Three 31


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2016 Word of the Year: BALANCE

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a big fan of goals. You can read my 2016 Resolutions list here. I’ve never selected a word to focus on but one came to me this morning and it was as if God himself whispered the word. I was busy, trying to multi-task when it came to me. I was reading Genesis and the Creation narratives while trying to keep Kamden out of my pens and markers and avoid stepping on toy trucks in my path. Husband was telling me about farm equipment his oldest brother wants to sell on Craigslist. The microwave timer was beeping reminding me to take lunch out of the oven. My phone was ringing but I couldn’t find it. (My phone was under the couch cushion!) I was being pulled in every direction. I was out of sync. I was busy doing lots of things, but none of them well.

My word for 2016 is ….

2016 Word of the Year - Nicole @ Three 31

BALANCE.

Merriam-Webster designates balance as both a noun and a verb, which I find very interesting, and offers several definitions. My favorite (at least for this context) is the state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance.

In 2016, I want balance. In all things and ways, I want to balance my spiritual and physical health, my role as wife, mother, and friend, and maintain a sense of wonder and joy.

I want to find balance, be balanced, and, perhaps, even offer a little piece of balance for someone else.

Balance doesn’t have to be a solitary island – I’d like to spend as much time with loved ones as I do by myself to pray, write, and be.

I want to apply God’s Word in my daily life as much as I read and study it. I need intentional prayer with my Creator as much as casual conversations.

I want balance instead of perceived perfection, especially with my health. I will eat more fruits and vegetables while allowing the occasional splurge. And I will make sure my sedentary days are balanced with really active ones.

I want balance in relationships. I will nurture the genuine friendships I have and appreciate them fully, while I eliminate the ones that weigh me down.

I will love on Husband as often as I laugh at his playfulness.

For every minute I spend on social media, I will disconnect from all forms of technology and electronics.

I will balance structure with reckless abandonment, especially with Kamden. I will encourage him to play and imagine!

I want this blog to be balanced with faith and family. And I will post more consistently too.

For every book I read on Kindle, I want to read a paper one with pages I have to turn. Speaking of books, I want to read genres that I’ve previously stayed away from. I love a good romance or something that challenges me spiritually, but I need something different to my reading list. Suggestions?

For every electronic message I send, I will mail a handwritten note.

I want to balance on-the-fly dinner creations with structured meal planning.

I will balance laziness with productiveness, hopefully this means my house will stay clutter-free and ready for impromptu guests.

2016 is poised to be a really great year and I’m excited to see what the future holds. I have a feeling it’ll be balanced between mundane and shenanigans!

Here’s to being more balanced. :)


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2016 Resolutions

2016resolutions

I intended to make this list shorter than previous ones but that’s impossible with an optimistic attitude and hopeful spirit. I have once again divided my resolutions into broad topics, including goals for myself, goals that will enrich or benefit others, and goals that are just for fun. I am also including a list of items that I need or want to do MORE of. Similar to years past, I will also set monthly goals to enhance the experience. I have big hopes for the new year. So, in 2016, I will strive to achieve:

FOR MYSELF

Participate in the Read Scripture project
Keep a prayer journal, such as this one
Write a few sentences every day in a journal (I already have one of these.)
Read the Bible … again (using this plan)
Learn “Inductive Bible Study” and attend a PUP course
Create one Bible Journaling page a month
Finish Believe study
Forgive “S” because holding a grudge is weighing me down
Walk/Jog/Run in the Wicked Wine 5K with Mom-Tribe on March 26
Get photos printed and display in our home
Utilize health coach and benefits (i.e. pedometer, reimbursements, etc.)
Wear size 16 pants

FOR OTHERS

Lead this Bible study
Start a small group
Host a meal with Mom-Tribe every month
Continue writing for Sweet Jesus Ministries
Potty train Kamden
Move Kamden to a big bed
Take Kamden on a train
Celebrate Husband’s 40th birthday
Donate unwanted books

FOR FUN

Find three hobbies: one to make money, one to stay in shape, and one to be creative
Host “Games with Friends” and play this, this, this, this and this!
Use Skype
Photo editing “workshop” with Becky
Sell the Camry
Save money earned from photography sessions to invest in new equipment
Publish a blog series
Go on a family vacation
Create my family tree with Ancestry dot com

MORE

Exercising
Dates with Husband
Sleeping
Picture-taking
Housekeeping and organization
Rounds of golf
Snail mail
Reading
Blogging
Meal planning (helpful printable)

MONTHLY GOALS

January – Log 1,000 minutes of exercise for the #SJM1000MinuteChallenge.


