on our 4 year anniversary

Today is our 4 year wedding anniversary. And in about a month it'll be 8 years since we first met, since I drunkenly introduced myself to the hot bouncer at the bar that I was always secretly stalking. And here we are, 8 years, 1 short break up, 1 long distance, and 1 even longer distance, 3 long distance moves, eighty bajillion short moves, 1 engagement, 1 surprise pregnancy, 2 beautiful boys and almost 3000 days later. 

I'd like to say the past 4 years of marriage have been easy and perfectly wonderful. But to tell you the truth, some of it has been hard. We've been through more huge life changes in the 4 years we've been married than most people go through in the first 15 years of marriage. They've tested both of us in so many ways. To say our marriage has been wonderful would be false, marriage is hard people. It's hard work. 
When you get married you say for better or for worse, and for a lot of couples the worst gets the best of them. For better or for worse. We promised to not hate each other even when it would be easiest to just be angry. We bicker and get annoyed with each other. I'm bossy, he hates being bossed. Sometimes I talk before I think, sometimes he thinks too much and doesn't talk. 

We aren't soul mates, we're not best friends. We are husband and wife, two silly people who love each other so much that we promised each other that we would stay together forever. When you think about it like that, you have to really love somebody to promise to be around them forever... no matter what. To me, that's a level of love higher than soul mates, higher than best friends. Life is really long, and it's hard to be around anyone in general for a long period of time. To find a partner that you chose to stay with for this blindfolded roller coaster ride; it's a miracle. 
I heard something on NPR recently that really struck a cord with me, and it was something along the lines of-everyone is searching for that one thing; they want a happy marriage. Above anything else, they want their marriage to be happy. But what we don't realize is that the not-happy parts of a marriage are what life are all about. We learn most, grow most, really live most when we're not in this boring state of happiness. We're able to better understand each other and ourselves only when we go through struggles. We get married because we want a fuller life, we want a life full of ups and downs, full of adventures and obstacles. If we wanted an easy life, no one would ever get married.

So if struggling and challenges are what it takes for us to grow together throughout this life, I look forward all the years mountains we have yet to climb. Because with each mountain you climb, you gain more experience, and it gets easier to avoid the rocky cliffs and loose rubble. Each day we're married we get a little better at it...at understanding each other, being a better wife (or a husband). I think they need to change that line- I promise to love you for better and worse, because in life, they come at the same time. And we're pretty damn good at handling it all. 
Love you, husband.

A letter to my 16 year old self.

Dear Mandey, 

Hey. What's up? You're 16 today! Pretty rad, right? (Yah your future self says things like "rad".) I know you failed your driver's test today and cried afterward because not getting your license on your birthday is pretty much the worst thing ever, but don't worry, you'll go back next week and ace it. One week won't kill you.

You are a good person, you're smart, you are unique. You march to the beat of your own drum, your head is almost always in the clouds... you want to leave the small town bubble and see the world. You will, be patient. I'm here to give you some advice to help you get through the next few years. So listen up.

1) Stop tanning. Just stop right now. I know all the popular girls tan but just don't. It's so bad for your skin, not to mention your health. 

2) Take some art classes. You're a super creative person and I know you think you want to be a journalist someday but you're eventually going to be bored out of your mind in the journalism pre-req classes in college and scrap that idea. So why don't we save you some time and money and start taking some art and creative writing classes? 

3) I know you don't date any guys because you say you're waiting for college (for a boyfriend) where you know you'll meet your future husband (and you do. A hot one.) but you're also using it as a coping mechanism because you don't think you're as pretty the other girls. You're beautiful. You might be taller and wear bigger clothes than most of your friends, you might not have stick straight hair and name brand clothes, but you're so much more wonderful than that. Just remember that. And a guy will fall for you in a few years who will love you for who you are.

