Friday, May 31, 2013

Better Mom Shots

I wrote several weeks ago about how excited I was to go through the 30 day photography school, Better Mom Shots. My plan was to go through the whole program over the course of 2 months or so before taking a trip to France. Because Better Mom Shots is an e-book you can go through each lesson per day for 30 days. I planned to go really slow, learn while I went, practice, blah blah blah. However, because it’s just videos and worksheets, you really can go through the whole thing in a day or two, if you choose… Because I got lazy before I went to France, I ended up doing the whole 30-day program in just a few short days before we left for France!  

I downloaded all of the videos before we left and watched the last 15 or so videos on the plane. It was a great way to kill some time on the plane. I read through all of the worksheets and took notes. I didn’t have my camera with me so I read through my notes with my camera once we arrived in France.
Even though I technically raced through the book, I am thrilled with the results! I’ve read multiple blog posts and articles about how to capture the best photos. I’ve read about aperture, shutter speed, what f/stop means, and how to adjust the ISO. But frankly, it never stuck. I needed to know how to take photos inside or of landscapes, practical information. The timing was perfect and I’m incredibly thankful that I had the knowledge to test over the next 10 days of photographing my time in France. Monica explained the exposure triangle so perfectly that when I picked up my camera in France I knew exactly what I needed to do! I wasn’t confused, I immediately could shoot in manual after 2 years of just dipping a toe in the pool of manual.

I cannot tell you how valuable it was to have the skills I got from Better Mom Shots. In France I took photos of people, stained glass, landscapes, in low light and lots of light, in the rain and in the sunshine. Even with these drastically changing lighting scenarios and subjects, I never got frustrated with my camera. I was able to easily estimate the settings, watch the light meter, and shoot! Some situations were really challenging – the Eifel Tower at night, very low light group shots, and gorgeous countryside.

If you have a DSLR and don’t know how to use it, struggle with the right settings, are still shooting in automatic, or get frustrated with your camera, Better Mom Shots is for you. Not a mom? That’s okay! I promise that none of the class has anything to do with being a mom! It’s all applicable to any novice photographer, no matter what your preferred subject!

Check back over the next week or so. I’ll be sharing my photos, stories, and travel tips from our journey to and from Paris! Update: here they are

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. However, I wasn't compensated for this post at all. I just LOVE Better Mom Shots and want to make your life better and your pictures awesome. 
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Johnstons in France!

Surprise! Jarrod and I have spent the last 10 days in France! We are on our way home now and I’ll be back to blogging soon, but I wanted to pop in and let you know what we’ve been up to!

The short story is that we went on a business trip with 19 other folks to Taize, France in the Burgundy region of the south of France. We stayed at the Taize Monastery for 7 days and spent the time praying, working, and having a fantastic time. The weather was dreary, rainy, and incredibly cold. After 7 days, we went to Paris for the final 3 days of our trip. We saw the Eifel tower, walked a few dozen miles, took many (many many many) subway trains, went on a bike tour and had a blast!

We cannot wait to get home to see our boy, but we’re so thankful for the opportunity to go to France! Get excited to hear more soon!  
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Friday, May 24, 2013

Coffee Date Friday

I wasn't able to get a vlog for this morning, so I'm going to write to you as if we were having coffee today!