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2015: Year in Review

2015YIR

This is the fourth year for this review ( 2012 and 2013 and 2014 ) and I forget how much I actually do and accomplish until I finish this post. Cheers to 2015!

What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
In January, I took Kamden and Aunt Georgia to the Perot Museum in Dallas. Kamden saw snow for the first time in February and we also flew to Little Rock, Arkansas, for a long weekend with my mom, aunts, and cousin. I purchased a pair of cycling shoes in March. In April, Kamden and I took the Zachry ladies to Ennis for the Bluebonnet Festival. On April 20, a film crew took over my dining room to interview me about my donor experience with Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas. In May, Kamden received a medal for completing classes at The Little Gym and Husband and I took him to the Fort Worth Zoo for the milk bank’s donor appreciation day. From June to August, I led a 12-week women’s study at church. In July, I published a 30-day blog series and on July 17, I proudly parked the stroller on the patio of Hooter’s in Downtown Dallas for lunch with my Mom-Tribe and our children. I did my first bridal portrait photo session with Jessica in August. Kamden’s first day of school at JUMPS was August 25 and he got his first haircut on September 9. His buddy, Jackson, spent the night with us September 12. On September 30, I attended the annual benefit luncheon for the milk bank and met January Harshe, creator of Birth Without Fear. I enjoyed a night out with blog friends at Top Golf on October 7. I took pictures of JUMPS students in Pumpkin Patch on October 30. I photographed my first wedding on November 14 and first maternity photo session on December 6. For my 32nd birthday, I made my own ugly Christmas sweater on December 17.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions?
Will you make more for next year?
Yes to some and no to others. I’ll post my 2016 Resolutions soon, stay tuned.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
No

Did anyone close to you die?
No

What countries did you visit?
Just parts of this one: Texas and Kentucky

What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
Nikon D750 camera body, smaller clothes, and a part-time job

What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory?
September 3, 2015 – Celeste called and told me Brandon had throat cancer

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Co-teaching adult Bible study classes at church

What was your biggest failure?
I did not lose as much weight as I wanted but I have no one to blame but myself. I’ve exercised more this year than I have my entire life, but my pitfall is food and portion control. I’m also an emotional eater. It’s a tragic thing to publicly confess this, but you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge (that’s a Dr.Phil-ism right there!). I’m also disappointed in myself for not having a conversation with someone really important to me. I’ve avoided the situation my entire life but I need to “grow a pair” and say what I need to say. I don’t want Kamden to inherit my weak, cowardly habits.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
Besides allergies and occasional sniffles, I’ve been healthy.

What was the best thing you bought?
Bible tabs from The Salty Biscuit, an Etsy shop based in Tyler, Texas; an ASUS tablet (to replace the one I broke); and, a Bissel steam mop

Whose behavior merited celebration?
Husband for being the best husband and father. Mom-Tribe friends for putting up with my shenanigans. Brandon for his strength to fight cancer; Celeste for her unbridled commitment to Brandon; and, their daughters, Kirsten and Britton for letting me be Auntie Nee during their difficult days and nights.

Where did your Husband’s money go?
Retirement and savings, mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities, groceries, pre-school tuition, Cabela’s, and Amazon.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Going to Kentucky for Thanksgiving – it was my first time visiting since August 2014. I never been away that long and I don’t want it to happen again. I miss my family too much.

What song will always remind you of 2015?
“Fight Song” — Rachel Platten

Compared to this time last year, are you:
Happier or sadder?
Happier
Thinner or fatter?
Fatter
Richer or poorer?
Poorer

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Exercised and taken more pictures, especially our family of three

What do you wish you’d done less of?
Eat; compared myself to others; and stress about insignificant things.

How did you spend Christmas?
This Christmas was exactly what Christmas is supposed to be: full of food, fun, and family. Our Christmas festivities actually began December 12 when we hosted all of Kamden’s friends and their parents for Friendsgiving-Day-Mas, a combination of Thanksgiving, Kamden’s second birthday, and Christmas. I spent the week of Christmas cooking and baking in preparation for our trip to East Texas with Husband’s parents, oldest brother, and extended family. I baked dozens of peanut butter and chocolate cookies, banana cupcakes, and pecan pie bars and made green bean casserole, spinach salad with maple-bacon vinaigrette, hash brown casserole, and four dozen homemade yeast rolls. I started loading the Expedition Wednesday night and early Thursday morning and I’ve never been more thankful for a full-size SUV with a fold-flat third row! Since North Texas had near record high temperatures on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we took several guns with us and Kamden got to fish and feed cows with Uncle Chad. We opened gifts at home Christmas Day night after we got home. There were gifts galore under the tree, plus some from family in Kentucky including a box of Cheetos for Kamden from his Aunt Kathy! Santa went overboard with toys for Kamden, bringing Tonka trucks, this chair, coloring books, a musical keyboard, and a remote-controlled truck. Husband got a staple gun for us to take to the gun range – no more tape or tacks!