4) You're smart but you don't care. Try a little harder. You get A's and B's without really trying. Why don't you try a little more? If your G.P.A. were just a tiny bit higher more doors will open for you in the future. Just try a little, ok? And when you get to college, try then too. You'll pretty much do the same thing in college but I know you have so much more potential than just doing the work to have it done. It doesn't seem like a big deal now but it'll matter to you in the future.

5) When you get to college, there are going to be a lot of a-holes. Keep your thick skin on, stand up for yourself. You're going to date a few frogs -a few guys who don't know what they have. You'll cry to your girlfriends and get through it. Just keep your head up, kid. I know you've always felt like you just didn't quite fit in anywhere, but once you get to college you'll find a group of friends who are the home of friends you've always searched for. These people are what life is all about. Hug them while you can because soon you'll move far away from all of them and miss them all like crazy.

Oh-and drink more water.

Love from the future-
Your 28 (almost 29 year old) pretty rad self.

Linking up with From Mrs. To Mama

Insanity 30 day progress update!

Well, I officially completed my first month of Insanity. It goes for 60 days, so I'm halfway through. It hasn't been perfect, but I've stuck with it and I've seen results.

I thought I'd show some progress photos with you all:

So I know the lighting isn't the same in both of the photos since I took them at different times of the day, but you get the point. The first photos are a little embarrassing, especially the side view. I look pregnant, still! I have yet to lose a single pound, but have lost close to 12 inches all over and a lot of it has been from my abdomen. I've actually just stopped weighing myself. It's not any indicator as to how hard I'm working as I'm seeing results in every way except for the scale. 

What have I been doing for the past month? (It's technically been a couple of weeks over a month since I redid a couple of weeks for missing the majority of them for being sick.) I've been following the Insanity work out plan which is 6 days a week. Sometimes I miss a day. It happens, I'm not perfect. I push myself through each work out and wear a heart rate monitor so I can push myself a little harder when it looks like my heart rate isn't up.  Around 170 I feel like I'm going to die. I try to keep it around 155-160. 
I'm not some super human athlete. I can hardly do some of the moves. I jiggle around, sweat so much sometimes I'm literally slipping in sweat, there's almost always some sort of cussing throughout the workouts. Sometimes I feel slow and weak, especially when it has anything to do with upper body strength because let's face it, I have noodle arms. I'm just a mom (like a lot of you out there) who used to be an athlete, who used to be fit, and somehow just forgot about how to do it all after having kids. 

Sometimes I take the workouts 30 seconds at a time. They move from movement to movement so fast that most of the time the workouts are done before I know it. And that's that. I don't do anything else besides the work out. No extra running, lifting, time at the gym, nothing crazy. Just one little work out most days of the week.

What have I been eating? Mostly healthy stuff. I've been drinking the Shakeology shakes once a day, been having 6 small meals, lots of protein fruits and veggies. You know, how we all know we're supposed to be eating. Nothing special. On weekends I let myself indulge a little (but still keep up with my work outs). Last weekend I had lil smokies, chips and cheesy buffalo dip, pizza. I didn't stuff myself with it, but I had it enjoyed it. 

I don't track calories. I don't write down what I eat. I suppose I could, but I really don't want to. I hate that aspect this whole thing. I'm not going to be counting calories my whole life, I'm not going to be keeping food journals my whole life, I really don't feel like doing it right now. I know statistically you lose more weight when you write down what you eat. I know what I'm eating. I know earlier today I had a share size bag of peanut M&M's. I'm PMSing and wanted that shit. Who the heck cares? I didn't buy a jumbo bag and dump it all over my body. I think it's going to be ok.
So if you all are looking for me to be posting super detailed posts about everything I'm eating and exactly what I'm doing to lose weight, this is as in depth as it gets. Everyone needs to find their own way of doing things. Some people try to be perfect eaters, stick to a diet without "cheating". I hate that word, I don't know why but I feel like it just sets you up for failure. The second you "cheat" on a diet, all the shit you've been doing just flies out the window and you're like "WHEEEE!!! I'm going to eat everything I want today and I'll just start up again tomorrow because I cheated and today wasn't perfect so we might as well just start all over!"

