A Mom’s Guide to Better Sleep

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a hard time falling asleep. I would lay in my corner room with the pink and blue heart wallpaper in our home on the corner of the block and listen to the wind blow through our huge evergreen tree, cars driving by, people out for a night walk. I wasn’t usually scared, but I was a worrier and that manifested itself mostly at night. I can’t even really remember what I worried about back then, but this difficulty falling asleep carried through to adulthood.

Once I became a mother, I found myself exhausted enough that I was falling asleep fairly soon after my head hit the pillow, but now I wasn’t sleeping very soundly. Mothers hear every little noise in the night, don’t we? And although I don’t worry too much before I fall asleep these days, if I’m awakened in the night, I do have a hard time drifting back to dreamland.

I had a startling revelation when I got my FitBit for Christmas. This device is worn on my wrist all the time and tracks my level of activity throughout the day. It also tracks my level of restlessness during the night. I don’t have a newborn or even a nursing baby anymore, but I was shocked by how restless my sleep was and by how often I wake in the night. No wonder I’m so tired during the day!

Armed with this information, I’ve been on a mission to get better sleep at night and I’m sure some of you are searching for similar relief! Here are some of the most important things that have led to a better night’s sleep for me…

Mom's Guide to Better Sleep

1. Stretch before bed

We carry a lot of tension with us throughout the day – lifting and carrying children, scrubbing, picking up, all kinds of work and the stress that comes with it leave us tense as we wind down our day. I’ve found a little stretching or foam rolling before bed helps my body relax and power down. I started using a foam roller after I started running and it feels like a deep tissue massage for my hamstrings, back, calves, and so on. Like a massage, it can hurt to get the muscles worked on, but afterwards, I find everything much looser. The slow movements of stretching and rolling also have the added benefit of being very calming.

2. Wash your face

I do a terrible job of remembering to do this on a regular basis, but when I do wash my face with warm water before bed, it helps wash off the things that have collected during the day and leave me feeling clean and refreshed as I lay down.

3. Read

There is just something about reading that gets me in the right frame of mind for sleep Well, except when I get all wrapped up in a an awesome fiction book I can’t put down and it is part of series and I stay up reading until 1:00 a.m… {I’m looking at you, Lisa T. Bergren} Most of the time, I try to read one chapter of a good, uplifting book before bed and that is just right.

4. Clear your mind

When I couldn’t fall asleep as a girl, I would often start praying about whatever was worrying me and then drift off in the middle of praying. Doing something to clear your mind will help keep you from staying awake with your thoughts. Praying is perfect when worry, fear, or anxiety keep you up. I’m also a brainstormer, so I’m often up with all sorts of dreams, plans, and goals swirling in my mind. I keep a notebook by the side of my bed to make to-do lists with things I’m afraid I will forget or to jot down ideas that pop into my head, such as writing topics. I also keep my Joy Dare journal in my nightstand to jot down a few gifts from the day to end on a high note!

5. Essential oils

If this hadn’t worked for me, I wouldn’t be sharing it with you right now. We’ve started using essential oils in our home and my friend Brooke recommended spreading a little lavender on my pillow before bed to help me sleep more soundly. And it totally did. I saw a noticeable decrease in the amount of restless and awake time on my Fitbit even the first night. And then I tried the Serenity blend from doTERRA and WHOA. I slept the same amount of time I normally sleep that first night I used Serenity but I slept so well and woke up feeling very rested. While I love lavender for all sorts of things, I love the smell and calming effects of Serenity even more. You may need to experiment to see what essential oil is the most calming for you! To find out more about the oils I use and recommend, visit my essential oils page and please feel free to contact me with any questions!

I still get woken up in the night by this child or that child on occasion, but overall my quality of sleep has improved immensely since implementing these few aspects into my nighttime routine. I kick myself when I leave one out and wind up feeling exhausted the next day…or maybe that was because of that great book again…

What helps you sleep better at night?


Disclosure: I am a doTERRA Wellness Advocate and receive commissions and/or bonuses from doTERRA. I am not a medical professional. The statements and suggestions given here have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am simply sharing ideas and suggestions on how to use essential oils in everyday life. I assume no liability for the way you choose to use essential oils. Use your good judgement and act responsibly!
The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks eBook

Natural Room Sprays for Stinky Boys!