Kamden and Cheetos

Did you fall in love in 2015?
Actually, yes. I fell in love with people who genuinely appreciate me as much as I appreciate them. Those mutual feelings are precious and I am grateful to have these individuals in my life. So yeah, I fell in love in 2015.

How many one-night stands?
None.

Who were your best friends?
Husband. Celeste. Jenny in North Dakoooooooota. Lisa. Becky. Lara. Alan. Jan.
The Mom-Tribe: Tana, Morgan, Nichole, Katie, and Jalyn.

What thing did you do that was meaningful to others?
I donated 29 gallons of breast milk to the Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas; invited five girlfriends to church … and they came; and led multiple Bible studies at church.

What were your favorite TV programs?
Wheel of Fortune, Real Housewives, Top Chef, Master Chef Junior, Chopped and Judge Judy
and Married At First Sight … I have big hopes for Season 3 couples!

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I resent ignoring my better judgment and being dooped by someone who I knew to be mentally unstable and vicious. She proved her untrustworthiness and showed her true colors. I knew better than to let my guard down, but I definitely learned a lesson the hard way. There was another individual who disappointed me with her disrespectful behavior and ugly words in front of me and two friends in what is supposed to be a safe and sacred place: church. I don’t hate this woman, but I severely dislike her and her poor choice of words. I’ve never witnessed or experienced another human treat others with such vulgarity. She’s been avoiding me like the plague the past two weeks but I fully intend to have a private conversation with her to address what happened. Her ridiculous behavior is exactly why “Christians” get a bad rap and some never set foot in a worship center again.

What were the best books you read in 2015?
10 Gifts of Wisdom by Sally Clarkson –  I’d like to read this with other parents, in a small group setting, and discuss gifts we give to our children in order for them to be mature, grateful, kind, and more Spirit-filled adults in a mean and self-centered world. Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst – I’m not the only one who struggles finding contentment and fulfillment with spiritual sustenance instead of food. Soul Keeping by John Ortberg – Nurturing the soul might be the most important part of whole health! Over the summer, I led a women’s small group Bible study and we read Twelve Women of the Bible by Lysa Terkeurst. Every week we discussed a different woman of the Bible and realized we have more in common with our Biblical ancestors than we realize!

What was your greatest musical discovery?
Newsboys — We Believe

What did you want and get?
Husband and I purchased a 2004 Expedition. The gas mileage isn’t great but it’s roomy and I love it. Sometime in the summer, while wrestling with Kamden on the bed, I accidently cracked my tablet’s screen. Husband bought me a new one for my birthday.

What did you want but did NOT get?
I still haven’t served on a jury, even though I’ve been summoned twice. I didn’t create an Advent tradition for Kamden. I need new running shoes.

What was your favorite film this year?
I watched “Sisters” with Celeste and it was the most fabulous two hours spent in a movie theater. While the movie was hilarious, the girl time was the best feature. The sushi lunch prior to and popcorn during was delicious too!

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 32 on December 17. I celebrated with six friends at The Cheesecake Factory. I decided everyone should wear an ugly Christmas sweater and I decided to make my own by using an old sweater and items purchased at The Dollar Tree – red tinsel, assorted bows, miniature ornaments, an elf’s hat, and large ornaments as earrings. The ugly sweater only enhanced my birthday celebration with friends with too much food, lots of laugh, and too many inappropriate jokes about The Cat Paw lovingly gifted by Becky. That woman is nuts and she gives the best gifts. I think it should be obvious by the following pictures but just in case: I do not take myself seriously and there is always – ALWAYS – something to smile about. :)

bday 32

Birthday 32

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
To stop worrying and stressing about making others happy. I need to prioritize my family and self more often.

What kept you sane?
My Mom-Tribe, they’re amazing!

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
POOR STEVE HARVEY!!!!!!! Seriously, he made an honest mistake by announcing the incorrect name at the Miss Universe pageant.

What political issue stirred you the most?
Refugees and sanctuary cities.
It might not be political, per se, but the “affluenza” case of Ethan Couch infuriates me.

