Monday, January 16, 2017

How to Create White Space in your Day and Why that is Important

Creating white space in my days is one of my biggest goals this year.  But what is white space?  White space is that margin in your day, your breathing room.

I know that probably sounds funny, why would you want to create white space in your day, but I realized during my year of action last year that I need that white space in order to be present in my life.  I can’t continue to fill it up when I see an opening.

Several years ago I learned to say no.  It seems like such an easy concept, but I was used to saying yes, no matter how much I actually wanted to say no.  I would say yes to time commitments that didn’t make sense for our family, and I would say yes to toys that I knew I didn’t really want in our home.

It was incredibly stressful.

In 2015 I had a pretty good balance of white space in my life, and I think that was partly because I had a new little baby to take care of, and it is easy to say no when you have a baby.  Of course, that didn’t really create white space in my life, I had an infant; there is no such thing as white space with an infant!

In 2016, my year of action, I started filling in that white space with a lot of activities.  Activities for me, I wanted to be more involved in our community, so I started to be more involved.  Matt and I wanted the kids in activities, so we enrolled them in more than we normally would.  I was bending over backwards to build up the blog, and that obviously takes an insane amount of time.

All of this took its toll on me.

It became evident to me right around the start of the holidays, and our long homeschool break.  I had let all of the white space fill up again, and that was not healthy, especially as an introvert who needs that quiet and alone time to recharge.

Our holiday break flew by, and I didn’t bake like I normally do, we didn’t do our big Christmas Eve open house like we normally do.  I didn’t blog like I normally do.

It all came to a stop.

The funny thing is that our days were still super busy.  We were still reading books, we still did crafts, I still cleaned my house (for the most part) and tried to read; I still prepared meals.

What this showed me is that I have been overloading my days with the tasks that need to be completed.

I took a step back and realized that even though I was on this “break” my days were still full, and it made me wonder how I had been able to keep up with all the other stuff when my days were already so full.

I needed some changes for my own sanity.

What is the purpose of creating white space?

When I think of white space, I think of room in my calendar.  When there is white space in my calendar I have room to breathe, room to do spur of the moment activities, and room to recharge.

When you have a little bit of free time in your day, you can choose to do other activities on a whim.  Perhaps it is baking cookies with your kids, or doing some meditative coloring, reading a book, or saying yes to a last minute coffee date with a friend.  Having that white space, or margin, allows that to happen.

But how do you get to that point?  How do you incorporate white space?  How do you plan for nothing to be going on?

Believe me, these are questions that I have been asking myself for the last couple of months.

This is a big reason my word of the year is margin, because I need to look at my entire life, and goals, and make sure that I am leaving room for white space in my life.

I realized that it was time for another 168 hours assessment.

Every one of us has 168 hours in the week, and we choose what we will use those hours for.  We can choose to fill them up to overflowing, or we can choose to leave some of those hours, empty spaces.

I looked at everything that I did in a week, and it was slightly overwhelming.  I know that I am constantly jumping back and forth between tasks, homeschooling the kids, mothering the kids, blogging, reading for myself, reading to the kids, knitting, journaling, zoning out in front of the tv at night because it was a particularly difficult evening routine.  Making sure everyone is fed, the never-ending laundry pile; sports practices, games, theater, piano, church.  It was a slightly stressful list of *stuff.*

I get it, how do you even find time in there to make white space?  How can you choose what to give up?  I think that personally I feel the stress of having a toddler, the craziness of being home with three small children.

I need strategies to help me work through these times in order to be the best person I can be, and when I don’t have the white space in my life, my kids feel it.  They can see my stress, and I don’t want that for them.

What can be done?  Well, I realized that I needed to take a hard look at the tasks that I am doing daily and see if there were ways that I could streamline some of them.

I am never going to have a day without interruption, and would be insane to think that would ever happen.  I can’t create a schedule and know that we will stick to it because there are always those urgent needs that come up.

What I have decided is to do just one thing.

When I am homeschooling my kids, make it just about homeschooling instead of jumping around once I get them settled to do some independent work.  

I notice that when I get up to change laundry over, or start to make food, or throw dishes in the dishwasher, my kids tend to take longer at their homeschooling tasks.  This throws off our days, making them longer than they need to be with regards to school.