If we were having coffee today:
  • I would tell you that I've had a very busy week of travel. One that I'm excited to share with you in June! 
  • I would probably show you our front hall closet in our new house - it is home to 3-4 winter coats,  my BOB stroller, and an awesome Dyson. The BOB and the Dyson are two of my favorite things that we own. I love the BOB because it makes taking Wesley for walks possible. And I love the Dyson because my sweet Aunt and Uncle bought it for us when they were visiting. My uncle said, "Hey! I'm taking you to Costco and you can get whatever vacuum you want!" And off to Costco we went. I absolutely adore my new Dyson. It's beautiful and makes vacuuming fantastic! 
  • I would tell you about this delicious meal I made a few nights ago. We had 3 chicken breasts, 1/2 an onion chopped, one sweet potato, mushrooms, and about 6 small yukon golds. I decided to cook the chicken breasts in a dutch oven with a little bit of olive oil. Once they were cooked, I pulled them out and shredded them in the kitchenaid. (toss them in and run it on low with the paddle attachment until the chicken is shredded) While the chicken was shredding, I cooked the onions while chopping the potatoes into small pieces. Then I tossed in the potatoes and sliced mushrooms and salted everything. I let the potatoes cook for about 30 minutes or until they were tender. Then I noticed that we had some ranch seasoning...We normally don't use packaged seasoning, but I bought the ranch to make salad dressing once and thought it would be good on the potatoes. I sprinkled that on the potatoes, stirred it up, and added the chicken. I let that cook for a little longer until everything had time to get friendly in the dutch oven. Bam. It was delicious. 
  • I'd tell you about how hard it is to travel because it means time away from my boy. I hate missing so many moments with him and cannot wait for things to settle down a little bit! There's still more traveling this summer, but he will go with me for most of my trips. Yay!
  • We tried to teach Wesley baby sign when he turned 6 months old. We started with more and moved to all done. He didn't pick it up quickly and it didn't help with communication. We still use more and all done, but opted not to introduce more signs because they weren't helpful for him. He's become much more vocal recently and has mastered many words, including more. I decided the other day that it was time for him to learn please. I went to hand him his pancake and said, "Say please, Wesley." and he signed please. Seriously? Way to go, new school. You rock at teaching my kid things I can't. 
What are you up to today? What would you share with me if we had coffee? Have any awesome plans for Memorial Day?
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Poop, pee, and what it means to be a mom.

Every parent has dealt with poop in the bathtub. It's inevitable. Someday your kid will poop in the bath.  I wish there was a way to avoid it, but I haven't been able to find one. It's just a risk of washing your kids...and washing is essential. I don't know what normal people do when their kid poops in the tub, but this is what I did.

The other night I was bathing Wesley and Jarrod was making dinner. Wesley grunted and bam. Poop in the tub. Wesley had soap in his hair and I wasn't really sure what to do. I screamed for Jarrod, grabbed Wesley, and walked to the hallway.

"You take the tub and I'll take Wes," I bark at my husband as I run to the other bathroom.  I went into our bathroom and ran the shower. I can count on one hand the number of times Wesley has been in the shower, but I wasn't really sure what else to do. I stripped myself down, all while holding a naked and wet toddler covered in soap. We got in the shower and cleaned off. I got the soap off of him while he screamed and clung to me. He was terrified.

Because Jarrod was cleaning the tub, I had to navigate Wesley and I getting out of the shower. I grabbed a towel and wrapped us both up, drying all his hair while I went. We were singing a song and having a great time. Then I felt warm...

That's right. Pee. Wesley peed on me. Right after we got out of the shower. Right after he pooped in the bath.

This is what it means to be a mom, right? And I didn't even mind. I was kind of impressed!

What do you do when your kid poops in the tub? 
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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TV Watching Made Easier

I wrote this post and scheduled it for today. However, this past weekend something bad happened. We were watching TV on Thursday evening. You know, the night of The Office finale, Scandal, and Grey's Anatomy. And our modem and cable box went out at 8:15pm. Jarrod went crazy for a little while and called AT&T. They were incredibly NOT helpful and told us that someone would be by with a new modem the next day between 8am-12pm. Thankfully, Fridays are Jarrod's days off and we had planend to stay around the house the following morning. The AT&T guy came, fixed the modem, and informed us that it was a refurbished model...which is why it broke after just 13 days of use. I called AT&T back and told them I was furious with the service we received and they took $10 off our bill ($5/day without service). Evidently $5/day is their rate for service. Not sure why then I pay $80/month... But anyway, they made it right within 24 hours, which is a good day for me. On with the original glowing review. 

Jarrod and I moved last week and one of the best parts of the move for me was switching cable providers. I know that's crazy, but I was so frustrated with various issues for nearly 2 years in our last place. We chose Time Warner when we moved to Dallas because it was easy. We had a few steps up from basic cable, one DVR box, and internet.
Let me note here that this is a ridiculous post. Children are dying, elderly are starving, and the world is a scary place. And yet I'm complaining about cable. I know. I also know that we live frugally and cable doesn't normally fit into a frugal lifestyle. 
The issues began almost immediately. When our cable was hooked up, they didn't hook up our second TV. Problem. They had to come out again and hook it up. Inconvenient, but definitely not the end of the world. When the problem is on the company, I selfishly expect some kind of compensation or apology. That didn't happen and I began to get a sinking suspicion that I'd regret choosing Time Warner.