Who do you miss?
Family in Kentucky

Who are the best new persons you met this year?
Misty and Hollie and Barbara

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
Life is never dull with a toddler in the house!
The world is full of crazy people – don’t become one of them.
Be nice, not naïve.

Quote that sums up your year:
Surround yourself with genuine people!

Before you go, leave a comment about your favorite memory from 2015. Or, if you posted a “year in review” on your blog, give me the link so I can read it!

I wish you health and happiness in 2016 – God bless. :)


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Final Recap of 2015 Resolutions

I didn’t do very well this year completing this list of resolution. If my math is correct, I had 46 successes and 120 failures. That percentage isn’t good at all. Nonetheless, here’s how 2015 turned out:

HEALTH + FITNESS

Lose 20% of my body weight FAIL, did not happen. At all.
Take advantage of health coach provided by insurance Semi-success, I had four trainer calls but did not fully utilize the pedometer.
Eat breakfast every day Semi-success, most days I ate breakfast.
Take a daily multivitamin FAIL, I completely fell off the wagon once I stopped pumping. Sadly.
Exercise four days a week EPIC FAIL.
Work out with a personal trainer FAIL.
Drink 150 ounces of water every day Success – I’m always drinking water!
Complete a juice cleanse FAIL.
Complete a 90-day challenge FAIL.
Eliminate something from my diet each month (i.e. sweets, fried foods, sugar, fast food, etc.) Semi-success.
Be showered and in bed by 10:30 every night EPIC FAIL – some nights I never go to sleep.
Learn more about and use essential oils Semi-success, even though I don’t use EOs much anymore.
Find a skincare routine that works for me Success, I’m using the most basic and probably the cheapest Neutrogena facial cleansing bar available and my skin is clean and mostly clear. That’s a win-win for me.
Participate in a “new-to-me” group exercise class Success – I did Zumba, indoor cycling, and INSANITY this year.
Schedule annual appointments with OB-Gyno, eye doctor, and dentist Success – In January, I saw the eye doctor and dentist. In February, I had my annual physical. And I saw the dentist again in August.

BLOGGING

Create a blog post calendar … and use it! FAIL.
Attend a blog conference FAIL.
Attend a creative writing workshop FAIL.
Publish a blog post every day for a month Success! I posted every day in July for 30 Days of Manna.
Publish a “how to” post FAIL.
Publish an original recipe Semi-success. I perfected my Perfect Cookie recipe but I haven’t published it yet. I’m still counting this in the ‘success’ column though.
Continue the weekly FINISH THIS link up FAIL – I stopped at Week #73.
Start a blog series FAIL – I started a weekly update and monthly meal plan but never continued it past the few month.
Meet five bloggers in person FAIL.
Host a sponsored giveaway FAIL.
Host a bloggers’ watch party for 50 Shades of Gray Success! The girls and I got together on February 13 for dinner and watched 50 Shades. Dinner was fabulous but, unfortunately, the movie was not. The soundtrack is amazing though and the Lovely & Adorable Julie sent me the CD. I listen to it almost daily.
Continue writing for MOMquery FAIL. I don’t remember the last article I submitted for MQ, sadly.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Organize and back up my photos FAIL. I’m going to regret this one day if I don’t do it sooner rather than later.
Sell my current camera and upgrade to this one FAIL.
Acquire a 85mm prime lens FAIL.
Acquire a telephoto lens FAIL.
Expand Three 31 Photography by scheduling at least 10 sessions I’m calling this one a SUCCESS because I had nine (8) portrait sessions and one wedding that I photographed this year. Yes, I said wedding and I was extremely nervous but super excited for Lani and Favi and grateful that of all of the “photographers” in the area, they chose me. It was awesome to witness two individuals commit their lives after being together 22 years and able to make their relationship “official.”
Take a Lightroom class FAIL.
Join a camera or photography club Semi-failure. I haven’t formally joined but I attended a monthly meeting with the Cleburne Camera Club in January.