I need to deal with menu planning in a much better way – by using my freezer to help out.  I can’t even count the number of times 4pm rolls around and I have nothing ready for dinner, and end up getting take out because I don’t have time to prepare any of the whole ingredients I keep in my house before we rush off to our next evening activity.

I have to get help with my blog.  I have been a one woman show for 6 years, but it has gotten to the point where I need a little extra help so that I can concentrate on the things that are most important to me with the blog – sharing my journey and building community.

What can you do with white space? 

Well, you can use it to say yes to activities that you really want to do in the moment, or it can be just that, white space in your day, where you are able to spend time with your family, without being concerned about all the things you *should* be doing.

Do you want to create more white space in your day?  What area do you think you could adjust in order to garner that white space?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Using One Word to Facilitate Goal Setting in the New Year

I have talked about choosing one word for the year, and also about how I am more of a long range goal planner, but how do we combine the two?  Today I plan to show you how I am using my one word – margin – in order to guide and facilitate my goals for the New Year.

There seem to be two camps when it comes to goals and planning for the New Year.  One is choosing a guiding word for the year – like margin for me; the other is to make SMART goals (I am completely taking resolutions out of the choices here!).  However, I like to combine the two. 

I love to write goals and see the progress I make against these goals when the end of the year comes, or whatever time period I am using to measure the goal, but I also like to have a guiding word to keep me on track while writing the goals – and for life choices in general.

Last year my word was action and it was a great word.  I accomplished more last year than I ever thought was possible, it was an amazing word that worked to facilitate my goal creation for the year. 

Using One Word to Facilitate Goal Setting in the New Year

Now, at the end of the year, I was slightly burnt out (more than slightly, actually), and knew that going into 2017 things were going to have to change. 

Here is the thing though, I still have a lot that I want to accomplish in 2017, and I know that I can push through any sort of discomfort to get a lot done.  But, that is not how I want my year to be this year.  I don’t want to just push through.

This is the reason that I chose margin as my word of the year.  This word is going to help guide me while writing my goals for 2017.

When I talked about goal setting for the year I talked a bit about how I have the issue of wanting 10 years of goals to be finished by the end of a one year time period – that is a little insane, but it is also how my brain is wired. 

I love change, and I want the change to be immediate, I don’t like to wait for things (this may be a result of the instant-everything culture we live in currently, but that is a post for another day).

Knowing this about myself, and also knowing the feelings I had at the end of 2016 (the totally burned out need a nap kind of feelings), I easily chose my one word for 2017 – margin.

How do you use one word to facilitate goal setting?

This is where long range goal planning comes in.  I know that I have a list of goals that I want to tackle this year.  Some of them might be able to easily be completed in a year, some may be a stretch, and some might be completely insane yet I still write them down. 

Once I have written out all of my goals I will start to sort them.  I talked about this a bit already when talking about long range goal planning, but I need to take a realistic look at the goals and see if they are a short term or long term goal.

Then I use my word of the year to take a look at the goals that are in my “yearly goals” column.

When I look at my goals, I need to make sure they match up with my guiding word, otherwise what is the point of choosing one word at all?  If I go through my goals and see that I want to sign the kids up for all the activities while simultaneously writing 5 blog posts each week, start daily vlogging, homeschooling using a project based approach and making sure Lucy doesn’t tear the house apart (that last one doesn’t necessarily qualify as a goal), there is no way that I see any margin in those items.  I need to back off.

However, if my word of the year was action, like it was last year, these goals might actually be good for me. 

I look at those few items and think, well perhaps instead of 5 blog posts I try for 2-3, instead of daily vlogging I will do a weekly vlog, and the kids might only sign up for one activity in the season instead of multiple activities.  There is a lot more margin in those goals instead of the previous list.

Now, your word is most likely not the same as my word, but when you look at your list of goals, do they line up with your word?

You chose your word for a reason, and looking at your goals you should be able to see hints of that word in all of them. 

If you see a goal that doesn’t match up with your word, why doesn’t it match?  Is it something that you really want to accomplish this year, or should it be moved to a long term goal column?  Or perhaps there is a way to re-write that goal to be more in line with your word?

And the last thought – maybe it shouldn’t be your goal. 

