Simply Liv: July 2015


Simply Disconnect: A 30 Day Social Media Challenge

This post has been a long time in the making. The past 6 months or so I've been really focused on growing this little blog- networking with other bloggers, putting myself out there to bigger companies, creating new content, working on my writing and photography skills. And it has indeed been growing! Simply Liv is expanding from just a personal online journal of our family life to a community of like-minded people who are passionate about living simply. I've been so excited to see some of my hard work paying off. It's mostly just behind the scenes, but I'm really proud of this little space and have loved engaging with so many people through it.

However, I've noticed a tendency in myself to go overboard. In the bad way. I become so excited and obsessed with my stats and likes and keeping up with Facebook and Instagram feeds that I forget the entire purpose behind my blog- simple living. Numbers are addicting and grabbing my phone is all I have to do to access them. I realized how much time I was spending on aimless scrolling and was kind of embarrassed. I thought about the example I was setting for Evie and Mara; I don't want them to remember me always plugged in to something. I know that there has to be a way to enjoy social media and use it for the purpose it was intended for- connecting with others- without wasting ALL of my time on it.

And I don't think I'm the only one who struggles with the addictiveness of social media. 

So I thought a challenge might be in order.
This challenge isn't just for me- though I will obviously be participating. I would love to see other people join me in re-training ourselves to view social media as a tool and not "the ultimate" and to reconnect with the everyday things we may otherwise miss. So share this with your friends/family/blogging buddies and lets make it grow! I will be doing the challenge for the next 30 days, so feel free to join me now or any 30 day period that works for you.

Here's what the 30 day challenge is all about:


1// to be more present in the actual moment

2// to spend less time "scrolling" and more time connecting

3// to view social media as a tool, not a way to spend your time

4// to interact with people (in "real life" and online) and not use our phone to hide behind (think grocery store checkouts, bus rides, people sitting next to you...)

"Rules": again, this challenge is totally customizable. If our goals are the same, I trust that the boundaries you set for yourself will reflect that. These are the guidelines that I'm setting for myself and to give you some inspiration for what might work for you.

1// No social media 1 hr before bed. Use this time to read, talk with your spouse, watch a movie together or unwind.

2// No devices by your bed. I'll be keeping my phone outside of the bedroom during the night and putting an actual clock in the room to make the late night nursing sessions with Mara less tempting.

3// ONE device at a time. No browsing Facebook while watching a movie with AJ. No scrolling through Instagram in the middle of a conversation. ( I'm saying these it sounds super bad....this truly is an addiction we're dealing with here...)

4// No devices during a meal or face-to-face conversation OR while in the car. Leave it in your purse.

5// Post to social media and be done. No checking for new likes/comments every 30 seconds. I will probably set times for myself to check- like in the morning and a night. Not just whenever I get bored.

Weekly Challenge: Every week I will set one big goal for myself. Since it's a 30 day challenge, I'll have 4 goals. They aim at connecting with people and setting down the phones. If you have great ideas for a weekly challenge, let me know and I'll change them up!

1// take an actual person out for coffee that you haven't connected with in a while and leave your phone in your bag. 

2// Write a letter to a friend and send it the old fashioned way ;) 

3// Get outside! Do something active/relaxing/fun outside for the day. It can be anything as long as you're fully present!

4// Open for suggestions! I can only brainstorm so much people....

I know for some of us, social media is part of our job. The goal isn't to abandon our responsibilities or even fast from all social media but simply to retrain ourselves to see them as a means to an end and not use them as distractions from "real life".

Documentation: Ok. I struggled with this part for a long time. It felt counter productive almost, but I've decided to go for it anyway because I reallyreallyreally want to be able to see how the challenge is affecting everyone.

We will be using the hashtag #simplydisconnect to post (not excessively, of course) ways the challenge is helping us and to connect with other people taking the challenge. This is tricky because the whole point of the challenge is to lessen our social media use- but I think we can do this the right way. I'm thinking of using #simplydisconnect to share our weekly challenges and such with each other or even one post at the end of the 30 days. I'm open to input on this one too ;)

Alright, let's do this! AJ and I will be starting the challenge tomorrow (August 1st) and going until the 30th. I will do a weekly blog post on Fridays about it during the month of August as well as using the hashtag on my instagram.