Over the course of 23 months our cable box went out not once, but twice. Completely died for absolutely no reason. Which meant we lost all of our DVRed shows and settings. Note: I like to set the favorite channels so I don't need to scroll through 84,008,279 channels anytime I want to watch anything. Do you do that too?  We also always have several hours worth of shows saved on the DVR at any given time. All lost at a moments notice. Again, inconvenient. When your box breaks you have two choices: waiting 5-6 days for a repair person to come out and fix it (what we did the first time) or return our box and pick up a new one. The nearest location is about 20 minutes away, but that's what we did the second time.

The service was spotty, internet incredibly slow, and customer service was a joke. I mentioned switching or cancelling to Jarrod many times. He felt that this was our only option and didn't want to sacrifice without cable.
We could live without cable and the internet. We have chosen to fit this luxury into our budget because it makes life a little easier. We can work from home and need internet to do so.
We have researched Netflix/Hulu/internet watching vs. having cable. Between Jarrod's love of the UFC and our mutual love of the Food Network, this isn't a good option for us. If it is for you, that's awesome!
I think cable companies make you think that they are the only option. You pay a ton of money each month for bad service. If Time Warner were a restaurant  I'd stop eating there and I'd tell all my friends to stop eating there too. But since it's cable, we continue to blindly pay each month. It's insane. You are all my friends and now I'm telling you that it's insane.

When we moved we knew we wouldn't continue with Time Warner. We'd heard great things about AT&T's Uverse. I checked it out and could order it online. Done and done. We bundled the cable option and internet option and saved some money. In fact, we're saving about $40/month for the exact same package. Except with Uverse, it's better. And here's why:
  • More channels. We now get some fancy UFC channel that makes Jarrod really happy. We also get the Cooking Channel. It makes me really happy. 
  • Better interface. The remote is smaller and the interface on the TV is much more intuitive. 
  • Easy fast forward. You know when you're watching a show on the DVR and you go to fast forward through the commercials but you go to far forward and have to rewind again? Making you wish you would have just watched the commercial because of the hassle fast forwarding and rewinding? Our new remote will fast forward and then when you hit play again it jumps back 2 seconds. It's magical. 
  • WAY more space on the DVR. Jarrod says our new DVR will hold 400 hours of shows. (or something like that.) He said our old DVR only held 30 hours. I don't know if this is true, but I do know that our old DVR made us delete stuff all the time and we never had that many shows on it.
  • We can record up to 4 shows at the same time! I don't know why we'd ever need to do that because we really don't watch that much TV, but how cool is that?
  • It's cheaper. We're saving at least $40/month. That's great! 
  • The wireless router is included in the cost of the internet. This was not the case with Time Warner - we used our own wireless router. This could be the reason it was so slow before...
Why am I telling you this? Perhaps you have a cable service that you hate and are looking for alternatives. Uverse is awesome. Time Warner is not. Perhaps you have a service provider that you hate - one that each time you write the check or pay online you get angry. STOP! You have options! Unless there's a monopoly (some states have monopolies on energy and some towns do for water, etc) you can switch! 

Have you ever felt trapped by a service provider? What do you do when you receive bad service?
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Why I Stopped Starting...

Some of you may be wondering why I stopped writing my weekly posts about Jon Acuff's Start. I'm still making my way through the amazing book, but I lost my motivation. I wrote here about how I was trying to drive as much traffic to his book site in competition with other Blissdom bloggers in hopes to win a trip to Nashville to have dinner with Jon Acuff and Dave Ramsey. I'm still convinced that no one wanted the trip as badly as I did, but I didn't win.

In fact, I didn't even make the top five. I'm confident I was #6, though.

I got an e-mail in my inbox several weeks before the end of the competition encouraging me (and everyone else!) to keep up the good work. The e-mail also included the top 5 bloggers. The email was positive and said that there were only a few points between the top bloggers and to keep working hard until May 1st. But my name wasn't on the list. At. All.