I often will think I am writing goals when they are actually ideals

That was a harder one for me to swallow, what I want my life to look like, but not having it be realistic or attainable in the foreseeable future. 

How do you use your one word to facilitate goal setting?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Long Range Goals and How to Plan for the New Year

There are affiliate links in this post.  If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links I may receive a small commission, thank you for supporting Townsend House.

I really love to make goals.  I like the possibility, I like knowing that I can grow, I like the change.  Goals help me achieve those things.  Setting goals is something that I do every January.  I like to map out my year to see where I want to go, what I want to accomplish, which direction to steer my family in.  Goals are important.

Several years ago I stopped writing resolutions in favor of goals.  I thought that while saying “I will be healthy” was a great idea, it was not something that was achievable because there were no steps, there was no end.  What would “be healthy” actually look like?  So I started writing goals, but then I realized…

I am excellent at coming up with goals, but not the steps to achieve them.

I read so much about setting SMART goals.  If you haven’t heard the acronym before it goes a little something like this –

S – specific, significant, stretching
M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable <source>

When you come up with a goal, it should have all of these parts to it. 

Long Range Goals and How to Plan for the New Year

I am really good at coming up with every change I ever want to happen in my life, all tidy in a one year commitment period.  Unfortunately, that is incredibly unrealistic.

I am a big picture sort of gal.  I can look at my life, at my family’s life, and see what I want for us to move towards, how I want our lives to be, but I often forget that I can’t change everything in a short amount of time, and I shouldn’t either.

There are stages of life, and while each stage has its challenges, I really need to be fully present in each stage, instead of always looking forward to the next one.

I said in my post about choosing one word for the year that I love the newness that January brings, the change of the calendar, the new seasons, it gives me a sense of refreshing my life.  But, I sometimes look forward a little too much.

Long Range Goals and How to Plan for the New Year

I can see what I want my life to be like when my kids are older, when they are able to take care of themselves a bit more.  I think part of that comes from having a toddler in the home, and knowing that I am needed for just about everything.  I love to be needed, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it is stressful feeling so needed, without remembering that I also need me.

When thinking about my goals for this year, I realized that I need to be more realistic.  Having the steps to achieve my goals is awesome, but if I am unrealistic about the goal itself, or the time frame that I am working with, then perhaps it isn’t the right goal for me this year.

Because of my struggles in the past with SMART goals, I decided to make a change for 2017. 

In 2015 I read a book called Make it Happen by Lara Casey.  It was an amazing book, and if you haven’t read it, you definitely should.

As you can probably tell from the title, it is a book about achieving the life that you want, living life on purpose.  It definitely helped me in formulating goals for 2015 and 2016, but I was still too lofty.  There wasn’t enough balance between personal and professional goals. 

In 2015 I worked hard on personal goals, and 2016 I worked hard on professional goals.  What I needed was a way to combine the goals, or to make goals that were not complete polar opposites.  Achieving a life lived on purpose.

This year I decided to help myself by purchasing the 2017 PowerSheets Goal planner.

Over the past few years I have moved back to paper and pen – for planners, for to-do lists, for pretty much everything in my normal day to day.  It works better for me to have it sitting in front of me, for me to go through the process of actually writing it out rather than typing it.  I knew that this goal planner would definitely help me realize the goals that I want to accomplish this year.

Why do I think it will work so well?  Because of the questions that the planner lays out to respond to.

Like I said before, coming up with changes I want to make in my life is easy, but formulating that change into a SMART goal doesn’t always work for me.

Long Range Goals and How to Plan for the New Year

Sure, professional goals are usually pretty easy – for example “I want to hit 100,000 page views per month by March.”  And even some of my personal goals are written well, “I want to read 100 books in 2017.”  However, making sure that I continue that through all of my goals is also important.

How am I going to change goal setting in 2017?

I have decided to segment my goals into categories again – I did this back in 2014, and honestly that was a really smart decision on my part. 

In that post I talked a bit about how I like to cram all of my goals into one year, but that isn’t realistic.  And while I did great for one year with that, having a baby at the end of 2014 probably threw off my goal setting in 2015 and 2016.  Now, Lucy is 2 and life is a little more normal around here again, so I can sit and think a little more clearly.