Let's disconnect so that we can be intentional about connecting with others both offline and online! It won't be easy, but I know you can do it.

Oh- and if you're participating, be sure and tell me so I can follow you and see how it's going!




Growing Up Together: 6 Tips for Young Couples // A Guest Post

Today's post is the last of my guest posts scheduled for the month. I hope you've loved hearing from them as much as I have! You can read Julie's post on summer date ideas here, and Natasha's post here to learn how to make some super cute summertime placemats. 

This post is extra special because I'm introducing you all to my sister-in-law Rachael! She and my little brother Sam celebrated their first anniversary on the 12th and so I asked if Rach would be willing to share a few things she's learned as a young wife. 

I can relate so much to the tips she is sharing and I know you all will too. Be sure to check out more of her heart-felt, beautiful words on her blog here.


People getting to know me are often surprised to hear that I am already married.
"Wow! You look so young!"
"I thought you were like... 17 or something."
I even had one girl tell me, "You're too pretty to be married." :) Well... okay. (I guess people are supposed to grow uglier after they've said their vows?) I really don't feel like I was married "super young", though I probably was. To be fair, I never thought I'd be married so soon--though I didn't see myself finding Mr. Right late in life either. Life just worked out that way for me, I guess.
 It's kinda trending in my circle of friends to get married young right now. I'm excited for them, and I support them wholeheartedly with their decision to tie the knot. I remember having conversations with Sam about how long we should wait before we got married. Sam told me that he had always thought he'd wait until he was at least 20 to get married. We set a prospective 2-3 year wait on ourselves since we started dating when he was 17 and I was 18. As we grew closer, we felt that it was more important to live a pure life and honor God with our relationship rather than to wait and make poor choices because "we weren't old enough to get married". So, on July 12, 2014 we were married on a perfect Summer day--7 months before Sam's 20th birthday.
 Though I support young marriage, I won't pretend that it is always easy. There were a lot of things I wish I knew before getting married that have been hard lessons to swallow. What's ironic is that some of these things I already knew! Or thought I did. It's amazing how living with another person brings out all the crazy, messy, and often ugly things out to the light.
Though I don't claim to be an expert on marriage by any means (far, far from it) there are a few things I would suggest to young couples who are married, or thinking about getting married soon, that I have learned and found helpful in our own relationship. 
So here we go.
1// Things are almost always different than you expect.
Something that really blindsided me when we got married was just how different my expectations were from reality. After Sam proposed, I remember going home and almost existing in a state of dull numbness and shock. I was happy, yes--very happy that he had actually asked, but I wasn't bursting with all the bubbly, over-excited feelings that I thought I should be having. I grew a little frustrated with myself because I didn't feel the way one should feel after being engaged. This feeling of expectation traveled with me even through the wedding ceremony, after our first kiss, and up until now. I still don't know if I should feel any different after being married to my best friend for a year. The movies always make the scene where the bride walks down the aisle look glamorous and like it's the moment she's been living for her whole life. I have always been happy that I am Sam's bride, but the actual wedding day sprinted past and left me wondering if there was something wrong with me for feeling--or not feeling--the way I thought I should.
What I came to realize after all of this is that instead of growing frustrated with how I thought things should be, I should instead learn to love things for the way they are. Maybe things aren't always as memorable, flashy, or fulfilling as I thought. Instead of feeling like I'm missing out, perhaps I can move past that and learn to savor each moment for being a great real moment instead of the fantasy I dreamed up.
 2// Communication is essential.
Yeah, they always say this during your pre-marital classes, but I never realized how much it really comes into effect until I had to share my everyday with someone who thinks really different from me. I often feel sorry for Sam because he has to deal with an emotional, indecisive, woman who thinks he should already get some things by now. We struggled a lot while we were dating with my difficulty with speaking my thoughts and feelings. I'm one of those people that doesn't like to hurt people's feelings or deal with conflict, so it was really a stretch for me to tell Sam everything. I have a hard time identifying with women who say that their men don't ever talk or share their feelings with them because my experience has been just the opposite. Sam shared everything with me and I've had to learn how to be more honest with him.