HOME LIFE

Execute our living wills FAIL and this has to get done real soon.
Create a gallery wall in the living room FAIL.
Hang a family picture above mantel/fireplace FAIL, but I’m working on this right now and hoping to hang something by mid-January.
Rearrange the living room furniture Success. I moved the couch and one recliner to make a “play area” for Kamden along the living room wall. I’d still like to reconfigure with the TV mounted on another wall but we need to make sure the wires are connected for the phone (Internet) and satellite. And I would like to add an accent chair for additional seating.
Buy new comforter + bedding for guest room FAIL.
Buy new side tables + lamps for master bedroom FAIL.
Repaint the side table in Kamden’s room FAIL.
Install new kitchen sink + granite countertops FAIL but we looked at kitchen sinks and faucets the other night. The current faucet is leaking so it will need to be replaced very soon.
Make our home more energy efficient FAIL.
Have a technology-free weekend Probably a fail but there’s a slight possibility I was technology-free when we were having Internet issues with AT&T. I just don’t remember if it was over a weekend or not. I remember buying a new router though. 
Find a cleaning schedule … and use it! FAIL. There’s a handwritten schedule taped to the fridge but I don’t use it.
Eat at a celebrity chef’s restaurant FAIL.
Try a new recipe every month Success. I tried 16 new recipes in 12 months.
Make the perfect omelet FAIL.
Host a dinner party with other couples/families Success. We hosted Friendsgiving-Day-Mas on December 12.
Host a “Friendsgiving” Success, see above!
Host a game night FAIL, but this will happen in 2016.
Meal plan for a month … and stick to it! Semi-success. I meal planned several times and even put made-ahead meals in the freezer but I really want to improve this skill in 2016. Mostly because I’m tired of making the same dishes every week!
Use the Crock Pot once a week for a month Success.
Save loose change and cash out at the end of the year Success, I had $18 in the coin jar.
Purge the entire house and donate or toss things we don’t use Success. I took multiple bags and boxes of unwanted items to Goodwill several times throughout the past year. Most recently, I went through home and holiday décor I no longer wanted and the front hall closet got a major cleaning out.
Have my car detailed inside and out FAIL.
Sell my car and buy a used SUV or crew cab pickup truck Half-success. We bought a 2004 Ford Expedition in November but I’m waiting to sell my car until this spring.

PERSONAL GROWTH

Find a Bible reading plan (such as this one) that works for me … and use it regularly! Success. I finished reading the entire Bible on December 27. This might surprise most folks, but it’s the first time I’ve read it from cover to cover. I’m proud of myself for doing it and I want to do it again, in 2016, with a different reading schedule and Bible.
Read and study Scripture regularly and more thoroughly Success.
Seek opportunities to improve (i.e. parenting, photography, blog writing, etc.) Success. I think my parenting has improved once I stopped expecting perfection from myself, and Kamden too. The less I got onto him for small, insignificant things, the better off we were. He’s a really wonderful child, kind-hearted and mild-mannered, and his toddler-ness appears often, but I wouldn’t know what to do without him. I think my photography has improved but I still have lots of room to grow and much more to learn, about my camera and editing with Lightroom. I’m grateful for the “clients” who entrust me to capture their children and family and special life moments. As for my blog, Three 31, I am really proud of myself for doing the month-long series, 30 Days of Manna. I grew personally and spiritually from that experience and I have more ideas for blog series in 2016. I know I need to publish posts more often while maintaining my position on quality over quantity. And I know the grandparents and extended family would appreciate more posts (with pictures) about Kamden.
Have regular conversations with Lisa Semi-success. We started the year off really strong and then life got in the way. But the beautiful thing about our friendship, no matter how long we’re apart, we always pick right back up where we left off. We go days, sometimes weeks, without a message but I never feel disconnected.
Create a new resume Semi-success. I have a draft in the works but it’s not close to being completed.
Get a job with new resume FAIL, I hope to have a part-time position in 2016 that will work around Kamden’s school schedule and my desire to continue teaching adult Bible study classes at church.
Join a professional organization and get involved in the local chapter FAIL.
Finish The Story Bible study SUCCESS, I finished May 27. It was the first Bible study I completed from start to finish and I absolutely LOVED it. It lit the spiritual fire within me to dig deeper into Scripture.
Create and lead a small group for parents with young children Semi-success. I led a women’s small group, studying Twelve Women of the Bible, during the summer but it wasn’t specific to any demographic or group. I have something in mind for 2016 that I think will be specific to parents and another small group study with my Mom Tribe.
Read 12 books (one per month) Semi-success. 1. Being Christian – Rowan Williams; 2. Captivated By You (Book 4 of The Crossfire Series) – Sylvia Day; 3. Chic & Slim: How Those Chic French Women Eat All That Rich Food And Still Stay Slim – Anne Barone; 4. Fighting Back With Joy – Margaret Feinberg; 5. Grey – E.L. James; 6. Soul Keeping – John Ortgerg; 8. Finding Bethleham in the Midst of Bedlam – James Moore
Keep a prayer journal FAIL.
Keep a blessings/gratitude jar FAIL.
Participate in a book swap FAIL.
Get my hair cut at the start of each season Semi-success. I got a haircut in January and August.
Have my eyebrows “threaded” by a professional FAIL
Get a facial/mani/pedi every other month FAIL.