Happy first day of spring!

Between sports, playing outside, and just plain growing up, we’re entering the world of stinky boys. Yes, I still have one in diapers, too, so we’re covering all ends of the stinky spectrum! In all honesty, I contribute just as much to the stink with my smelly workout clothes!

We’ve tried all number of air fresheners and some of them smell simply delightful…but they are loaded with chemicals and we just don’t need that floating around our house! I would much rather freshen our “stinky boy” air that my guys are so proud of with natural room sprays and I have a few favorites to share with you today!

Natural Room Sprays

All of these room sprays use essential oils, a new world I am loving and learning all about! Just put the suggested oil and water together and give it a good shake to mix it up before you spray!

Purify Room Spray

What You Need:

  • Small spray bottle
  • 2-3 drops Purify essential oil blend {buy here}
  • Water to fill bottle

Purify is an amazing cleansing blend that I have found to be fabulous at eliminating odors and “clearing the air!” The scent is not overwhelming and it really does give the area a refreshing atmosphere!

OnGuard Room Spray

What You Need:

  • Small spray bottle {mine was 3 oz}
  • 2-3 drops OnGuard essential oil blend {buy here}
  • Water to fill bottle

OnGuard has a wonderful fall smell {my favorite time of year} AND it has great immune-boosting properties! Plus, the boys think the name is really cool, like something a knight would yell!

Room Sprays Big

Lavender Room Spray

What You Need:

  • Large spray bottle
  • 20 drops Lavender essential oil {buy here}
  • Water to fill the bottle

This is great to mist in bedrooms before bedtime. I’ve also sprayed it around our school work area to promote a little more calm – anything to help when homeschooling two boys and trying to keep a third entertained!

A few notes for these natural room sprays…

  • Even though my picture has cute colored plastic bottles, certain oils can cause plastic bottles to disintegrate. The ideal small bottles for these sprays are dark-colored glass bottles which you can find here. They will also help the oils in the spray retain their effectiveness.
  • You can make room sprays from many of your favorite essential oil scents! Just follow similar ratios as those listed above!
  • I use doTERRA essential oils because they are what I know and love. They are pure, therapeutic grade essential oils. For more information about doTERRA Essential Oils and how to order them for your family, please click here!

Essential Spring Cleaning Blog Tour

For more great spring cleaning with essential oils tips, visit these lovely sites today:

For a full list of all the posts in the Essential Spring Cleaning Blog Event, click here!

Have you made your own room spray using essential oils? What is your favorite scent?

I am a doTERRA Wellness Advocate and receive commissions and/or bonuses from doTERRA.

Disclosure: I am not a medical professional. The statements and suggestions given here have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am simply sharing ideas and suggestions on how to use essential oils in everyday life. I assume no liability for the way you choose to use essential oils. Use your good judgement and act responsibly.

The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks eBook

14 Miles

I ran 14 miles this weekend. In one run.

14 Miles 3

I might not believe it if it weren’t for the fact that God made me hyper-aware of everything I was feeling and seeing and hearing during those 14 miles. It’s like He didn’t want me to forget a single thing about my longest run ever, one that only He could get me through.

It was 36°, sunny, a little wind here and there, but nothing unbearable. Only a runner would think this was a great day to run, right? But it totally was.

Of course I needed to use the bathroom once I got to the lake but it was locked for the winter. No worries – a port-a-potty saved me just before mile 2!

From my very first steps, I was surrendering the whole run to Him. 14 miles is daunting, terrifying, not my everyday thing. I needed Him from step one. And I felt Him the whole way.

My lungs were not cooperating the first few miles. I have exercise-induced asthma so this is an ongoing battle with varying degrees of difficulty based on the season, weather, my health, etc. I needed to adjust to the chilly air and the wind in my face at times, but as I warmed up, they worked with me better, too!

I run at a beautiful lake in town when I can and there is always something new to discover. That day I heard lots of fun new bird calls, probably from birds just happy to see a little warmth and sun returning to the area!

The lake was still frozen, but ice and snow and thawing and refreezing had given it the appearance of white caps in the middle of a windy summer day. In the few thawed spots near the shore, geese were hopping in and out of the water and making all kinds of noise.

