Amy Beth

Thursday, October 22, 2015

These Days // 21

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Happy Fall everyone! Here’s what’s happening around here these days.

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wearing: a cute new headband from Lady Alexandra’s Etsy shop. Tina from Go Big or Go Home is hosting a giveaway from this shop on her blog this weekend, and since she doesn’t have a little girl she asked if Poppy would model the headband. I must say, Poppy rocked the photo shoot. To see more of her showing off the headband and to enter the giveaway, be sure to check out Tina’s blog!

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celebrating: my birthday earlier this month! It was lovely and low-key and included a cupcake castle.

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practicing: wearing my baby on my back. It’s still a little nerve wracking to try to get her back there, but we’re getting better and Poppy laughs whenever I try the Santa Toss.

moving: all over! After several months of pushing up and pivoting and accidentally scooting backwards, Poppy has finally figured out how to move forward! She’s using this new skill to go after all the things we had previously kept out of her reach.

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waking: up early. At least for me. I’ve signed up for the Hello Mornings challenge for the next six weeks and I’m trying to start my days more positive and prepared. I’ve successfully made it through two whole days! If you care to follow how I’m doing, I’m trying to post each morning to my new Instagram account. I’ll also post other things I’m doing and previews of what’s coming up on the blog, so be sure to check it out!

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loving: each other. I’ve probably mentioned this several times already, but watching these two become friends and love each other is probably my favorite thing ever.

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Making a Monthly Meal Plan


Have I mentioned before that I pretty much hate getting meals on the table? Meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning…all of it. Except the eating. I very much enjoy the eating part. I’ve tried lots of things to make this whole daily ordeal more enjoyable, or at least take up less of my life. So my latest project is one more attempt at streamlining the whole meal preparation process. The biggest change from anything I’ve tried so far? Planning for the whole month.

I started by making a list of all the meals I would consider quick and easy. When I actually sat down and wrote them all out I found I actually had a pretty good collection. For the most part they are recipes that I can make from memory, have a small list of ingredients, and come together fairly quickly. Some recipes are crock pot meals that take a while to cook, but only a few minutes to dump the ingredients in at the beginning of the day. I’m sure each family would have a different list, but ours includes things like tacos, spaghetti, parmesan tilapia, and roast beef.


Then I made a list of easy and quick side dishes. I’m really bad about making the main dish and then realizing we have no vegetables once I get it on the table, so I knew I needed to think about sides ahead of time. I only have a handful that I’m planning to rotate though each week, but they are super simple. Mostly various types of frozen vegetables with some roasted sweet potatoes or carrots thrown in for some beta carotene.

Once I made my lists I realized I could fill out a whole month’s calendar and only repeat most of the meals twice. This sounded like a fabulous idea, but I knew I would miss some of our favorite but not quite as quick and easy meals. So I made a list of favorite seasonal meals. My plan is to put one “seasonal favorite” in a week, but with a list of favorites already made it’s still not something I’ll need to think very hard about. Some favorites that I’m planning for this fall include my stuffed acorn squash and chicken and rice chowder.

From there I filled in the calendar! I based the plan around our typical schedule for the week, so on grocery shopping days I always plan on just picking up a rotisserie chicken for dinner. On days when we tend to have more going right before the dinner hour I plan on crockpots that I can prepare earlier in the day.


The last step was preparing a shopping list. Since I plan on repeating my “quick and easy” meals all year long, I knew I could go ahead and make a shopping list to refer to all year too. This took a bit of time, but I think I have a pretty thorough list now. I split it up into things that I can buy just once at the beginning of the month, and more perishable items that will need to be purchased on a weekly basis. My hope is that I can take one big shopping trip at the beginning of the month and get all the unpleasantness of that out of the way and keep all the rest of the trips short and sweet. Since I’ve only just started this system I have yet to find out if this is how it will actually work in reality.

Maybe in a few months time I can report back on how this system is working out. I’m hopeful that it will make at least some things easier and I’m already excited about the fact that the whole month’s meals are planned out.

Anyone have any fabulous tips for making meal planning and prep involve less time and stress? I’m all ears!

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**This is going down in the books as Project 1 for my 31 Projects goal!

Monday, October 5, 2015

31 Projects: A Year-Long Goal

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I’ve heard it said before that goals are dreams with deadlines.* I’ve been really good in my life at dreaming, but not so great at accomplishing goals. I’ve come to realize that a lot of this is due to a lack of deadlines. I do just fine at getting things done when there is some sort of external pressure. I did just fine at work. I was great at school. But when it comes to my own personal life I often feel like I’m not accomplishing very much. In the past I’ve balked at placing an arbitrary deadline on myself. I guess I figured that if the deadline is coming from me, then I can just as easily change it. And then it’s not really a deadline, it’s just procrastination. But after all that reasoning I still don’t really get anywhere.

So, to commemorate my 31st birthday this past week, I’ve decided to make this a Year of Accomplishing Things. I’ve made it my goal to complete 31 projects before my next birthday. October 1st, 2016 is the deadline. And since it’s my birthday I can’t change it. No procrastinating on this one! I’ll either meet my goal or I won’t, but at least it won’t just languish out there for all eternity while I wonder if I’ll ever get around to it or not. I feel like this will be good for me.