FOR KAMDEN

Potty train (no more diapers) by second birthday FAIL. We got Kamden the insert that sits on a regular toilet seat and I think it scared him, so he’s afraid to sit on it or the stand-alone potty seat we got him. All in due time, I hope!
Continue weekly classes at The Little Gym Success, we continued with TLG classes until August 24, right before Kamden started pre-school. I am forever grateful for TLG not only for the developmental activities for Kamden, but the friendships I made with other parents. My Mom-Tribe was created because we all met at TLG.
Enroll in Kinder-music FAIL.
Schedule one play date a month Semi-success. We get together as often as we can and our play dates aren’t always specifically organized and schedule. The kids play together every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening while the parents are in church or Bible study, plus extra days we go to the park or visit the museum. All of our families are members at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, which has a wonderful play area dedicated to children 5 and under.
Mommy + Me photo session for Mother’s Day Success, had our photo session on May 8 with Becky. She did an amazing job, as usual.
Plant a tree FAIL.
Make a special craft or memento Success. Since enrolling at JUMPS, Kamden has made several keepsake crafts, including several Christmas ornaments that I will treasure forever.
Install book shelves in his bedroom FAIL.
Read a book before bedtime every night Success. Our bedtime routine has been the same every night since we brought him home from the hospital. Our current reading list includes: Little Blue Truck, Christmas in the Manger, You Are Special, and Mr. Seahorse.

FOR OTHERS

Surprise Husband with a meaningful gift FAIL. It’s hard to surprise the guy who hates surprises and is the hardest person on the planet to shop for. But I did “surprise” him at Christmas with a staple gun for our gun range bag. We were constantly fighting with tape and thumb tacks so the staple gun will keep our targets on the board without a fuss.
Continue donating breast milk to the Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas SUCCESS. My pumping journey came to an end on January 22 and I donated 3,650 ounces to MMBNT. That’s equivalent to 28.5 gallons of liquid gold!
Donate to a charity FAIL.
Throw a surprise party for someone FAIL, but I attended a surprise birthday party for Miss Lucy on August 15.
Attend a wedding SUCCESS. Jess and Grant got married September 6 and Lani and Favi tied the knot on November 12, both ceremonies were held at Lost Oak Winery in Burleson. I took Jess’s bridal portraits and I was the official photographer for Lani and Favi’s event.
Attend a baby shower SUCCESS. We showered RevL and RevT with gifts for Baby Erin on May 2.
Leave a 100% tip for excellent service FAIL.
Volunteer at least five hours a month I was going to call this a fail but then I remember that I should count all the hours spent reading, studying, preparing, leading, and teaching the adult Bible study classes at church!
Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity FAIL.
Send a “just because” gift to someone FAIL.
Send 12 handwritten notes (one per month) Semi-success, I sent several cards and handwritten notes throughout the year but not one per month.
Send a care package to a soldier FAIL.
Celebrate special milestones (i.e. birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) with snail-mail greeting cards Semi-success, see above.

ADVENTURE

Go to Bova for a custom ring design consultation FAIL.
Go to Bova and have my ring and earrings cleaned FAIL.
Have a ladies’ night once a quarter Success. February 13 – dinner and 50 Shades movie; March 13 – breakfast with the Zachrys and Kamden; August 8 – book club and dinner with Mom Tribe; October 13 – lunch with Becky; December 17 – birthday dinner with friends.
Attend a college sporting event FAIL.
Attend a professional sport event FAIL.
Invest in quality luggage … and use it! FAIL.
Visit three museums Success. January 6 – Perot Museum in Dallas; February 20 – Clinton Presidential Museum (Little Rock, Arkansas); July 14 – Perot Museum; August 14 – Dallas Aquarium; and to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History September 18 and October 22.
Visit Ruthie in Austin FAIL.
Visit Lisa in Virginia FAIL.
Visit Jenny in North Dakota FAIL.
Visit Jacqueline in Houston FAIL.
Visit Heather in Houston FAIL. But Heather has visited our home twice and we even had lunch while visiting our families in Kentucky during Thanksgiving. There’s a strong possibility she and her husband, Bryce, will also be here for New Years.
Visit Jen in Arizona FAIL.
Visit a Presidential Museum Success. We visited the Clinton Presidential Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas on February 20.
Visit a popular landmark I’ve never seen before FAIL.
Go to Lake Ouachita (Arkansas) with Husband’s family FAIL.
Go to Fredericksburg, Texas FAIL.
Go hunting FAIL.
Play a round of golf Success, I played in a benefit fundraiser for Glen Lake Camp on April 10 in Glen Rose.
Go to a drive-in movie FAIL.
Shoot a bow-and-arrow FAIL.
Compete in a shooting sport Success, I beat Dad at his own range with his own guns on November 24.
Complete a fitness challenge FAIL.
Go paddle boarding FAIL.
Attend a cooking class FAIL.
Atend a line dancing class at Billy Bob’s FAIL.