Sam has repeatedly told me that if I don't tell him something, he's not going to know it himself. So at those times that I got mad at him for not helping me out with the chores, he didn't know that his actions were hurting me because I didn't make it clear. It's tempting for me to assume that men are just more dense toward certain issues, but I know that for myself, I have a bad habit of beating around the bush when I want something. Being more attuned to his wife's needs and hints is something that the guy won't know right away. He'll have to work on it and learn over time, but he really needs his wife to be more straightforward with him as well.
3// Be patient with changes.
This one goes along with point 2. When your spouse is learning to be a better mate, try not to get on them for the slow process that it takes for them to change. Sometimes the very things that you'll be asking them to change will be habits and actions that are just a normal part of life to them. They may have lived with some of these habits since they were children and they won't be able to just change overnight. Sometimes your husband or wife may have some struggles in their life that hurt you. When they come to a point where they want to change those things, be sure that you recognize their efforts and growth from where they came from. Be sure that they know that you are standing beside them in their fight to better themselves and that you will be their biggest supporter and cheerleader. They'll appreciate knowing that you are on their side more than your complaints and nagging over their failures.
4// Spend time to get to know them.
This is true both before and after you are married. The thing most people worry about for young couples is that they're rushing into their decision to get married without fully realizing what their getting in to. I do encourage young couples to spend time getting to know each other's character more than just their interests and physical attractiveness.
My husband and I waited to share our first kiss at the altar. Though this isn't what we expect for everyone's relationship, we felt that it was something special we would do that we would share only for the one we got married to. Because we waited to do this we felt that we really got to know each other's character and personality more.
It is common in our culture today to think that in order to really know if someone is a right fit for you, you have to "try them out". My philosophy is that you can always get to know those things after you're married, but you can't take them back after you find out that their character doesn't work with yours. When dating, I feel that it is best to spend a lot of time doing "friend things" together to find out if this person is the one you want to be with for the rest of your life. And after you tie the knot, don't neglect spending time together on those "friend things"--be sure to make time in your busy schedules to go on dates with your spouse. 
5// Have an unlimited supply of forgiveness.
I hate that phrase, "loving means never having to say you're sorry," because it couldn't be farther from the truth. I'm actually convinced that telling your spouse that you're sorry is one of the most loving things you can say to them sometimes. You'll have plenty of opportunities to say it and so will they. Living in a broken world, we will all have our bad days, (or bad weeks). This imperfect human you're living with will make mistakes and hurt you deeper than anyone else can. It is important to be quick to forgive and not allow chance for bitterness to grow roots. Sometimes your guy or gal will make the same mistake multiple times within the same day, but you'll want to work it out and forgive them again.
6// Grow together.
You are both a team. Being young has its advantages. You get to have the chance to grow up and learn valuable life lessons together, where people who meet later in life have already set themselves in a certain direction. You don't have to have everything settled or figured out. You'll figure those things out together. You'll go through your scary first apartment, or having one of you work full-time while the other is in college. All these experiences will grow you closer together as a couple. They are hard things to go through, frustrating at times, but they help you grow up as one.
Your willingness to serve your spouse will help you both make it in this scary adult world. :) Sometimes I had to realize that things were not all about me (No, duh!). Sometimes I have to make sacrifices and focus on doing what's best for both of us and not just what I want to do. This is all part of growing up with my husband, and I am still learning all of these things everyday.
As I look back on one year of marriage behind us, I am so thankful for all the things we've already grown in and for all the years and adventures to come.


How Motherhood has Changed Me

I'm sitting here at 5:30 am typing this post with one hand. I'm breastfeeding Mara and trying to help Evie not spill a bowl of hot oatmeal all over the three of us. I'm tired and bewildered by my first daughter's refusal to sleep these past few weeks. It has been a fairly smooth transition so far- going from one child to two. Far easier than I expected, and for that I'm so thankful. But there are hard moments. Days when I feel like I have less than an ounce of patience left, when I need much more. Afternoons when all I can think of is crawling in to bed in six hours. Moments when I think there's no way I'm cut out for this whole motherhood thing. This early, sleep and patience deprived moment is one of those.

But those moments are in the minority.