I'm learning to balance life again. Before kids, it was easy for me to put myself first, to workout whenever I felt like it, to not make excuses. After my pregnancy it got really hard to find the motivation to get off my butt or to make the right choices. I've really had some kind of epiphany in this past month, maybe because I have a structured work out plan that challenges me. 

I have another week and a half before we leave for Iowa for a couple of weeks, and I'll be taking the program with me to finish while I'm there. It should be interesting to see how I do on vacation! I'm really excited to push myself while I'm back home and to finish the program with a bang while I'm there. The workouts should also help keep my vacation eating under control!

If you guys have any questions - let me know! You can always follow me on instagram for my daily workout updates (unless it annoys you, then you can just scroll on by!)

a very special talent #oshkoshatkohls

If you're wondering about the hashtag in the title - let me explain. The people at Kohl's were nice enough to send me a gift card to find some cute OshKosh clothes for the boys and to tell you about the sales they have going on right now. I just bought the clothes the boys are wearing here at the end of the kid's sale but the baby sale is going on until Sept 22. So there. Go get some cute OshKosh baby clothes. If I had a baby, (no none are coming any time soon) I'd be all up in that business.

Also - they wanted us to share with everyone our kids' talents. Well, my 3 year olds have a lot of talent in boy things like burping, farting and laughing about said farts, getting their afros into massive tangle status. But their biggest talent? Talking. Yep, something we all learn to do at one time or another but for these two boys it's a big job that we've been working extra hard on. So I thought I'd give you all some updates on how hard we've been cultivating this talent of theirs.

It's been quite awhile since I talked to you all about the boys speech therapy and how they've been developing over the past months (year). If you're new here or haven't been following our journey with speech delays and development you can read all about it here.
It's been one year since we started the speech therapy thing and I can't even begin to tell you how far we've come in a year. It seems like a really long time when I really think about how long it's been, but to remember where they were a year ago just really blows my mind on the leaps and bounds they've made in verbal communication. 

So here we are, a year later.
I'm still figuring this boy out. He used to come off as more of a shy kid, however since he's started talking more, he's really started to come out of his shell. He doesn't say quite as much as his brother but what he does say is much more clear. The list of words he uses grows daily, definitely caught up to where he was supposed to be a year ago. 

Julian loves reading books and will sit for much longer than his brother pointing to things he sees. He's using 3 word phrases back to back to back quite often. He loves, loves, loves counting, numbers, the alphabet, shapes. He knows just about all the shapes I can draw, can name just about any letter sees, count to 15 without skipping numbers (most of the time) and just in general counts everything, everywhere, all the time. 
He's also been speaking in a lot of jiberish language lately, usually to people or friends when he wants to seem like he's talking. He does it sometimes when he's playing with his toys as well.  Julian is a little more overwhelmed in big groups of people and sometimes can stay a little more quiet at these times, although he's the first to go to someone and introduce himself loudly and proudly saying, "GOO-EN" (Julian) while pointing to himself. 

Isaiah's speech has truly taken off. He's saying 4-5 word phrases regularly, and combines them with more 3 word phrases...almost speaking in short paragraphs. It's definitely still very choppy, not like some kids their age who would say for example, "Mommy, can I have some crackers please?" He'd say "Crackers please, mommy. How about bunnies?" 

He speaks in jiberish more than his brother and sometimes his words are hard to understand at first until I hear them again or in a different context. He very much loves groups of people and interacting with everyone. He's not afraid to walk up to kids he doesn't know and talk to them just like he would his brother. Not everyone can understand what he's saying but he sure doesn't care. 

Isaiah has a knack for picking up phrases I use a lot like, "Hmm, let me think" and "How about ..." when I'm offering him different options of something. He also likes to tell cars at the stop lights to "get out the way" which I'm sure I've probably told car or two while driving. He also loves counting, alphabet, and anything that moves. 