How well did 2015 treat you?


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Coming in January … #SJM1000MinuteChallenge

I’m so excited to share this post/announcement/challenge with you today! As many of you know, I struggle *BIG TIME* with accountability and consistency when it comes to my personal health and exercise regimen. I find every excuse for skipping the gym so I am teaming up with Sweet Jesus Ministries to lead the #SJM1000MinuteChallenge. During the month of January, I challenge myself (and you!) to 1000 minutes of physical activity.

SJM1000MINUTECHALLENGE

Don’t let 1000 minutes scare you. I did the math and it’s approximately 33 minutes every day. The beauty of this challenge is every form of exercise counts towards your 1000 minute goal. The #SJM1000MinuteChallenge allows you to do what you want, when you want. As the queen of inconsistency, I am likely to cycle for an hour Monday, walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes Tuesday, and skip Wednesday altogether. As long as I get 1000 minutes I don’t care how it happens!

I am participating because I need a jolt to my pathetic exercise routine. I was also informed yesterday that my friend registered me for a 5K race in April. Wait, can she do that!? As your challenge leader, I will encourage you and hold you accountable. By the end of January, I want us to feel better about ourselves. If we shrink an inch or lose a pound, that’s icing on the cake!

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW/DO:

ONE // Sign up so I will know who is participating (and you will be eligible for a giveaway if you complete the challenge). Register here. 

TWO // Starting January 1, you are responsible for tracking your progress. After registering, you should receive an Excel spreadsheet from me that allows you to track and total minutes.

THREE // Like Sweet Jesus Ministries on Facebook. Each day there will be one post dedicated to the #SJM1000MinuteChallenge with words of encouragement, workout ideas, and other tips to get your minutes. I invite you to interact each day.

FOUR // At the end of the challenge (January 31), those who have completed 1000 minutes will email their spreadsheet to me (nicole.m.hutchison@gmail.com). The deadline for submitting spreadsheets is February 1 and the giveaway winner will be announced February 2.

FIVE // While the giveaway is a great incentive to complete the challenge, everyone wins for improving their health. Remember, this is not a competition – it’s a community for success!

SIX // Invite others to join and share #SJM1000MinuteChallenge on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The #SJM1000MinuteChallenge starts January 1. SIGN UP NOW!


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So this happened last night …

Kamden had his first public performance last night at the annual J.U.M.P.S. Christmas program. He and his classmates have been practicing “Jingle Bells” since early October. All week he has been shaking his fists up and down whenever he’s hear a song on the radio or TV. I finally realized he’s been rehearsing songs every day at school. Let me tell you, Kamden did NOT disappoint! He started out a little shy, perhaps awestruck by the sheer volume of people in the sanctuary, but he found his groove.

Kamden - JUMPS Christmas Program-1

Husband and I were sitting in the fourth row and we could hear him say “Mama” and “Dada” during a brief pause between songs. Wearing reindeer antlers, a wristlet of bells, and a bell cut-out, he was the cutest thing ever.

Kamden - JUMPS Christmas Program-3

Then he finally caught a glimpse of Dada and got really excited – but he never stopped shaking his wrist to make the bells jingle.

Kamden - JUMPS Christmas Program-2

As quickly as the program began, it ended. Each class sang two Christmas songs before serenading the crowed with “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” Then, in a sea of chaos, parents retrieved their child and we were dismissed.

Kamden - JUMPS Christmas Program-4

Prior to Kamden’s debut performance, Husband promised a fro-yo treat so we left as quickly as possible. The sanctuary was filled to capacity and traffic was a mess. There were multiple parked vehicles blocking exits so some drivers went over concrete medians to get out. I’m glad we didn’t stick around for refreshments!