When I think about the ways that motherhood has changed me, I'm kind of overwhelmed. Not that I was a terrible person and having kids redeemed me, but all the small lessons and moments of growth add up, even in my short (almost) two years as a mama.

I realized very quickly how little patience I have on my own and how much grace I need to be able to step back and ask for it. Each phase of parenthood poses it's own challenges, but I'm almost certain patience will be helpful in all of them. I'm becoming more and more mindful of how I respond to Evie (and even AJ, when I've had a really bad day) and I've learned more than once that snapping at her only makes matters worse. I'm learning to just let her pour dirt on herself instead of trying to explain to her that I really liked the outfit she was wearing and would actually prefer something stay clean for once. I'm learning to choose my battles carefully and let her be a child, messes and all.

Parenthood has taught me that my needs aren't as important as I thought they were. Before I had a child competing for my time, I could (basically) do whatever I wanted. I showered everyday and had time to put makeup on. I could sit at a coffee shop uninterrupted and journal. I could sleep. I could hop in the car and drive anywhere on a moments notice. And while sometimes I miss that freedom, learning to give of myself in every way- even something as simple as getting up in the middle of the night when she's had a bad dream, or sharing the last bite of ice cream- is a much more valuable lesson. It is a strange thing, not to be my own main concern.

Motherhood forces you to reevaluate your identity, because so many of the things you were able to do before have to be put on hold. I've had to find new hobbies and new communities that mesh with this new version of myself. I've had to be ok with being lonely sometimes, when my only interaction is with a 19 month old and a baby. I'm learning that who I am isn't wrapped up in who I know or what I do- I have to find my identity somewhere deeper.

The time goes much quicker now. I'm more grateful for my husband and aware of how hard he works for us. I smile more- that deep heart-smile that is more on the inside than the outside. I cherish the small things, knowing that each day is full of tiny, beautiful, special moments.

Motherhood is by far the hardest thing I've ever done. But I have no doubt that it will be the most worthwhile thing I ever do. 


Simply Eat // (Our Favorite) Banana Oat Pancakes

It's no secret that I'm a little bit pancake obsessed. While I was pregnant, I craved pancakes for all three meals. The downside of pancakes, however, is that they can be a bit time consuming. Or maybe that should read- I can be a bit lazy and hate measuring out a thousand different ingredients just to make my breakfast. Pancakes are especially tricky when you're trying to avoid gluten...

Enter the all time favorite breakfast at our house! These pancakes not only taste like the breakfast of your dreams, but they are made with only THREE ingredients to boot. Yep- three. Both AJ and Evie will eat these any time of the day, which makes my ridiculous pancake cravings a little bit more manageable.

I wanted to share these with you all, banking on the hope that you're as pancake crazed (and lazy) as I am. Here's to making our mornings simple and delicious!

Lets get to it:

-1 ripe banana
-2 eggs
-2 packets of oatmeal (I used to make these with regular oats- which you totally can- but for convenience's sake discovered that these little guys make THE perfect flavor. You can go whichever route floats your boat.)

Step 1 // Put all of the ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. You can adjust the texture as needed. If its too thick either add another egg or a little bit of almond milk. If its too runny add more oats.

Step 2 // Pour batter onto greased griddle and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side.

That's it! See? Easiest breakfast ever. Enjoy with some fresh fruit and a mug of your favorite coffee.

What's your go-to breakfast for busy days?


5 Tips for Traveling with a Toddler and a Baby

This past week AJ and I decided to take a spontaneous road trip to Omaha to introduce Mara to his family and get out of town for a while. I was a little bit nervous to drive four hours with an (almost) 2 week old and her older sister- considering that I barely left the house for the first month after I had Evie. I think we were ready for a change of scenery though, and taking our first road trip as a family of four was a good bonding experience for us all.

I thought I would share some photos from our trip as well as a few things we learned along the way! I'll apologize in advance for the massive photo dump that is about to happen, but I had a hard time narrowing down which photos to share. Scroll through to hear what I learned.

Both girls were SUCH troopers during the long drive. We had to stop once to eat and nurse Mara, but otherwise, Mara slept and Evie (mostly) dealt with the fact we were sitting in the car- compliments of lots of snacks and bribery. Whatever works, right?