And-to see the boy wonder in action, counting his little heart out, here ya go:

Stitchfix #4

Stitchfix #4 arrived! 

If you haven't heard of Stitchfix here are the deets: 
1) Go the link, sign up and fill out all the info they ask for about your personal tastes, they'll hook you up with a stylist who'll send you a box with 5 items that they think will look great on you, based on what you tell them.
2) Pay a $20 styling fee which includes the box shipped to you and goes toward your purchase should you choose to keep anything in the box. 
3) Get your box (which you can set up on auto for once a month or schedule them as you wish) and try on your items! You have 3 days to decide and there's a free shipping bag included to send back what you don't want.

That's it. I seriously love it. Here's what I got this month. (Sorry for the crappy bathroom mirror photos. We have one full length mirror in our super dark bedroom, so this is the best I could do!)

This dress is ok. I like the high belted waist, I like the pockets. The shoulders were a little snug. The print/color just really isn't me. It's also super short so I believe it's more of a tunic than a dress.

I like the color and the eyelet details on the top. That's about it. It lays really weird at my hips and the flippy wing thingies? Definitely not my thing. I felt like I had wings. Just not a very flattering shirt in general.

My favorite! I absolutely love this. It's big, soft and cozy. I can see myself wearing this with some leggings and boots this fall and winter. It was a little depressing trying this on while it was almost 90 out, but it will be waiting patiently in my closet for the cooler weather!

This is a cute and comfy blouse. There's a tank inside that's connected (which I hate because they're impossible to get on!) I like the style of the shirt, this one was just ok.

I wasn't sure about this one at first because the buttons are pearl with gold accent. Kind of reminds me of a grandma shirt. BUT, I really like how comfortable and flowy it is. I like the v-neck (flattering for pear shapes like me) I like the color and the nice gathering at the shoulders. I put on my favorite earrings to spruce it up a little and definitely love it. Keeping this!

Want to give it a try? There's nothing to lose, even if you only do it once, it's a super fun experience. GO HERE to read more and sign up!

to all of the teenagers (boys AND girls)

Have you read this post? You should, because my entire post is going to be my thoughts about it all.

First off, I don't completely agree with this lady, however I don't completely disagree. The fact that she talked about girls being modest yet posted photos of her sons on the beach in swimming trunks is a little contradictory. I know they're not showing any "parts" but teenage girls ogle over boys in swimming trunks just as much as guys drool over girls in bikinis. That's just how teenagers work. 

I was a high school girl not that long ago. Although we didn't live our lives online then, I imagine I'd have known what would get attention from boys and what wouldn't. There are other ways to get attention from boys besides posting photos of yourself online in a bikini or in your bedroom or with a pout and big doe eyes. I'm not even going to pretend to talk about not getting attention from boys. Parents have the habit of trying to tell their daughters they don't need to worry about boys, to focus on school, extra curricular activities, etc. It's just not realistic. Maybe for some kids, but even when parents are super strict...hormones are still raging! When I was in high school-it was all about boys, and who liked who, and who was dating who. And I never even had a boyfriend! I wasn't some boy crazy teen with nothing else to do and I still was all about who I liked and didn't and maybe so-and-so would ask me out and blah blah blah boys boys boys.

To teenage girls - if you were my daughter I'd tell you this: knock it off. Stop posting selfies screaming with sexual undertones. Just stop. You know what you're doing, I know what you're doing. Just stop it. It's not helping anything and at some point you might attract the wrong kind of attention. No, it's not ok for boys to sexualize you. Guys have a hard enough time keeping their mind out of the gutter, they don't need your help. It's not ok for you to sexualize yourself, pretend your not, and still want the attention. You don't need to show three fourths of the skin on your body to be noticed. There are other ways to get the attention of the guy you like. (And if you live in my house, you're damn right I'm going to be patrolling what you wear and what you post online. It's my job to help guide you.)