My plan was five easy pace miles to start, followed by five miles at my goal race pace, and then four “easy” miles to finish it out. The fast miles started and actually seemed to help my breathing a bit…and I ended up going a little faster than planned!

Halfway through my fast miles, I rounded the corner to my car to grab a drink of water and found my guys waiting there to cheer me on! They had left a note on my car in case they missed me! That was just the boost I needed to power through the second half of my run!

The last mile of my race pace miles was a little less…fun. My knees were feeling a little achy on any hills, and this last mile had a big hill followed by a long stretch across a dam…into the wind. As this was mile 10, I was not really looking for an extra challenge, but it felt GREAT to just tackle it!

When you run around a lake two whole times, you’re bound to cross paths with some of the same people out running or biking or walking, and in this case, some of them several times. I try to smile at everyone I pass at least, even saying hi if I can muster it up – I can’t help it, it’s that positivity thing in me – and at this point I was getting lots of “sympathy” and “empathy” smiles. You could probably tell I have been running for a long time and some of these people had been, too! I even got a “Hot damn!” from a guy running the other way around mile 11 – it seemed to be in response to how many times I had passed him running, but my hubby thinks he had other thoughts :)

Just before mile 11 was also when my FitBit told me I had reached my calories burned goal for the day! It was only 3 p.m.! That was a good laugh.

I try not to do much counting down during along run, but once I passed ten miles, this mentality was totally helping out: “I only have ‘x’ miles left! I can totally do this!”

Miles 11, 12, 13 felt GREAT! I was supposed to be back down to my easy pace but when my Garmin chimed for each mile, I realized I was never quite as slow as I intended.

Yes, I did look at my Garmin the very moment I passed 13.1 miles, my previous distance PR, and I couldn’t believe I was almost there. Every step now was the farthest I had ever run at one time. It seemed appropriate that an older gentleman that had walked past me once or twice passed me not long after and gave me a nod and a thumbs up.

I’m not going to lie. As great as 11, 12, and 13 felt, I was starting to feel the drag during mile 14. I just kept wondering why my watch hadn’t beeped yet and looking for landmarks that might help me figure out how much farther I had to go!

And then it beeped. 14.02 miles. 2:11:45. BAM.

14 Miles 2

And yes, my earwarmer was upside down the whole time.

I still had about a half mile to walk back to my car and my legs weren’t thrilled about that at first, but I was grateful for that cool down time, both physically and mentally – a little time to just savor the outdoors and the accomplishment of a new distance PR.

I ran the whole thing by myself, without music, and probably wrote 37 blog posts as I ran, of which only about two could be remembered worth anything afterwards. I prayed a lot and even talked out loud to God. I did not have one bored moment during the run – only peace and determination and a whole lot of dependence on the One who created this body and gives it every ounce of strength. It was all a very reflective time until…

I got back to the car and it wouldn’t unlock. I had kept the key fob in my bra the whole time and it got sweat in it. Well, this car needs that fob, because when I just used the key to open the door, it set off the car alarm. Let the embarrassment and panic ensue. It all worked out, but I will not be carrying a fob in my bra ever again!

I gulped down a bottle of coconut water to hydrate and headed home. I called The Hubby to tell him I was done and broke down in tears. Doing something you’ve never done before and never thought you could do can be pretty emotional!

In the past I’ve had trouble with stomach issues after long, hard runs, but since learning how to fuel and hydrate my body better, I’ve had very few issues. It was such a blessing to be able to scarf down a pizza after my shower, and then get right to work making a carb-loading dinner for The Hubby whose long run would be the next day. Sure, I was sore and tired, but I didn’t feel like I was going to collapse and that made the day even more of a win!

My longest run ever day ended just perfectly. Big J wanted to do everything he could to help me get comfortable – helping with a coaster for my smoothie, getting my ice packs ready, carrying things upstairs for me, volunteering to stay up all night massaging my legs! I took him up on everything but the all-night massage.

After foam-rolling and icing, I just soaked in the gift of this day and this life and drifted off for a really sound sleep.

14 Miles 1

I ran 14 miles. In one run.