I was so bummed. I tried hard not to be bummed. I considered keeping up the good work and still writing, reading, and pretending I was #1. But the other 5 bloggers were all big name bloggers and I figured one of them would win. I was bitter, frustrated, and upset. I really wanted to win.

So I completely stopped reading. I still carried Start in my purse, but I wasn't reading it at all. I was mad. I don't know who I was mad at, but I was mad. I tried my hardest and didn't win. I was proud of my effort, but I wasn't going to win. These things happen. I'm so thankful I started, pushed myself, and shared my thoughts. I am disappointed I stopped.

The bottom line is that I didn't do it to win. Of course I wanted to win, but I did it for the same reason I write just about anything - to help others. I hope that some of you read my posts about Start and were inspired to start. I hope that some of you were inspired to read Jon Acuff's book because you needed a good kick in the pants. But when I didn't win, I forgot what my motivation was. I gave up. And that's not cool.

So it'll be back. I'll write more of my thoughts and what I got from the book. Honestly, I'm still processing it. I'm figuring out what I want to start. I'm figuring out what I've mastered and how I can guide others.

Anyway, I've been feeling guilty that I just stopped starting for y'all. I wanted to come clean. I had a temper tantrum. But I'm back now. :-)

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Coffee Date #3

Look at this! I'm vlogging for the 3rd time in a row! I'm linking up with Alissa from Rags to Stitches again this week for Coffee Date.

A couple of disclaimers:
  • My dryer was going and you can hear clinking in the background. So sorry about that!
  • Yes, I talk about bras. Here's your warning.
  • I got a text message about halfway through and there's a weird vibrating sound. That's what that was.

If we were having coffee, what would you want to share?
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stubborn Little Boy

On Monday I wrote about Wesley's new school. We love it and love the sweet little boy he is growing into. However, over the past few weeks of incredible transition, we've also discovered how strong-willed and stubborn our little man is. He's just 16 months old and doesn't communicate well at all. He prefers to point even when we insist on baby sign. The lack of communication is frustrating to him, I know. But he's also learning the meaning of no.

Of course he's also turning into a toddler - fits are frequent and he's sharing his opinions and preferences. He is a stubborn and strong-willed child. We are working on redirecting, ignoring, and setting boundaries. Rationally, I know it's completely normal, but it hurts my heart each time I have to hold him down to change his diaper or brush his teeth.

Mealtime is especially frustrating. For example, dinner is often more frustrating and aerobic than relaxing and enjoyable. We feed Wesley whatever we are eating - no special means and no "kid food." This went well for a long time but the past few weeks he decides each day what he likes and what he doesn't like. Something he would eat the day before, he won't even put in his mouth just a day later. In fact, he'll SCREAM, throw his arms around, and shut his mouth as tight as he can. If we force food into his mouth, he'll usually realize it's not poison and eat until he decides he's no longer interested. We are interested in making sure that he's not a picky eater, but this might be backfiring on us!

We have tried redirecting his attention to something else, encouraging him when he does well, and ignoring bad behavior. We know that fits and temper tantrums are going to happen, but the frequency of them are starting to stress me out. I'm not entirely sure the best way to deal with this behavior. We LOVED Baby Wise and would love another book like this that might help me navigate the toddler years. I've heard that On Becoming ToddlerwiseHappiest Toddler on the Block, and Love and Logic are excellent resources. I haven't read any of them, but they are all on my reading list. :-)

And do you have any advice for me on books or resources on how to best parent my sweet boy? Any stories of a stubborn or strong-willed kid of your own? Misery loves company, you know. :-)

Some of those links are affiliate links but doesn't know I exist and I've never made more than a few pennies. 
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mother's Day 2013

I had the most beautiful Mother's Day. In spite of my child being a tantrum-throwing toddler, we really enjoyed the day. Jarrod woke up early and went to church. Wesley actually slept in, which would have been delightful had I not gotten up early in hopes to take him for a walk before church. Luckily, I used the time to get things done before he woke up. After he got up we ate breakfast and got ready for church. The sermon at church was from a minister who is battling infertility. It was honest, authentic, and moving. Mother's Day sermons can tend to be fluffy and I was overwhelmed with the depth of emotion brought this year.

