Why You Need a Rhythm: Turning New Year's Resolutions Into Lifelong Habits

New year's resolutions are widespread, and I'm always right there on the same boat. But I'm learning that a new resolution or goal alone isn't going to get me where I want to be. You don't need to make more money, be a different size, look prettier, have more things, pare down to less things, or (fill in the blank) to be happier. Instead, something in your fundamental routine has to change. The way you approach life has to change.

I'm not asking you to ditch your resolutions; I'm asking that you tweak them just enough to plug them into your life instead of letting them float on the fringes of it.

I'm not asking you to make resolutions; I'm asking you to identify what's missing from or not working in your life, and get to the heart of the issues that are bothering you.

Let's do this.

Many people claim to be disorganized and bad at routines...bad at consistency. I'm here to tell you why this is not just a personality preference. It's a common weakness we all tend towards - God created order, and over time, things tend toward disorder if not maintained.

God is the author and Creator of rhythms and routines. How have we missed this?

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth...And God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.' " (Genesis 1:1, 14-15, emphasis added)

In the beginning, God purposefully created the earth and then ordered it into a rhythm of days, weeks, months, and years. Those weren't our ideas. He did not create you and me randomly or on a whim, and I don't think He created us to do life that way either. Let me reassure you that this idea of routines does not mean that you have to have a militaristic, legalistic, or strict approach. It does not mean that every second of your life is planned. On the contrary, having routines in your life opens up more spaces for free, whimsical living.

The world says that only in chaos and emotional living can there be freedom and happiness. God says that only within healthy boundaries and a foundation of truth can there be freedom and joy (Psalm 119:1-8 and 19:7-11). Which will you believe?

"Rhythms actually free me up to be more spontaneous and live my life," Allie Casazza says, in her post "The Secret for Moms Who Want To Get More Done." (She has a fantastic blog and home business helping others reap the benefits of minimalistic motherhood.)

Kids thrive on this stuff. They are less whiny, cranky, and confused when they have a general idea of what to expect from their day - and from you. Having routines has kept Roxy balanced and secure in a chaotic, confusing time. When the twins were born, everything sort of exploded (obviously) and there was very little that stayed the same. But I did everything possible to keep a few constants in Roxy's routine (the way each morning flowed, mealtimes, and naptimes). It made it easy for my mom and others to jump in and help because I could tell them what we usually do.

During the initial upheaval of going from one kid to three, having a basic routine kept me calm. I knew how I was hoping the babies would fit into the routine. It did not create perfect days. We may make plans and schedules to keep things running smoothly, but we have to keep in mind that ultimately, we are not in control. This is not about forcing yourself and your family to perform for the sake of the routine! It is about making the routine work for you, giving you extra space where needed, and providing boundaries so that there is less guesswork for everyone.

I have a few rhythms in place right now that ensure that every day, no matter how crazy or unpredictable, we are all:
  • eating three mostly healthy meals and two snacks (no skipped mealtimes for me, either)
  • getting outside (for at least 10 minutes)
  • having a chunk of alone time to be quiet/nap
  • wearing something other than pajamas all day (unless it's a Pajama Day, of course)
  • getting in the Word
Ideas for simple rhythms that will open up your day and help you feel always ready for spontaneous fun with your kids:

Dress yourself - This sounds obvious, but as a stay-at-home-mom, it is entirely too easy to slouch around in yoga pants all day, or wear your pajamas till noon. This undeniably affects your attitude and motivation. Try putting on something nice each morning, and if you like to do your makeup, do it on ordinary days - not just for "important" social events. (I started laying my clothes out the night before so that mornings are simpler.)

Do dishes right away - Dishes piled up in the kitchen make me cranky, and I'm willing to bet they have a similar affect on you. So I've made it a habit to wash them as soon as each meal is finished. If a morning is particularly crazy, I at least rinse off the breakfast dishes. And no matter how tired I am, I (almost always) make sure the dishes are all done before bed. Why? Because I want to start the new day feeling ready.