Be good at something. Be really good at something. Join a club, interact with large groups of kids at school or in extracurricular activities. You should be so busy you don't have time to be posting bedroom selfies- because when it comes to those, if you wouldn't hang it in a frame in your living room for all your family to see, you probably shouldn't be posting it online.

Don't manipulate guys, don't lead them on, don't use them because you know they like you or think you're hot. I know it's easy to try to be sexy and get what you want, but trust me, you're not going to attract the good guys that way. And you want a good guy-you deserve a good guy. You get more respect from boys when you respect yourself. How you treat him could potentially effect all future relationships he has with women. 

To the teenage boys- to my baby boys who will one day be hormonal teenagers- treat girls with respect. What does this mean? Don't talk about them in sexual ways with your guy friends, just because they're talking about it. Don't talk about what chick you're going to "hit", don't ever refer to her as a bitch (or women as bitches, for that matter), don't talk about her body parts and what you think of them with your friends. If your friends are talking like that, I'd suggest you hang out with some other kids or I don't know, stand up for yourself and what you believe. Tell the guys it's lame and disrespectful to talk about girls like that. If you wouldn't say it to her face, you probably shouldn't be talking about it. And if you would say it to her face, you ought to re-think your game.

I know sometimes girls do things that seem to be just to get your attention, whether she posts a photo online of her and her friends in swimsuits in the bathroom, or if she wears low cut shirts to school. Girls do this and you're just going to have to get over it. Don't worry about what she's wearing-worry about what she's thinking. Chances are, there's a lot more going on inside than what's on the outside. Women are going to be around you your whole life, hot women at that, and you're going to have to figure out how to control your thoughts and actions. As for the girl in your class whose ass is always hanging out of her shorts, well, she (or her parents) will have their own issues to deal with.

If you're dating a girl, be a gentleman. Get her flowers, hold the door open, make her something, put some thought into it. I swear to you, she will go ga-ga over it. Even if you try just a little. Be nice and respectful with her parents. Take interest in things she likes, ask her lots of questions, give her many sincere compliments. Brag about her to your friends, about how smart she is or about how good at something she is. Don't talk about her body, or the things you may or may not do together. How you treat a girl now could potentially effect her relationship with any other man she dates in the future. 


thoughts on having a handmade business

Got another huge batch of blankets up in the shop. Go take a look! I have about a million more to go, but there's a big feeling of accomplishment after getting it all done. It takes so long, so many steps to get it to the finished, photographed product you see on the screen. It might still be a very small handmade business, but it means a lot to me. I pour my heart and creativity into everything I do, and in the end, the finished product is something I'm super proud of.
Every one of the blankets is an original, I haven't seen any of these same designs or fabric combinations on Etsy. I pride myself in this. A hundred other people can make and sell these blankets, hell, they're not too difficult to make. It's what I put into each one, my own personal style is reflected in all of it and I have to believe that's what makes it special, that's what makes me special. I'm not only selling a product, I'm selling a reflection of myself. And when you're putting yourself out there in a way like this, it's scary.
It's hard to not get intimidated by the handmade world. It feels like there's always someone out there doing what you're doing but better. The only thing I can do is pour all of my energy and love into what I'm doing, focus on how to make myself and my product better and just cross my fingers that someone else out there loves it enough to pay me their hard earned money for it. It's a big leap of faith, it's scary-but the pay off is oh-so-sweet. 
You can't enter this kind of business with the intent to make money. It's apparent right away when you're copying someone else or when you just want to find a way to make some extra money. I get it. Times can be hard, we have skills and want to find a way to make money off of them. However, most likely, your actual monetary pay off comes much longer after the time you need the money, if at all. It can't be about money. It needs to be about quality, about passion, about hard work.
And let me tell you, the absolute best feeling is seeing someone else enjoy something you've made. Seeing someone enjoy a little piece of you that you carefully crafted and put out into the world. All the hours of work, the late nights, the mistakes and frustrations are immediately justified then, and the pay off is much more than any price I could charge.