After church we went home for a quick and light lunch. Jarrod got to making some sweet potato chips and I went for a walk while Wesley napped. Once Wes woke up, we played, read books, and played music. Around 3:30pm we walked to the park! We have a fabulous park just 1/2 a mile from our house, which is awesome!

Jarrod packed a picnic early dinner. He made grilled chicken salad sandwiches, sweet potato chips, and crackers and brie. It was incredible and relaxing. Wesley was so good and loves playing at the park. There's actually a small jungle gym just for toddlers at our park, which rocks. Wesley can run and play without worrying about him falling or getting scared. The slides are even small enough for him to go down by himself. As long as I'm at the top and Jarrod's at the bottom to catch him!

After the park, we went home and gave our messy kid a bath. After bathtime we read stories and played in Wesley's room. After Wesley went to bed, Jarrod and I enjoyed a glass of wine and ice cream. I am well aware that wine doesn't "go" with ice cream. But that's just silly. Ice cream - good. Wine - good!

What did you do for Mother's Day? Did you get any pictures with your little ones? I obviously didn't do that!
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Monday, May 13, 2013

First Day of School!

Over a month ago when Jarrod began his new job, Wesley started at a new school. His previous daycare was right down the street from Jarrod's church. Because I work all over the place, it makes sense for Wesley's school to be near Jarrod's job. Thankfully, there's a preschool right in Jarrod's new church!

These pictures are already over a month old - Wesley is so much bigger now. He still looks like a baby in these pictures. But this is him and daddy on their way to school for the very first time. It's quite a drive, so I say goodbye before they head one way and I go the other.
Wesley has grown so much because of our new situation. He walks himself down the hall to school each day, even attempting to open the door of his classroom all by himself. A month ago he was walking, but crawling was still quicker.  Now he's never crawling and walks everywhere. He was 16 months this past weekend and is definitely more of a kid than a baby.

He talks all the time. Literally nonstop. He reads books to himself, usually upside down, and tells us stories all the time. We rarely know what he's talking about because he doesn't have all the words down yet, but he knows what he means.

His new school is wonderful. He's getting great care and is learning a lot. He's in a room with 6 other children very close in age to him. He has a schedule, naps at school, and is happy. We are incredibly blessed.

How do you commemorate the first day of school with your kids?

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Coffee date week 2

That's right - I'm vlogging two weeks in a row! This video is completely fact, I haven't even watched it to be sure I'm not incredibly awkward.

So, here you go! Feel free to leave comments or questions - I'd love to hear from you!

Just like last week, I'm linking up with Alissa from Rags to Stitches!
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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Happy Mother's Day to me! {Lisa Leonard Review}

A few weeks ago I was checking out some of my favorite blogs and I discovered that I'd won a giveaway from Bits of Splendor! Winning a giveaway is always fun, but this one was special because it was a $50 gift certificate to Lisa Leonard Designs! I'm probably the last person on the planet to discover the amazing Lisa Leonard, but now that I have, I'm obsessed.

I actually met Lisa at Blissdom - her breakout session was absolutely fantastic and has not only introduced me to new blogs, but influenced my writing. If you don't follow her blog, you should. She's absolutely adorable. 

If you've never seen her jewelry, get excited. It's custom, handmade, and fair trade.

A few days after winning the giveaway, I received this beautiful envelope in the mail.
Definitely the most beautiful giftcard I've ever received!
Before the giftcard arrived, I had a few days to check out the website and pick out exactly what I wanted. I had been checking out this mama necklace - I even sent a link to Jarrod so that he knew what I wanted for Mother's Day. Once the giftcard arrived, I decided to let Jarrod pick a few things out and we'd pretend this was my official Mother's Day gift.

He initially picked out these gorgeous blue earrings but I opted instead to get two pairs of earrings from the Hope{full} fair trade earrings.

I was so excited when the package arrived!
How gorgeous are these bags? Each piece of jewelry was individually wrapped and so special.
I seriously cannot wait to wear these earrings. I went with these and these. I will be planning my outfits for the rest of the week around these gorgeous earrings.
I'd just come back from a walk with Wesley, but I immediately put the necklace on and do not plan to take it off except for sleeping. It's just so gorgeous!

I wasn't paid or perked at all. I received the gift certificate randomly with no expectation to write a review. I just wanted to share my thoughts and spread the Lisa Leonard Designs magic with you!