I don’t want to pile on an entire decade of goals into one year, that is completely ridiculous, and I know better.  But, in January I have all of this optimism and want to accomplish it all – see above about the newness of flipping the calendar.

My plan is to do a little more long term goal setting.  I obviously have a lot that I want to accomplish this year, but I also need to do more long term planning.  What do I want my life to be like in 3 years?  In 5 years?  In 10 years?

Because I am a big picture kind of gal, if I am able to sit down, look at my list of goals and changes to my life, my blog, my family life, etc. I will then be able to categorize them into a long term goal or something that can be accomplished this year. 

When I see the long term goal, it will be easier for me to look at the steps that I need to take this year in order to realize that goal in 3, 5, or even 10 years. 

It is all about perspective.

I’m really excited about this new goal setting strategy that I have.  If you are looking for those thought provoking questions to help you write your goals for this year, I definitely recommend the questions that Tsh puts out on her blog the art of simple every year.  I started using these questions years ago, and they have helped me formulate ideas and paths that I want to take. 

My plan is to share some of these goals with you over the coming weeks, and I would love to hear what your goals are. 

Are you more of a long range planner, or someone who likes to see their goals attained in the very short term?  Or do you fall somewhere in the middle?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

knitting and reading - yarn along

There are affiliate links in this post.  If you make a purchase through one of these links I may receive a small commission.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

It is the first yarn along of the New Year, and I am determined to participate in it this week!  Knitting and reading are two of my favorite things, and they kind of fell off the radar last year.  I was still reading books, but I wasn’t talking about them here very often.  I did not knit nearly as much as I had hoped, and I really want to change that for this year.

In fact, my knitting has kind of fallen off over the past two years.  I think that part of that is because of my littlest one, since she is two and so it makes sense!  It isn’t that I haven’t wanted to knit, it is that I don’t seem to be able to sit – literally sit – in order to knit.

The last yarn along I participated in was way back at the beginning of November.  I had started a hat for Lucy – the same hat I am working on today!  These hats used to take me a day or two to make, now, clearly they take much longer.

knitting and reading yarn along

I would be remiss to mention that I have actually knit this hat 4 times since I started it due to my little Lucy deciding that she loves to use my double pointed needles for other purposes than staying in the stitches for her hat.  Perhaps she doesn’t want a hat?!  I have learned that I must keep my knitting very very high up, and away from anything that might possibly be climbed in order to reach said knitting.

I think that we will be finished soon though, which is perfect because she has taken Jack’s hat as her own, and gets very upset when he wants to wear it outside instead of her.  Not that we are lacking in the knit hat department, but she knows this is going to be for her, and I think she is happy about it. 

As far as reading goes, I am continuing with my yearly goal of reading 100 books (although, since 2013 I think I have only succeeded in that goal one time).  I have finished my first book of the year – Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley.  She makes the simplified planner and also a range of beautiful notebooks as well as other fun paper products.

I love these types of books, especially right at the beginning of a New Year.  They usually give me a fresh perspective, and help me to move towards the balance that I crave.

knitting and reading yarn along

Unfortunately, I didn’t really like this book.  Perhaps my expectations were too high after reading books like Make it Happen, Own Your Life, and The Best Yes over the past couple of years.  I thought that it was a good book, and it was a nice story about how she built her company, but she talked a lot about not comparing yourself to others and the “perfect” life people depict on Instagram while putting a lot of “perfect” life photos throughout the book.  It was a nice read, but maybe I have read too many of these “self-help” type books for me to really be engaged in the topic now?  I’m not sure.  It wasn’t my cup of tea, but there have been a ton of rave reviews for it – which is why I picked it up to read in the first place!

I am very slowly (very slowly) reading Leadership Education.  It is a book that I want to sit down and read completely through, but I need to ruminate on the words and ideas, and I haven’t had as much time to do that lately as I would like.

Also, I have been reading a lot of New Year’s Eve reflections, and ideas and goals about the coming year, which is always fun for me.  I think partly because I love sharing them so much, so it is enjoyable to see what everyone else comes up with.

My hope is that I can share something new each week in the yarn along this year, it is a practice that I miss dearly, especially since I have connected with so many of you over the years!  I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else is doing for this first yarn along of the New Year!

What are you knitting and reading this week?  