Make personal hygiene habitual - I felt like the kids were always sticky, dirty, and messy, and bathtime seemed like an ordeal I just could not handle. But I LOVE bathtime. I used to look forward to it with Roxy. So I slapped it on the calendar. On Monday and Friday nights, either before or after dinner, all three kids get a bath. At the same time. Now, I literally don't have to think about it. Occasionally, the days get nudged a bit, but they are still getting bathed twice a week.

A Few Notes on Creating Your Own Rhythms

Figure out what you're trying to change in your life and go from there. Get specific. Many people have very broad, open-ended New Year's Resolutions. It leaves them uncertain of how to achieve them, and even if they make progress in the right direction, they stall out because they can't see the progress.

Here are some that I've heard a lot: Workout more. Eat healthier. Lose weight. Read more. Stay organized. Be a better mom.

"More" is not an achievable goal. There's no way to measure it or do it. So let's boil it down a little with some examples.

"Workout more."

If I keep the goal "workout more," I might be successful for a few days...until distractions and tiredness get the better of me, and my energy fizzles out. However, if I plug it in to my actual day, I'm going to get some results.

When I look at my day, it doesn't seem that there is time for me to workout. I either have to get up super early and workout without waking anybody up (sounds awful, doesn't it?) or I have to scoot things around in the routine that already exists. After breakfast, Roxy and I go outside. This is a perfect time for me to incorporate a workout regimen to do while we're outside. Or I can look at how I'm spending my evenings. Are they filled with Netflix, Facebook, etc.? Maybe I could do a twenty-minute yoga session then. It doesn't have to be big; let's just add movement to your day.

It won't be a routine if it doesn't happen. So set an alarm on your phone for this.

"Be a better mom."

Take a second to think about why you need to be a better mom. What is making you feel less-than? Is it a comparison issue, or is there truly something you are not giving your kids? This could be as simple as reading to your kids for 15 minutes a day. This checks off a lot of boxes for your child's learning, attention span, quality time, and ability to relax. And it forces you to only focus on your kid for a few minutes.

Solve your big problems in little ways. You'll be surprised at how much this works.
It's Your Turn

Don't try too much at once. I'd suggest picking one thing that you'd like to turn into a rhythm and work on it for at least a month. You'll know that a habit has "stuck" when you don't have to remind yourself to do it anymore. When crazy happens and it goes left undone, you'll miss it and notice its absence right away.

For instance, there's been several days that going outside just didn't happen. That's when I realized: being outdoors is a habit I'm cultivating because it truly matters. It matters more than getting the house cleaned or making those phone calls. It needs to be a rhythm because I need it. Going outside every day affects more than just your body (look it up - there are studies done on this)!

Have a WHY. The thing is, if you don't have a reason behind your rhythms, a why that's been answered, you won't stick with them. They will never become habits. Don't waste your own time trying to create routines that don't serve you and your family. We will never succeed if we are merely shaping our lives to look like our neighbors'.

Connect a habit with something else you already do. For instance, after lunch, Roxy and I sweep the floor. By connecting a new chore with something that already happens every day without fail (lunch), I cut out the need to remember. It becomes rhythmic quite quickly. Roxy doesn't complain about it because it's just something that happens every single day. Instead of nagging your kids, you help them see a pattern and react accordingly. When you brush your teeth, wipe down the sink, etc.

Reevaluate. At the end of a month (write it on your calendar so you don't forget), reevaluate how that habit helped you. Did you stick with it? What did it change about your life? Is it worth keeping around? Was it good for a season, but now maybe it's time to change?

Pray. God is not hiding from you in all of this. He wants you to follow Him. Surrender all of these things in prayer, stay in His word to gain wisdom, and He will lead you.

Cheap, Easy, and Stunningly Romantic Date Ideas (and Kids' Activities, too)

Sometimes holidays creep up on us, and we are completely unprepared...even though the last thing we want is for our loved ones to feel, well, unloved. Here are some easy but incredibly romantic date night in ideas. The trick to making these special? Turn your phones off (yep, off) and be aware of your significant other's (or child's) love language. Not sure what their love language is? This might be the perfect time to take this free quiz together! (Here's the link for a kids' love languages test.) Showing your love means being willing to enter into their world, their needs.