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wardrobe Malfunction

On Sunday mornings we go to church. Jarrod works in the church and I work for lots of churches. We love church. But taking Wesley to church is always an adventure. Because Jarrod works there and has to be out of the house before the sun is up, Wesley and I are on our own on Sunday mornings. I try to wake up before Wesley so that I'm showered and done before he needs me. This particular Sunday morning I got a shower before he woke up, thanks be to God. My hair wasn't dry, makeup was not on, and I'd not decided what to wear, but at least I was clean!

After getting Wesley up, we ate breakfast and he managed to not get any yogurt in his hair. It was a miracle. There isn't much time for playing on Sunday mornings, but I try to occupy him with singing and stories while we get ready. He plays in his pack 'n play while I get ready so that he doesn't play in the toilet when I turn my back for .03 seconds. He isn't a fan of the pack 'n play but it's about the only time we let him watch Dinosaur Train, so he complies mostly.

This particular Sunday was just our second Sunday morning at our new church. We were going to be introduced to the church and I wanted to look the part. Pastor's families wear nice clothes, right? I opted for no pantyhose. I just can't do it. Wesley wore a cute plaid button-up shirt and I wore my Easter dress from several years ago. Check!
I should note here that I was a little hesitant about the dress. It's beautiful, but was made for a much skinnier, pre-Wesley Leanne. It is also slightly fancier than I am used to. I wasn't sure about our new church getting the wrong idea about me. I'm no where close to being put together! 
But I was so proud of us. We live quite a ways from our new church and we were actually packed and in the car with plenty of time to get there. Wesley had a snack, water, diapers, and wipes in his bag. I didn't pack a purse because two bags for one mama is one too many. We were a few blocks from the church and I reached around Wesley's carseat at a stoplight to tickle him. 


The strap from my dress tore at the seam. I wish I had a picture, but I have since thrown the dress away. This would be a much better blog post with a picture. The malfunction wasn't obscene, but it did make the dress not fit and showed my bra strap. I had a shawl, but that wasn't going to fix anything. Quick - could I make it back home and back in time? Nope. What to do?

I called my husband praying he had a few free seconds.

"Jarrod. It's an emergency. Please meet me in the front of the church with a stapler. That's all. Everything's fine. Love you!"

I didn't give him time to ask questions. When I arrived, carrying Wesley, his bag, and my shawl, Jarrod was standing there is his pastor's robe holding a stapler. I kissed him, he unlocked his office door, and left. Thankfully Jarrod has a hand drum in his office so Wesley was occupied for a few minutes. Jarrod also has a window in his office door...

So, I climbed into Jarrod's office closet, leaving the door cracked just enough for light and to hear Wesley banging the drum. "Good job, little man!" I say as I take off my dress. It doesn't come all the way off, just enough to turn around to staple the seam back in place. Three good staples and we're good to go again! I wrap myself in the shawl, pretending it's for warmth even though my blood pressure is keeping me quiet warm, and off we go! 

Wesley's dropped in the nursery and I'm only a few minutes late to Sunday School. It's such a glamorous life!

I'm linking my confession up today with Heather at Cookies for Breakfast.
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Monday, May 6, 2013

Choosing a Carseat

The second most scary thing towards the end of my pregnancy was bringing the baby home. The first, of course, was labor. Jarrod says that the drive home from the hospital was even more tense than the drive to the hospital. And just a reminder that our drive to the hospital was a few short hours before Wesley arrived! Obviously keeping our boy safe in the car is one of our number 1 priorities.
This week alone I had three separate friends ask me about my choice for car seat. My friends know that I do a lot of research before making large and important purchases. Partially because I don't like spending money and partially because I'm thorough. I posted on facebook when Wesley was about 6 weeks old asking for advice on a convertible car seat. I got incredible advice pointing mostly to the Britax Marathon or Boulevard or the Graco My Ride 65. But advice from friends wasn't good enough for me. I took it several steps further!