So what do I mean by 31 Projects? It’s pretty open-ended really. The purpose is to take all the many many many many ideas I come up with throughout the year and turn at least some of them into reality. Some of them will likely be craft projects. Some will probably be home projects (decorating, organizing, and the like.) Some may be projects for the kids. Hopefully all of them will bring about some sort of personal fulfillment, either by being a creative outlet or improving my life in some way.

I have dedicated a page in my planner for keeping track of my projects and have already started jotting down ideas. A few are already in progress. You can also expect a lot of 31 Project related blog posts. 31 of them, hopefully.

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My project tracking page in my Get To Work Book

When I do the math, it looks like I need to complete a project every one and a half weeks. This is a pretty lofty goal. So if you know me in real life, feel free to ask about what projects I’m working on. I have a feeling I’m going to need a little motivation to get this done. :)

*Pinterest tells me that was said by someone named Napoleon Hill.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Peek at my Planner – Get to Work Book

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent much of my adult life searching for THE ONE. The one that can help me achieve my dreams. Be a better person. Support me through stressful times and forgive me when I just can’t do it all. The one that I can pour my life into and receive clarity and purpose in return. I’m talking, of course, of the perfect planner.


As I’ve grown though, I’ve slowly become more accepting of the fact that I can’t expect the planner to fulfill my every need. I have to be willing to do the work to get the most out of the relationship. I need to be willing to commit. To buckle down and work out our issues and see what good can come out on the other side rather than just run off to a newer, prettier planner at the first sign of trouble. As you can see, planners are a very personal issue for me.

So when one of my favorite bloggers and people on the internet that I most admire in terms of her “get it done-ness” launched a new business that sells planners I decided to give it a try. I had been without a long-term planner for a while. I’d just been casually flirting with different lists and notebooks but I could feel it was time for me to settle down. So I bought it. It’s charming and unassuming. It gives me guidance and focus when I need it, but it never pushes. It allows me space to be me. It’s a planner, and I’m going to stop with this extended metaphor now.

The planner is called the Get to Work Book and it is made by Elise at The next edition of the planners for the 2016 calendar year is available for pre-order now, so I thought it would be a good time to give a little peek at how I’ve used mine for the past few months. You can check out the Get to Work Book website for photos and videos that show each of the different page designs in more detail.

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As a reminder that I want to be more creative and crafty in my daily life, I decorated the cover page with some watercolor. It turns out decorating planners is a thing that people really get into, and this planner is the perfect blank canvas for some serious artistic flair. Just take a look at the Get to Work Book instagram or search on pinterest for “planner decorating” and you’ll see what I mean. Like Whoa.

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brainstorming space decorated with washi tape
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project planning page

One of the things I love about this planner is the amount of brainstorming space that is included. I’m a person who thinks and plans best on paper, but other planners I’ve had have never really included a lot of space for this. I always had to find other notebooks or scraps of paper which inevitably got lost or forgotten. This planner allows me to keep all of my ideas and brainstorms right there with the nitty gritty details of the day. It has several sheets of blank graph paper before each monthly spread and more in the back of the book. It also has some handy project planning sheets for those projects that need to be broken down and given a bit more structure.

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weekly spread

I also like how open ended the weekly spreads feel. If you wanted to write out a schedule for the day, you could do that. If you wanted to just make a big to-do list for each day you could do that too. Or you could be like me and combine a few tasks with a shopping list with a note with details about an upcoming event with an inventory of the fridge for meal planning. The grayscale design gives enough structure to help you keep things organized but is subtle enough to ignore if you need the space.

The fact that I have used this planner for three months and haven’t yet thought about switching it up and trying something new is a big deal, as my husband will attest. Maybe it’s the planner. Or maybe it’s just me finally being ready to commit. But I feel like even if I come up with new ways to organize or categorize my life, this planner will be flexible enough to change with me. We’ll see. But I think maybe, just maybe, I’ve found the one.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

So, my baby has Down Syndrome

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My baby came into the world as most do. Amid anticipation and pain, a flurry of excitement, exhaustion, relief, happiness, smiles, cuddles and kisses. I like to think that I am capable of being objective and realistic when it comes to my children, so I don’t mean to offend anyone else when I say that I’m pretty sure she was the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen. Our time in the hospital was fairly lovely, as far as hospital visits go. She caught on to nursing quickly and stayed peaceful and content. I loved to just sit and stare at her cute little face. I made note of a tiny pinprick of a dent next to her ear just in case the hospital’s obsessive identification band checking should fail us and they hand me the wrong baby. Not that we were separated that often. Aside from the morning doctor’s visit in the nursery and a few extra visits to the warmer because she had a bit of trouble keeping her temperature up, little Penelope stayed by my side.