These ideas could really be used anytime at all, not just for Valentine’s Day! Try to make an in-home date night happen once a week. It’s needed…trust me.

  1. Game Night – pull out a board game or some cards and get some flirtatious competition going. Turn off the TV and hide the phones and focus on some simple fun. Maybe pull
  2. Take-Out w/Candles – light some candles, put on some music, maybe sit on the floor, and eat takeout (or a frozen pizza) together while actually having a conversation.
  3. Adult Fort – build a fort together with pillows, blankets, chairs, etc.. Then snuggle in it while watching a movie. Or not.
  4. Cook/Bake Together – put the kids to bed and go into the kitchen together. Whip up a new recipe, a pan of brownies, make pancakes, whatever. Laugh and cook together (or throw flour at each other and drink a bottle of wine).
  5. Reading Night – read aloud to your hubby (could be a marriage book or a novel, a fun article you found, or poetry if you’re really brave). Maybe take turns reading and giving each other a shoulder massage. Or if reading’s not your thing, listen to a podcast or audiobook. The important thing is to use your imagination and to come up with new material for conversations together.
  6. Redbox & Popcorn – ridiculously cheap and way comfier than the movie theater. A library movie is even better.
  7. Treat Him Like A King – I know v-day is supposed to be all romantic for the girl, but you’d be surprised how happy this will make him, and how much more likely he will be to want to pamper you later. Bring him his slippers and robe. Prepare him one of his favorite treats or snacks. Give him a foot or back massage. Ask him about his day. Do something you usually don’t do for him because you don’t have the time or money. You know him best; what would make him feel like a king, a man worthy of your love?
  8. Breakfast in Bed – nothing like enjoying a luxurious breakfast in bed, where you can actually eat slowly for once. Have littles and can’t finagle a late morning alone? Serve breakfast in bed at night!
  9. Stargaze – you don’t have to know anything about the stars to appreciate them. Grab some blankets and go lay outside after dark. Sip a beverage, bring a flashlight, and talk about how small you are in the light of the God who made the universe.
  10. Get Active – what’s something you used to do when you were young and in love? Pillow fights? Lifting weights? Running? Playing guitar? Do one activity together, even if it’s only for 15 minutes and you’re laughing at each other the whole time. Get your blood pumping and loosen up all those tense muscles.

Cheap, Easy, and Simple Kid Holiday/Valentine's Day Ideas

  1. Sprinkles – it’s amazing how much some festive sprinkles and spruce up an otherwise normal day. Add them to pancakes or oatmeal for breakfast, make cookies together and toss them on top, whip up some smoothies and sprinkle on the color.
  2. Bake Together – clear your schedule for the day and let the kids help you bake! Kids can be helpful if you give them a little responsibility. They can stir, roll out dough, crack eggs, measure dry ingredients, etc. Or just hand them a spoonful of batter and turn on some music and let them dance around while you bake them some cookies. Sound stressful? Don’t worry, you have a fun date night later that night to look forward to ;) 
  3. Make Valentines – they don’t have to be fancy or pre-planned. Scribbles totally count. Pick some friends, cousins, or maybe Daddy to write to. Stick the valentines in envelopes and send them out. You do it, too! Color, write, whatever. Snail mail is a touch more thoughtful than a text, don’t you think?
  4. Hand Prints – make some hand prints with your kiddos in red and pink paint. You can do it for a valentine card, or on something sturdier to save or gift. Write this poem on it: “This is my hand/ My hand will do/ A thousand loving things for you/ And you will remember/ When I am tall/ That once my hand was just this small.”
  5. Special Outing – take your kids out for doughnuts and eat them at the park (less mess, more room for them to run crazy). Eat a picnic lunch (in your own backyard, even). Read them a short passage from the Bible and talk about love (“How do you show your love to Mommy? To your brother?”). Turn out all the lights watch a movie snuggled together in the dark before bed. It doesn’t have to be big. It just has to show them that you care.
  6. Combine Ideas w/a Friend – What have you done before with your kids that’s simple and cost-effective? What makes your kids feel loved/special? Share with each other and jot down some ideas. Maybe do something special with that other mom, tag-teaming the kiddos together!