The photos above are from a sushi restaurant we tried on our second day there. It wasn't exactly the first place I'd pick to bring my kids (it would be THE perfect date spot though), but Evie did great, minus a few moments of laying on the floor and running to neighboring tables.

Of course coffee was dessert. One of my all time favorite coffee shops is in Omaha, so if you're ever in the neighborhood, be sure to check out Beansmith Coffee Roasters! Also, there was a lot of breastfeeding in public.

After being gifted my great-grandfathers record player, we are constantly on the hunt for new vinyl. We stocked up on a few oldies here. :)

And, despite the insane heat and humidity, our absolute favorite part of the trip was taking the girls to the Henry Doorly Zoo. Evie is in love with all animals and it was SO precious to watch her as she discovered that these animals we read about in books all the time actually exist in real life. Her favorites were the petting zoo and the aquarium, but she adored all of the animals.
Mara did a lot of this.... ^^
Traveling with children is general is hard and each age presents its own challenges, but as for traveling with a toddler and a baby- here's what I learned: 

1. You don't actually need as much as you think you do. Obviously you need the essentials- diapers, wipes, burp cloths, snacks, clothes....but don't get overwhelmed. I tend to try and pack everything that we use at home, which isn't always necessary. Try to plan ahead and bring only what you'll really need- there are drug stores for anything else ;)

2. Pack distractions for the toddler. Evie did great on the car ride, but only because we brought lots of things for her to do. Snacks, games, books, songs...whatever it takes to pass the time. These same distractions come in handy when you're waiting for food at a restaurant or stopping to feed the baby. 

3. Don't get embarrassed. Sometimes the saying "kids will be kids" rings true. We had our fair share of screaming babies and temper tantrums, and as traumatizing as those situations can be, it is important to remember that kids are kids. Don't let what people think worry you or pressure you. 

4. Try to stick to your usual schedule as much as possible. This one is hard, hard, hard. We didn't have an extra bed for Evie, so AJ ended up sleeping on the living room floor with Evie while I slept in the spare bedroom with Mara. Sticking to our usual routine of bath, stories and songs helped Evie wind down enough to sleep in an unusual place. 

5. Be flexible. You'll probably have to stop more times than you wanted to. Your child will probably spill orange juice all over themselves and your brand new pants. You will probably have to nurse your crying baby while your husband chases your toddler around a coffee shop that closed five minutes ago. It's ok. The crazy moments are the moments you'll smile about later- so don't get stressed if things don't (and they won't, I promise) go exactly according to plan. 

That was a long post you guys....thanks for sticking with me! I want to know- what have you all learned in your years of traveling with young children? I obviously can use all the help I can get!

Happy Monday!




Simply DIY: Easy Summertime Placemats // A Guest Post

Hi everyone! My name is Natasha and I am so excited to be here posting for Olivia during this special time for her family. I have a fun summertime DIY project to share with you today but before I jump into that, Olivia asked me to share a little about myself so here goes...
I live on a beautiful island in the Pacific (Oahu) with my husband, daughter and sweet dog, Rocco. We are expecting to welcome our second bundle of joy at the end of this year and couldn't be more delighted. When I'm not chasing my insanely busy toddler around I really enjoy cooking, organizing, crafting, reading, etc. and you can read about more of that on my blog.

So, on to the tutorial! I don't know about you, but I love summer evenings. It feels like there is something almost magical happening in the air when the temperatures start to drop and the sun starts to set. These DIY summertime placemats are perfect for those summer evenings when you want to eat your dinner outside while you enjoy the magic.
All you need to make your own summertime placemats are some rope, a hot glue gun (with plenty of glue sticks), a can of spray-paint in your favorite color and some patience.
Shoot, did I lose you at patience? It's really not bad since hot glue dries super fast so sit down with a cold glass of iced tea, put on your favorite podcast and let's get rolling!

