traditional cheese-making techniques but create their dishes with nut milk instead of dairy milk. It is the best alternative if you love those dairy foods but either can't tolerate dairy or choose a more Vegan led lifestyle. No matter what, Kite Hill is an extraordinary company with some stellar products.

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We got the strawberry banana and wild berry yogurt and HOLY NO COW (pun intended)! It was extraordinary. And there was just something about it, I felt so good eating it. And dare I say, AFTER eating it. Cause ya'll know some of that other dairy stuff just don't sit right. 

No joke, my girls LOVED it too. I had to hide them in the back of the fridge for a few days because they constantly were asking for more "healthy yogurt." It is SO GOOD!

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At this point, I'm just going to dive head first in. I need to try the cheeses, drinkable yogurts, raviolis, cream cheese and so much more! How can you not when you find such a great dairy alternative? This is good stuff, people! 

All that being said, I'll fill you in on my Kite Hill adventures as we experience some new foods that are nourishing for our bodies and fuel for our minds. Check back in next month for another review on some of their great products, I cannot wait to share with you!

And don't just take my word for it. Do your own research. Check out the ingredients that are in the foods you eat. Research the process of how your foods are made and what goes into them. And check out the awesomeness of Kite Hill and companies that truly care about your health, just as much as you do. 

Scatter Joy.

You've heard the little sayings before:

Throw kindness around like confetti.

Make today great.

Punch today in the face.

 

Well... that escalated quickly.

Back to my point, I'm a sucker for a good motivational saying. And for me, there are so many signs hanging around my house and so many shirts hanging in my closet that express how I want my attitude to be each day.

If you've followed me for any length of time, you know that my whole message is about living for today and finding joy in your extraordinary ordinary life.

I am ridiculously excited to be launching a Limited Edition one-of-a-kind t-shirt campaign that will only be available for the next two weeks and then they will be gone forever!

There are 3 different styles and colors to choose from with our signature phrase of Scatter Joy!

They are quite true to size and ridiculously comfortable. I'm so excited to offer this exclusive design for anyone looking to live their life with more joy and to spread it around wherever you go!

When you get your shirt, I would LOVE to see if on social media! Just post your pic wearing your shirt and use the hashtag #scatterjoy! And tag me @meghanjoytoday, I would love to join you on your own journey of scattering joy!

You can order your choice of shirts here and feel free to share this link with friends and family who would also love to spread the joy!

Friends, I hope you feel so much love today. I pray you are filled with JOY today. I hope that as you go throughout your day, you experience delightful surprises and strive to bring a smile to someone else's face. Whether that be holding a door for someone, complimenting a stranger or paying for a friends meal. Go out of your way to make someones' day brighter. Scatter Joy.

These exclusive signature shirts are only available for the next 2 weeks so grab one right now before they are gone! Have a joy-filled day, my loved ones!

You can purchase your Limited Edition Scatter Joy shirt RIGHT HERE.