After getting real life advice from my friends, I hit up Lucie's List to see what Meg had to say about convertible car seats. I love her posts and find them to be generally incredibly helpful. She had several suggestions with the Britax Boulevard topping the charts (at least in terms of investment!). After Lucie's List, I checked out The Bump. I was already leaning towards the Britax Marathon or Boulevard, so I was excited to see the Marathon listed at the safest car seat. From there I checked I love reading reviews and enjoyed seeing that most people liked the Britax Marathon and Boulevard. I wasn't willing to pay to see Consumer Reports lists, but through some blog reading discovered that the Britax seats were rated very high.

We decided to go with the Britax Marathon as our main car seat. We opted for that over the Boulevard because the differences seemed almost exclusively for comfort and the price difference (about $30) didn't seem worth it. For our secondary vehicle, the one Wesley is only in occasionally, we opted for the Graco My Ride 65. It was consistently ranked just below the Britax Marathon so we were comfortable with that option.

We have had both car seats for over a year now and love both of them. We've had the Britax Marathon checked professionally and were told that it's one of the best on the market. It is one of the only seats that has a tether even when it is rear facing. The tether holds the seat to the frame of the front passenger seat, which makes the seat that much more secure. The Britax Marathon is a beast. It's a huge car seat but fits just fine in our Honda Accord. The Graco My Ride 65 is smaller and has less comforts (it isn't as padded and lacks the tether) but it does have cup holders and is much easier to install.

Overall, we are very pleased with both seats. We purchased both seats on with free shipping. I've said this before and I'll say it again, if and when we have another baby, I will skip the infant car seat and go straight to the convertible. I love wearing my baby and found the infant seat to be heavy, cumbersome, and after 6 weeks stopped using it altogether. I know many disagree and prefer the infant carseat. It's just personal preference.

Here are a few other articles that are helpful in making sure that your baby is secure in their car seat:
How did you choose your car seat? 

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Coffee Date with me!

For months I've watched bloggers share coffee dates. I love reading Jenna is up to when she shares coffee virtually with me. More recently I've loved listening to Alissa from Rags to Stitches talk to me each week about her kids, husband, and exercise schedule. I got to meet Alissa at Blissdom several weeks ago and have loved getting to know her even better through her blog. I've also enjoyed listening to Heather's New England accent when she shares in the coffee date.

Each week I've thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to join in? I've never done a vlog before!" In fact, I've thought that every Friday morning when I see all these coffee date blog posts popping up!

Aren't you lucky that today is the day! I decided to set aside some time this past week to vlog. Pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee, and let's chat!

 Here are a few notes:
What's going on in your world?
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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Desire to Inspire {Our Journey to Parenthood through Miscarriage}

A Royal Daughter

I got to meet sweet Amanda from A Royal Daughter at Blissdom several weeks ago. She is precious and I always love meeting other curly-haired women who love Jesus. :-) I've just started getting into her blog and I'm struck by her authenticity, honesty, and the incredible community she's created. 

Last week Amanda wrote a beautiful series of posts about infertility. I prayed through each one - honoring the women and men who are fighting each day to grow a baby. I gave God thanks for my precious little man who looks just like me when he smiles and has his daddy's hair. I've touched on our own fertility adventure before, but I haven't shared the details. Mostly because of intense shame. But I was inspired by Amanda's honesty and my prayer by sharing our story is to inspire others. 

I got pregnant on the first try. In fact, I got pregnant on the first try twice. My first pregnancy was short - I only knew about it for about 7 days - but it forever changed my life. I don't talk about it much because it seems to pale in comparison to other's pain. It's not like the pain of years of infertility  It's not like the pain of losing a child. But it's painful and it's my pain.

It's also complicated. I got pregnant the first month I stopped taking the pill. Jarrod and I were not quite officially trying to have a baby, but we were ready. My doctor knew of my intentions and cleared us to begin trying. But no one gets pregnant on their first try, right? We had plenty of time to worry about getting pregnant. 

But on February 22, 2011 I saw two lines and knew that my life was forever changed. I immediately felt sick, regret, and fear. The timing wasn't right - we were living far from our families and I couldn't wrap my brain around having a baby by Halloween. It was all happening too fast. Not to mention late October is not a good time to have a baby if you are a 3-day participant. These things all seem very selfish now, but at the time, they were intensely real. I wasn't ready.