Monday, January 2, 2017

How to Choose a Word of the Year

I chose my first word of the year in 2013 – change.  At the time, I had been reading a blog post about choosing a word of the year, rather than making resolutions.  Change started out as me leaving a comment about how there were so many *things* I wanted to change, but it took root, and that was my word of the year.

That moment was a new beginning for me.

I love a new year, a new season, a new month, a fresh week.  I am all about new beginnings.  There is something about starting fresh.

Reflections on choosing just one word to guide your year

Most people despise Mondays, but I like them.  I like the newness, and the possibility and excitement of being able to accomplish everything I have on my list for the week – odd right?

This is one of the reasons that I love living in New England so much, the seasons.  Having the newness of each new season, and when one is almost done, looking forward to the next.

For a long time, January was always my least favorite month.  I hate the cold, the depression of coming off so many joyful holiday celebrations, and the short short days.

But then, I started thinking about goals, and about how wonderful it is to turn to a brand new year on the calendar, all the possibilities that are waiting for us, and my perspective changed.  And believe me, it was a welcome change!

The week between Christmas and New Year’s used to be blah and not so exciting, but when I was able to change my thinking, and started using that time to reflect on the past year and look to the future, it became one of my favorite weeks of the year.

This year is no different.  In fact, I might have been looking forward to January 1st a little too much this year.

Why do you choose a word of the year?

The reason I choose a word of the year is to guide me in making my goals.  When I  try to figure out what my goals will be for the year, I need a guide.  What am I looking to accomplish holistically for the year?  When I look back on 2017, what do I want to see?

My word for 2016 was action.

I needed that to be my word for 2016.  I had been at a standstill with life it seemed.  I didn’t know quite what to do next.  There were things in our church life that needed adjustment, there were things in our homeschool days that needed adjusting, I needed to step out of my comfort zone and be more involved…especially with one very extroverted oldest daughter.

I took action and ran with it…maybe a little too far if you read my reflection of 2016.

I stepped completely out of my comfort zone.

As an introvert I prefer quiet and solitude.  And with three kids, two of which I homeschool plus a crazy 2 year old, that is not something that I can easily find.  Despite my need to recharge in quiet, by myself, I made it a point to start being more involved. 

Reflections on choosing just one word to guide your year

I have one child that is most definitely an extrovert.  She thrives in the company of others, and because we homeschool I feel like I started overcompensating for the fact that she was not with 20 peers all day every day. 

Activities are plentiful, get-togethers with friends are the norm, being out of the house 6 out of 7 days each week with activities (between all of the family, not just my extroverted child), started to take its toll.

It was also the year of blog growth for me.  I poured my heart and soul into my blog, worked relentlessly to increase readership, build relationships, make more money, get more opportunities.

Funny thing about my word of last year – it worked.  Perhaps a little too well…

By the time October came around, I was just about out of gumption to keep going, yet I knew that our busiest season was right around the corner, and so I persevered, but I also started thinking about 2017, and what I wanted it to hold for me, for my family, for my career.

It was the end of November when I realized what my word for this year would be.


I need margin in my life.  I have worked really hard over the past several years to make my life one that I love.  I stopped trying to please others, I stopped saying yes when I know the answer in my heart was really no.  I started taking time for self-care.  I made the choices that were best for my family first, and it made a huge difference.

I wasn’t getting sick as often, I was happy all the time, I finally figured out a way to make the blues of winter go away.

This year, this year, however, was crazy to me. 

I couldn’t breathe, and I need to breathe.  I was rushing, and cramming, and procrastinating, and not sleeping, I drink way too much coffee, I needed to step back.

Reflections on choosing just one word to guide your year

So what will margin look like for me in 2017?  That is a really good question.

I am planning on sharing my goals with you all, like I normally do every year.  I plan to share my strategy to continue to grow, but to still give myself the room to breathe.  It should be an interesting year, growing pains I think they should be called.

I need to adjust my schedule to better make room for my need for recharging.  I know that I need planning days, and I know that I need solitude.  I need time to be with the kids – really just be with the kids besides homeschool or driving to activities.  I need to start observing a Sabbath regularly. 

I am looking forward to fleshing out the goals and how I am using my word of the year to guide those goals.

Do you pick a word of the year?  What might your word be for this new year?