You are going to start building your placemats from the inside and work your way out. Take the end of your rope, apply hot glue to one side and fold more rope on top. Without burning yourself, pinch the rope together while the glue dries to ensure you have a nice foundation.
Once that glue dries, continue to do the same and watch your placemat grow larger and larger! After I had a nice base built (my glued portion was about the size of a half dollar) I started glueing about 3-4 inches at a time which was a major time saver.Don't worry if you need to stop and take a break - this is a super easy project to stop and pick up again at a later time since there really is not a lot of set up/clean up required.
When you think you are almost done, grab one of your dinner plates and using it for a size reference. There really isn't a right or wrong when it comes to sizing so do what you think looks best. When you have decided you are done, cut the rope and then apply a dab of hot glue on the end of the rope to keep it from fraying.
I really like the natural look of these placemats and think they would be beautiful on any table just the way they are. But I was feeling bright and summer-y so I busted out the leftover spray paint from my daughter's birthday party and added a little pop to the bottoms. Really, do whatever you want here! You know what will look best with your table/dishes or fit your style best.
Now all that is left to do is to sit outside on a beautiful evening, relax and enjoy your unique, summertime placemats! What is your favorite summertime meal?


Cheap Summer Date Nights // A Guest Post from Julie Hood

Since we have a lot of newness over at our house right now, I've lined up a few awesome blogging friends to guest post for me over the month. I'll still be posting regularly, but I thought it would be helpful to plan ahead and give myself a little flexibility, as well as introduce you guys to some great bloggers who I've loved getting to know. Be sure to check out their blogs and follow along!

Hey, I'm Julie Hood, and I blog over at A Hopeful Hood, where I talk about faith, married life, diy projects, and fixing up our little house. Feel free to come by and hang out--I'd love to chat about life, Jesus, or your favorite summer craft project. Or, you can find me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest!
I'm so excited to be sharing some of my favorite summer date night ideas! My husband and I got married at 20 (we were babies, I know) but we've been married for 3 years now, which means tons of dates before and after we've been married. Plus, we've had to figure out fun things to do on a budget! So, here are some of my favorites:

1. Have a bonfire in the backyard: Admittedly, this requires a firepit. But you could also find a state park that has spots for fires! We trash-picked a firepit and have since been given one, and it's been a staple of those cooler nights--and we've had just great conversations around the firepit. It's a good chance to get out from in front of the tv and get outside, even when it's dark out.

2. Go exploring in the city/town near you: Make new memories by trying a new restaurant, finding a new park, or strolling through some artsy shops. One night, Devin and I took the train to downtown Philadelphia and ate at a bar that someone recommended that had twinkle lights and outdoor seating. their food was SO good, and it broke our normal routine of going to dinner around our house. Plus, since we took the train, we got to walk to and from the restaurant on a beautiful starry night!

3. Find a local festival, concert or fair: This is kind of like #2, but try searching for events near you. I know Philly has a bunch of free fairs and concerts during the summer!

4. Go stargazing: We have yet to do this, but it's on my list! Our plan is to pile Devin's pickup truck with pillows and blankets and drive to an open field, park, and look at God's beautiful starry skies, away from the city lights. But you don't need the truck--just a blanket and some wide-open space!

5. Hike or walk a trail: Devin and i love hiking, and it's free, good exercise, and usually includes a great view at the end! If hiking isn't happening, try to find a trail near you that's relatively flat. Although it wasn't for a date, I just did this with my sisters-in-law! So fun, and we got to enjoy the scenery amidst great conversation.
6. Plan an overnight trip: Our favorite way to make this an inexpensive trip is to go camping! But you can also find a cheap hotel on all those sites that have annoying commercials (Kayak, Hotwire, etc.) Borrow a tent, pick a state park, and go on a mini-vacation.

7. Skip mini-golf and hit the driving range or chip and putt! (unless mini-golf is your thang. In which case, nevermind.) We love whacking a golf ball as hard as we can and working on our terrible form in chip and putt. Plus, sometimes you can find coupons online!
8. Get the family/friends together and host a BBQ, for no reason: It's summer! Guys can fire up the grill (or girls can, I'm equal opportunity pro-grilling), and it's always more fun with people. We love playing horse shoes and we have big plans to make corn hole so that our cookouts are amp-ed up.

What are some of your favorite summer date ideas? 


An Introduction

Our sweet girl finally joined us! We are all so in love and she couldn't be doing better. I'll share her birth story soon, but here are some photos I snapped just to hold you over. My heart is full and I'm so grateful to have her in my arms.

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