Kamden - JUMPS Christmas Program-5

As if Kamden’s “Jingle Bells” wasn’t exciting enough for our Friday night, after fro-yo we went to Home Depot and bought a new washer and dryer. Happy birthday and Merry Christmas to Mama. Anybody want my used front-loader washer (it squeaks a little during the spin cycle) and dryer (works perfectly) with pedestals? I’ll make you a great deal!


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Kamden in Kentucky [Thanksgiving 2015]

My heart was set on an Advent devotional series throughout the month of December but time got away from me so, instead, I will share some photos I took of Kamden with Yaya and Grandaddy in Kentucky and reconsider my blog schedule through the rest of the year. Yaya is the Greek word for “Nana” and is pronounced Yah-Yah. My mom insisted she be called Nana but I refused because her mother is my Nana. We can’t have two Nanas and confuse the world, so we compromised and used the Greek translation. Bonus points: Yaya is unique and Kamden now says the word all the time.

Tuesday was our only full day at my parents’ place so we had to use time wisely: gun range with my Dad in the morning, lunch with a longtime friend and my Neenie, a family portrait session for my cousin and his family at Audubon State Park in Henderson, Kamden’s photo session with Yaya and Grandaddy before it got dark, and dinner at The Feedmill for some fried gator and crawfish tails before watching the UK basketball game.

Kamden was too excited to nap so he convinced Grandaddy to get the Kubota tractor out.

Kamden - KY Thanksgiving FOR WEB-3

Every time Kamden said Yaya she’d squeal, making Kamden laugh, which made Yaya laugh even harder. Then they started high-fiving.

Kamden - KY Thanksgiving FOR WEB-8

Kamden did well with the plethora of dogs, including the new Red Healer pup, Molly, and the Beagle/Healer mix, Dink.

Kamden - KY Thanksgiving FOR WEB-11

Dink, Firecracker, and Ben had just returned from their afternoon run through the woods and open fields when we began taking pictures. When they saw us by the old tobacco barn, they came running. Miss Molly loved having a pint size human around that was closer to her level!

Kamden - KY Thanksgiving FOR WEB-12

“C’mon Grandaddy, let’s go!”

Kamden - KY Thanksgiving FOR WEB-14

While this trip to Kentucky was a quick one, it was exactly what my soul needed. I hadn’t been to my Beloved Bluegrass since August 2014 for a family reunion. In case you forgot what Kamden looked like in August 2014, here’s a reminder of my Chunky Monkey who had no neck and lots of rolls:

Thompson Family Reunion 2014 SMALL-5

You’d think in a family with several photographers and camera enthusiasts, we could find a decent spot without weird setting sun shadows on our faces. Oops! Here is Nana with her three grandchildren (me – 31, Brian – 26, and Noah – 15) and Kamden, her only great-grandchild in November 2015:

Nana + Grandchildren-1

I hit the toddler jackpot because Kamden is such an epic traveler. He’s been on several flights since he was an infant and slept on every one of them about 92% of the time. Last week, he was awake long enough to lift and lower the window shade about 1,398,640 times while we were on the runway waiting to take off. As soon as we were in the air, he was asleep. He woke up when the wheels were lowered right before landing. Plus, it’s really nice to hear passengers talking about your well-behaved child and receive compliments from the flight crew too. I choose to sit in the very back of the plane so we’re always the last passengers to exit the plane, giving us opportunity to thank the pilots for a safe flight. Last week, Kamden got a high-five from both pilots and a bag of goldfish from the chief steward.

I hope everyone had as wonderful of a Thanksgiving with your loved ones as I did with mine. I know I won’t wait another 16 months before visiting again!

In the spirit of Christmas and the beginning of this Advent season, consider the story of Abraham and Isaac from Genesis 22:

And as they sat there on the mountaintop, watching the embers of the fire die in the cool night air, the stars above them sparkling in the velvet sky, God helped Abraham and Isaac understand something. God wanted his people to live, no die. God wanted to rescue his people, not punish them. But they must trust him.

“One day Someone will be born into your family,” God promised them. “And he will bring happiness to the world.”

God was getting ready to give the whole world a wonderful present. It would be God’s way to tell his people, “I love you.”

Many years later, another Son would climb another hill, carrying wood on his back. Like Isaac, he would trust his Father and do what his Father asked. He wouldn’t struggle or run away.

Who was he? God’s Son, his only Son – the Son he loved.

The Lamb of God.

If you are looking for a wonderful children’s book that’s beautifully written, easy to understand, and has the most amazing illustrations, consider The Jesus Storybook Bible. You won’t be disappointed.

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