Over the next week or so I was a rollercoaster of emotions. I was filled with guilt at wishing I could walk in the 3-day, praying that my desire wasn't making the baby feel unwanted. I was so excited - baby shoes, names, and cravings consumed me. It's a good thing that Pinterest wasn't around then or all my free time would have been spent planning the nursery. 

And then I started bleeding. I immediately called the doctor. They ordered two rounds of tests. Within 24 hours I knew the pregnancy wasn't viable. The tests confirmed that my progesterone wasn't increasing like it should. I blamed myself - I was too selfish, too scared, and not ready. I was devastated. Jarrod was devastated. The baby we were so scared of became so real and so loved in just 7 short days. 

2 months later, we were pregnant again. Much more cautious, we waited, talked to the doctor, and took it easy before getting too excited. We moved, kept the secret, and finally were in the clear at about 12 weeks. We were so excited. The miscarriage proved to us how badly we wanted a baby. We weren't scared of being pregnant anymore but were just ecstatic about loving a little baby. 

The day of our original due date came in late October. I was nearly 7 months pregnant - HUGE pregnant, really. I spent the day crying and it wasn't until lunchtime that I realized why. We were supposed to have a baby HERE. I felt like a crazy person. Who cries about a miscarried baby at 6 weeks when you're huge-tastic pregnant with a perfectly healthy baby? 

Me. I cried. I mourned. I was so sad. 

I talk about that first pregnancy from time to time. Jarrod doesn't understand, but I think about it as the first time I was pregnant with Wesley. The timing wasn't right, so I got to be pregnant with him again. It's the only way I can manage. I cannot think about who that first baby would be. Call it what you will, but I need to think of that first baby as just a baby Wesley that needed a little more time. 

From the outside, our journey to a family of three looks effortless. It definitely didn't take any time at all, that's for sure! But there was a lot more pain than at first glance. I understand loss, pain, frustration, and regret because of this part of our journey. I am still incredibly thankful for the ease in which we got pregnant with Wesley. I pray if we choose to add to our family through pregnancy again, it is just as simple. And I pray for peace and babies for those longing in the midst of infertility. 

How do you inspire others? Do you have a story to share or a message to give others in the midst of pain? Consider linking up with A Royal Daughter or reading some inspiration and leading your thoughts! 
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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April 2013 Goals Update

We started this year by planning out our goals on a monthly basis. Each month I bring you our update... After "knocking it out of the park" in March, April was a bust. We stayed on track, but things have changed incredibly in our life since we made these goals. It's a little disappointing to see it in black and white, but I suppose that's accountability.

Here are our April goals:
  1. visit Nashville to scream, "We're debt free!!!" 
  2. Jarrod becomes a certified candidate for ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church 
  3. Jarrod reads one non-fiction & Leanne reads one book 
  4. Do something special for Leanne's birthday 
  5. Try a new recipe 
  6. Leanne walk 75% of days
I guess it's really #1 that upsets me so much. We still aren't debt free, so there was no trip to Nashville this month. It's okay - we'll be debt free very soon. We've push pause on our debt snowball for a few months. We are in the midst of a big move, job transition, and a lot of travel. In June or July, we will hit play again, put all of our savings on debt, and be debt free, God willing. Once we're debt free, we'll plan our trip to Nashville. It pains me that we're not debt free yet when I was so sure we would be when we started the year. But we're still on target and will be before too long. 

1. Nope. 
2. Yes! Jarrod was certified on April 17th! If you're not familiar with the ordination process in the United Methodist Church, certification is the first door to walk through in the journey to ordination as an Elder. It's a very exciting opportunity for Jarrod and our family! 
3. Done and done. I read Start, which I still recap for you very soon! Jarrod read When Christians Get It Wrong
4. We did! We went to the zoo for my birthday and it was the best present ever. 
5. Jarrod made these corn cakes and avocado salsa. They were decent, but Jarrod realized after the fact that he forgot the eggs. They would probably have been better with egg in the batter. 
6. I did. Because of Start  I've been waking up at 6am each day to walk at least 2 miles before Wesley wakes up. It's an incredible way to start my day. It also ensures that even if I don't walk in the evening after work, I have done 2 miles. On the weekends I've pushed myself to do 4-6 miles and it feels great.

Did you set goals this month? How did it go? How do you keep momentum when you've failed to meet some goals?
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