The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks eBook

21 Day Fix!

This is a last minute post, and if you’re getting it Monday morning, I’m sorry! But I had just had to let you know today – Sunday, March 2nd – is the last day to get the 21 Day Fix from Beachbody with free shipping! {And if it is Monday or later, you can still order, but the shipping will not be free – don’t let that stop you!}

21 Day Fix


This brand new program from Beachbody sold out in record time and I can see why!

  • 21 days?! Perfect!
  • 30-minute workouts at home?!Yes!
  • A fitness plan AND containers to help with portion control?! Awesome!
  • And an affordable price?! Cha-ching!

Your 21 Day Fix program includes:

6 easy-to-follow workouts on 2 DVDs

Ready for a major calorie burn in only 30 minutes? We made these workouts short so you can get in, get out, and get on with your day. But that’s no excuse for taking it easy. The workouts will challenge you at every level to help maximize fat loss. And there’s always a modifier on screen to show you how to dial down the intensity without losing the benefits.

  1. Upper Fix.Targeted resistance training helps shape your chest, back, shoulders, arms, and abs.
  2. Lower Fix. Firm and tone your entire lower body while you blast fat and burn calories.
  3. Total Body Cardio Fix. Keep your heart rate up and your metabolism revved high long after the workout is over.
  4. Cardio Fix. Get your heart pumping and your body moving as you melt away the pounds.
  5. Pilates Fix. Strengthen your core, elongate your muscles, and firm your hips and thighs.
  6. Yoga Fix. Improve your balance, flexibility, and strength as you help relax your muscles.

Your 21-day portion-control system

Forget about ounces, cups, and calories. These seven color-coded containers and Shakeology ® shaker cup deliver exactly the right portions every time, so you never eat too much, and you’re never hungry. Fill them up with as much food as you want—if it fits, you can eat it!

21 Day Fix™ Workout Program

Plus an easy plan to help you succeed!

21 DAY FIX START HERE21 Day Fix Start Here 
Start seeing results immediately! This quickstart guide and workout calendar shows you just how simple it is to achieve your weight-loss goals.

And 4 FREE BONUS gifts

21 DAY FIX EATING PLAN21 Day Fix Eating Plan
This simple Eating Plan takes you step-by-step through the process and makes portion control so easy, you won’t even have to think about it. Enjoy delicious, healthy food without counting calories, and watch the pounds fall off.

3 DAY QUICK FIX3 Day Quick Fix
Get beach-ready in 72 hours! This is Autumn’s secret weapon for losing weight fast before a competition or photo shoot. Do it during the last 3 days of 21 Day Fix for mind-blowing “after” pictures.

DIRTY 30 WORKOUTDirty 30 workout
4 rounds of fat-burning exercises help carve out a leaner, stronger physique.

24/7 ONLINE SUPPORT24/7 online support
Get extra support and motivation from weight-loss experts and other 21 Day Fix customers.

I am REALLY excited to try all of this in May after my half-marathon, but you can order now and start whenever you want!

I would love to have you join our 21 Day Fix group, so order your kit now, then email me at homewiththeboys at gmail dot com and I’ll get you all set up! You can also email me with any questions you might have!

*Disclaimer: Erin is an Independent Team Beachbody coach.

The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks eBook

3 Ways to Become a More Physically Confident Runner

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

I love talking to women about running. If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know running is a new passion of mine in the last two years. After years and YEARS of despising even the thought of running, this love snuck up on me out of nowhere and it is now part of me until God says I can run no longer.

In many conversations, I’ve heard women describe how self-conscious they feel when running. They are worried about what is “jiggling” or they feel like they are plodding along or they wonder if they look like Phoebe running through the park. Please tell me you get this Friends reference…

I totally get these feelings. I’ve felt all of them. And I want to tell you and every woman that IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE WHEN YOU’RE RUNNING. What matters is YOU ARE RUNNING!

I’m going to make you all feel better for a moment. You’ve seen my triumphant photos from races, with hands raised, smiling from ear to ear. What you haven’t seen is the photos taken during those races where I look I will literally fall over and die any second. There are so many of these, but I didn’t purchase all of them because who wants to remember looking that way?! But this captures at least a part of my mid-race look of death…

Running Form Race

And the photos from the finish line of that race? This is one of the better ones. Oh heavens…

 Running Form Finish

I did actually collapse on a volunteer moments after this photo was taken and ended up overheated in the medical tent, but still. We don’t all look gorgeous while running and these pictures are Exhibit A!