Friday, December 30, 2016

A Reflection on the Past Year and Looking Ahead to the New Year

Welcome to my reflection for the year 2016.  I started doing a yearly reflection several years ago after seeing a post by Tsh from the art of simple blog.  Every year she posts a list of questions to reflect on your life from the past year, and I found that to be an amazing practice to really understand what I had accomplished throughout the year.

I think that I am the epitome of cliche when I say that the year has gone by so fast, but that is exactly what it feels like to me. 

To take the time to reflect on the year allows me to see that the year was full of amazing experiences, and it wasn’t all a harried and frantic race, which is often how I feel – see my 31 Days of Overcoming Overwhelm posts.

It has been an amazing year. 

I think the biggest thing that has happened is the growth of my children and the growth of my blog (also like a child).  But, with those two things always seeming to vie for my attention, I struggled…a lot.

Trying to do it all burned me more than once this year.  I couldn’t seem to figure out why I couldn’t do it all.  I love homeschooling my kids, I love writing, I love being with my family all the time, but I wasn’t able to successfully do all the things in the ways that I was trying to.

I would try to start my days early, but be thwarted by a teething toddler, or I would try to give the kids individual work they could do on their own while I tried to answer blog comments, or take pictures, only to be interrupted multiple times.  It was frustrating.  I couldn’t seem to balance it.  I felt like I had thrown all the balls up in the air, and they all came flying back down at me, pelting me in the head.  Not a great feeling.

I shifted things around so that I had more dedicated school time with the kids, and then would work on my blog when they were done.  But, instead of just working on my blog, I would also be taking care of the plethora of household maintenance items that need to be done daily, not to mention cooking, and hoping the children would be wearing somewhat clean clothes.

My kids often reminded me of how I never have time to play with them.  Now, I am not so good at playing to begin with.  My kids make up the most elaborate pretend play games with their stuffed animals, or my little ponies, or transformers rescue bots; and honestly I can’t seem to keep up with the rule changes!  My sweet spot is definitely in the cuddling on the couch reading a book with my kiddos, so we started to do more of that.

Being present with the kids, instead of just being in the same room but occupied with another task.

I started to let the kids help me more with dinner, and with the chores.  Instead of trying to rush through and get everything done, I took a step back, slowed down, and allowed them to help and spend time with me – which is all they really wanted anyways.

Because of this, I put the brakes on my blog for a bit.  I didn’t post over Thanksgiving week, even though I had some amazing recipes that I wanted to share.  I didn’t do vlogmas, even though one of my goals is to try and start vlogging more (if only for the memories for my children in the future).  I didn’t post the many posts I had originally planned in December.

But, you know what?  That is totally OK.

Blogging has been a constant part of my life since 2006 (at personal blogs before Townsend House), posting through all types of life changes.  Essentially an online diary of my life, at some point it became a way for me to earn money for my family, and that income caused me to feel like the blog was an obligation.  Yet, at the same time, I still wanted to share, I still wanted that open dialogue with you, my readers, to share my struggles, my realities, the way that I move forward.

I still feel the need to write regularly, but trying to make sure every post has a Pinterest image, that I tweet about it, and share it on Facebook even though no one actually sees my posts on Facebook, well it wasn’t as fun, and I need it to be fun.

Thinking back over this past year and all the successes that I have had professionally, personally, with my family; I am happy about it all.  But, I know that I need to make some changes, and that is why I love these reflections, it gives me clarity.

I need clarity.

I need to be able to look back at what I did, why and how it was successful; and also to see if it was successful in all aspects of my life, not just one.

I don’t want my blog to be successful at the expense of my family.  I also don’t want to give everything that I have to raising my family and lose myself in the process.

Giving, encouraging, teaching, uplifting, engaging, raising my children is such an important job, but it isn’t my only job.

I want my kids to see my passion.  I want them to see me work so hard to accomplish my goals.  I want this because I want it for them.  I want them to see me challenge myself to learn new things, constantly growing and evolving.

But, I also need them to see me loving on them, and taking a break from screens, and watching a movie with them just because, rather than putting a movie on so I can get more work or cleaning or cooking done.