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Chris and I woke up on the last morning in the hospital ready to get home and settle into our life as a family of four. Determined to be home for lunch, we packed up bags and filled out paperwork at a level of efficiency that we haven’t been able to match since. As we were finishing up breakfast the doctor came by to give us a report of his morning checkup. It was then that we heard the news. The doctor had observed several physical characteristics that indicated that our baby could have Down Syndrome. He rattled off a list of indicators. Chris and I asked a few questions I think. We were told that we could get the blood test at her first checkup the next day and would hopefully have an official diagnosis within a week. He was positive and kind and promised to follow up with us. We thanked him and were left to absorb the news over what was left of our dry toast and eggs.

It’s taken me eight months to write this post. I’m not sure why, exactly. I think I just wanted to make sure I gave an accurate and true representation of what this diagnosis means to us. I also want to make sure that it’s a source of encouragement and hope to anyone who may come across it who is faced with a similar situation. A source of encouragement and hope without discounting the wide range of emotions a parent might feel when they find out their child has Down syndrome. I’ve read many posts like this one. The parents in these posts have felt many things: disbelief, shock, anger, fear, bitterness, guilt, grief. But in the end there’s always acceptance, gratitude, resolve, and of course, love.

That’s not exactly my story though. My process of wading through these emotions has felt much gentler than anything else I’ve read. It’s been surrounded by an overall feeling of peace. Maybe it’s my personality. More than likely it’s my God.

Once the doctor left I think I cried a bit. But then Penelope came back from the nursery and it was time for me to be a mama and get her dressed for the trip home. Chris and I didn’t really talk about it again until we were safely in the car. Then I think I cried some more. About what, I’m not sure. Some of it was fear of the unknown. Much of it was adjusting to a new vision for my daughter’s future than the one I had previously had. I think most of all I worried that her life was going to be so much more difficult than what I wanted for her.

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And Chris, who I’m sure was feeling much of these same things but didn’t have the postpartum hormones to deal with and also had to keep his eyes dry so he could drive, said the most steadying thing. He said, “She’s still the same baby. We may have some new information about her, but she hasn’t changed.”

Maybe this subtle shift in perception doesn’t feel as profound to you. But to me, that was just what I need to hear right then.

My mom and sister were at home with Charlie waiting for us. I had dried my tears by then and turned my focus to settling in and helping Charlie adjust to a new sister in the family. Chris got the task of breaking the news to my mom and sister because, as stated above, he didn’t have postpartum hormones. It’s times like these that I’m thankful to have an introverted family. Big news is generally received politely and without a lot of comment. And since no one says much until all the thoughts and emotions have had time to settle down and organize themselves inside the thinker’s head, there is much less chance of anyone saying anything stupid or upsetting. So we told them and they said “Oh. Ok.” and we moved on.

Later that day we sent out an email to a few close friends asking for prayer. We still weren’t sure what to do with this information and were just trying not to freak out. She may not have it after all, we kept telling ourselves. But I think those prayers are what made all the difference. I’d heard before of the “peace that passes understanding” but had never really thought about what those words meant. But as we moved through the next couple of days and weeks, that’s what I experienced. Even though there were lots of reasons to be stressed or to worry or to feel emotionally distraught, I didn’t. I still had my moments where I mourned for the vision of the future I had had for her. But they were brief and cathartic and left me feeling more accepting of the future that God obviously had for her. When people would ask how we were doing I could honestly say that we were doing well.

In the week or so between hearing from the doctor that he thought she might have Down syndrome and getting the results of the genetic test back, I spent a lot of time staring at my baby, trying to decide if I thought it was true or not. The doctor sounded so certain. But every time I looked at her I would just think, I don’t see it. I don’t see anything wrong with her.

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And God must have been there with me because he spoke to me. He said something that I think I will remember and carry with me for the rest of my life.

He said — It’s a doctor’s job to see the things that might be wrong. But you are not her doctor. You’re her mother. It’s your job to see her.

Since then I’ve realized that that is probably the most important thing I can give her. That I can give all my children. The world may look at her as if something is wrong with her. That she’s at a disadvantage. That she is someone to feel sorry for. But I have determined that I will not see her the way the world sees her. I will see her for who she really is. For who God made her to be. I will see all the wonderful, unique, made-that-way-on-purpose qualities that God has given her and celebrate those things. I’m her mother. That’s my job.

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Now at eight months out, Down syndrome often doesn’t feel like a big deal. We’ve been blessed with a very healthy child. None of the extra test or checkups have revealed any health problems to be concerned with. Her development is lagging somewhat behind other children her age, but she’s making steady progress and we have weekly therapy appointments to help build up those muscles. She’s a girl who lets people know what she wants and seems to have a fairly determined personality, so I don’t think she’s going to let too much get in her way in life. She loves her family and has the best smile. She and Charlie are best friends, a fact that routinely makes my heart melt.

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Some might think that it would be reasonable to wish she didn’t have Down syndrome. But that wouldn’t be true. That would be like wishing I had a different child.

It’s not like God made this amazing person and then slapped on a disability. He just made an amazing person who, just like my brown hair and short stature, Down syndrome is just a part of the equation. It is literally at the very core of who she is. It is within every cell in her body. Before she was even conceived, there was an extra chromosome, hanging out, waiting to become a part of our little girl.