Have fun and let go of your own expectations! Often our plans go awry and things look anything but perfect...but making a little extra effort goes a long way, and if we forget about results and simply enjoy the fun, the people we love will, too!

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." // John 13:34-35

Bedroom Makeover (Nectar Mattress Review) + Easy DIY Baby Wipes

(If you're here for the DIY baby wipes, scroll all the way to the bottom of this post.)
Over Christmas break, my husband decided to make us a new bed, and my family pitched in to buy us a new mattress + all of the accessories! Guys, it was like our bedroom got a makeover. I seriously can't believe how much more relaxed and excited I feel when I enter our room. The Nectar mattress has added to my life, friends.

Check out this before and after:
We were sleeping on a mattress and box spring that my husband had used all through college (so, about ten years old if we're doing the math...). And the bed itself was an adjustable metal frame that sat low to the ground and did nothing for the sense of style to our room. So this change was B I G for us. Huge, in fact. It's currently remaking our marriage.

Just kidding.
But honestly, I love how much it inspired me to make our bedroom a safe haven for us - not just an awkward place to throw everything that didn't belong in the rest of the house. It had been a laundry holding area, a make-shift office, a storage room, and a place for all of my husband's tools. Another thing that helped me shift my mindset in a positive way was an amazing decluttering course by Allie Casazza. Her course was another special gift from my husband. It has launched me into this new year with a drive to clear clutter and minimize stuff so that I can maximize my time with my family. It all starts with choosing your priorities, my friends.

Side note, isn't the bed my husband built amazing? He's made a lot of furniture for our home recently, and it makes my heart happy.
Let's get down to the nitty-gritty details of this beautiful Nectar mattress:

  • 365 day "home trial" - a year to decide if you want to keep it
  • Free shipping and returns
  • 2 free pillows
  • Forever warranty
  • Memory-foam mattress that is "medium firm," the perfect in-between
  • Works with ALL types of bed frames

What it actually looks like:

  • A super comfortable, memory-foam mattress
  • 2 pillows of decent quality
  • Very easy setup (pull it out of its plastic wrap and watch it "grow")
  • Medium-firm consistency; soft, yet sturdy
Extra Comments: 

  • I was legitimately surprised that it came with no instructions in the box. There was no paperwork or anything. Just a rolled-up bag inside a box. Granted, the box was pretty. But still. Thankfully, their website provides plenty of information.
  • It takes at a week to fully get used to a new mattress. Allow the mattress and your body some time to get to know each other!
  • I loved the feel of it right away. I generally love soft mattresses, pillows, and couches - things that "hug" me immediately - while my husband prefers thinner, firmer surfaces. This mattress seemed to fall right in the middle, which is perfect for two people on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Thanks for the read! If you are in a similar boat, I highly recommend giving Nectar a try! We are extremely pleased with it. I promise that I am not being reimbursed for this review. (It'd be cool if I was though. Ha.) And as a thank you for reading my review, here's that lovely baby wipes recipe I promised you.


Cheap, easy, natural
1 roll of paper towels (can also use Bounty paper napkins instead)
2 c. water
2 T. coconut oil
2 T. baby body wash (your favorite brand)
10 drops of lavender essential oil (optional)

Separate your paper towel roll into segments. I like to cut them into thirds because I prefer a lot of small wipes. Then put the water, coconut oil, and body wash into a large pot and heat on the stove till warm enough to combine. Turn off the heat and add your stacks of paper towels. Allow time for the mixture to soak all the way through. Then put into ziploc bags :) This recipe can be easily tailored to your needs!

This doesn't require much time at all, but I do keep some store-bought wipes on hand for in the car and for "emergencies" (aka weeks where I forget to make more wipes haha).
I like to cut the paper towels into thirds to maximize their usage.
Let me know if you have any questions!