Over this past year I have seen the kids grow tremendously.  Emma and Jack are so involved with technology, learning to code using scratch, making stop motion videos, and vlogging daily (even though those vlogs haven't made it to the upload stage yet). 

I see Emma’s desire to write a novel.  I see her writing to agents to see if she can be taken on and get her novel published, and see her receiving the most amazing letter from an agent telling her to keep reaching for her goals to get published.

I see Jack displaying the most patience I have ever seen from any 6 year old to sit and move his little figures around his “set” while he takes hundreds of pictures to make his stop motion movies.  I see him spend time finding just the right music, adding his own special voices, and wonder where the heck that creativity came from (Matt, it came from Matt), and I am amazed at how bright he is, and how much potential he has for the future.

And I see Lucy, a crazy crazy little girl, definitely a third child, with no fear, and a fierce love for her older siblings with an innate need to keep up with them.

This year has been amazing; full of development for all of us, but also full of challenges.

I am so looking forward to what is in store for 2017, and can’t wait to share some of those thoughts with you!

What was your favorite memory of 2016?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Using Tech to Manage Your Health in the New Year

This is a sponsored post on behalf of the U.S. Cellular  Ambassador Program.  All opinions are my own.

*I am not a doctor, nor claim to have all the answers to your health questions.  Please talk to your own doctor before changing your health regimen.

I hope I am not the only one that is already looking ahead to 2017!  I have been reflecting on the past year and changes that I want to make in the new year, and of course one of the top changes is to concentrate more on my health.

As a mom I definitely have occasions where I am putting everyone else first, and there is not a whole lot left over for me.

I am really excited to start using my iPhone to help me get my health on track.

Today’s mobile devices are empowering people to become more engaged in health and wellness than ever before, and this interest goes beyond apps that count calories or track steps.

Using my iPhone to track my health goals is so awesome, because everything is right at my fingertips all the time. 

Our mobile devices are able to do so much more than tracking steps and counting calories, although that is a great tool to have, and perfect for those of us who are at the beginning of getting our health on track. 

Smartphones and tablets have become medical instruments in and of themselves.  They can provide blood test results, medication information, glucose readings, medical images and much more.

The high-speed network and nationwide coverage U.S. Cellular provides allows mobile devices to collect data, stay connected to the Internet, and accompany their users anywhere, anytime.

How amazing to be able to keep track of all of your records and health information in a device that is with you all the time?

There are many amazing apps that can help keep your health on track in the New Year.

Apps to help manage chronic diseases:

The Diabetes Tracker – (IOS and Android, $9.99) with Blood Glucose/Carb Log by MyNetDiary is a comprehensive app helping individuals better understand and control their diabetes and diet. The easy-to-use app allows users to track insulin and medication and set reminders to take their blood glucose.

MySugr Diabetes Logbook(IOS and Android, Free) is another great app that synchronizes health data automatically via Bluetooth. The app allows users to easily log meals and view glucose graphs.

Apps that monitor your heart, help track medications and keep track of family medical records:

CareZone – (IOS and Android, Free) lets users create a list of medications, dosages and schedules directly from the device’s photo library. The app also documents and shares symptoms with a user’s family or doctor, while providing a place to store vital insurance information and schedule reminders for upcoming appointments.

Instant Heart Rate – (IOS and Android, Free) allows users to measure their heart rate wherever they are by simply placing a finger on the device’s camera. The app records heart rate data and notes each measurement with details on physical activity.

My Medical – (IOS and Android, $4.99) is a comprehensive record-keeping app for personal medical information.  Users can keep track of immunizations, blood pressure, cholesterol, emergency contacts, health insurance and doctor’s information. It will automatically keep track of upcoming appointments on the smartphone’s calendar app. Not only can you keep track of your own medical records, you can also keep track of your kids’, parents’, and others.  

Medical Advice for non-emergency Situations:

Doctor on Demand – (IOS and Android, Free for the app, $49/doctor visit) delivers quick medical advice for non-emergency situations.  The app provides video visits with a board-certified physician, psychologist or more from home or anywhere. There is no subscription fee, but doctor visits are $49.

I think the Doctor on Demand is probably my favorite out of the group – and this is purely coming from a mom with littles point of view!  If I can *see* a doctor without having to pack up three kids in the car, awesome.

What are some ways you use tech to help manage your health?