That being said, there are a few easy things you can do to be a more physically confident runner. And these things will also help you run stronger, faster, and longer. Trust me. I’ve tried them all.

Running Form

Stand Tall

Running is a full-body workout. Yes, it is very lower body intensive, but what goes on above the waist is very important as well. When you hunch over during a run, you are impeding several functions of the body that could be helping you on your run! As someone with mild asthma, I am very aware of my breathing while running. Improving my upper body posture while running has helped me to manage my breathing much more effectively because I’m giving my lungs room to work! Standing tall also allows your core to be more engaged while you run – yes, running really will help strengthen your abs and a strong core will improve your running!

And have you ever ran in front of a mirror or reflective window? You might want to do it more often to train yourself to stand up straighter. I didn’t really notice how often I was letting my shoulders slump down during a run until the windows at our gym revealed it to me! Now I know what it feels and looks like to be running tall so I can correct it wherever I am. I’m keeping my head up more now, as well! We SHOULD hold our head high as we run! Plus, your mother always told you to stand up straight! Listen to her while running!

Arm Swing

The windows at the gym revealed something else to me: I looked a little ridiculous with the amount of arm-swinging I had going on. And I was also wasting a lot of unnecessary energy moving my arms wildly across my body hoping they would make me fly or something. I’m still working on this one, but when I focus on moving my elbows just from front to back at my side at a 90° angle with my hands lightly clasped, a lot of tension goes away and I can focus more on my stride. And I don’t have to worry I might accidentally smack myself in the face with an errant hand.

Foot Strike

If you feel like you’re plodding along while running, you just might be. During my second half marathon, it was very warm and humid and I was having trouble breathing. I was definitely plodding, even shuffling sometimes and it made the whole process of finishing the race even more grueling. I remember feeling like it was such work to pick up my feet and I forgot how to make my feet work FOR me in this situation.  There are many schools of thought on which part of your foot should strike first, so if you’re really interested, I would suggest reading more about it from Runner’s World or the ladies at Another Mother Runner in their books Run Like a Mother and Train Like a Mother {LOVED them both}.

But here is the important part: you should feel like your feet are helping to propel you forward. I think I tend to land more towards my heel and then roll forward and push off from the ball – a product of years of marching band – but I am wanting to study my strike more this year to see how it could improve all areas of my running. Having a good strike makes you feel more like you are running effortlessly and less like a horse! It also will help you prevent injury.

In focusing on these three things, I have noticed how strong and confident I now feel when running. Even in the midst of horrific speed work or hill repeats, I am reminding myself of the ways my whole body can work together to get me through and even improve!

If you’ve ever felt afraid to run in public, first of all, FORGET THAT because all those cars driving past you on the trail aren’t out there burning mega calories like you are! And then try these tips to show yourself and them that you ARE a confident runner, no matter the speed or distance you’re traveling!

One last note: If you have a running store near by, they are usually very helpful in analyzing your stride and foot strike if you’re having trouble with this or wanting more input on the topic! And they will give you great information on the types of shoes that will work best for your stride/strike/running needs!

How do you feel when you’re running?


The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks eBook

Five Tips for a Great Long Run!

If you’ve been running for a little while, but have stuck to the three or four mile distance, this is the perfect time to start upping your mileage! Before you know it, the weather will start to warm up and make outdoor longer runs much more bearable. We are hitting the prime season to start training for a half-marathon in my neck of the woods. You could find yourself knocking out 8, 10, or even 12 miles on a crisp, spring weekend morning!

Long runs aren’t exactly easy, and they do require some thought and planning ahead, but they CAN be fun and The Hubby and I wanted to share our top five tips for a good long run experience!

Great Long Run

1. Fuel Your Body

Your body needs fuel to function properly and that is even more important when you are running long distances. If you’ve only been running shorter distances, you probably haven’t had to eat during a run and eating before your run wasn’t crucial, but all of that changes with a long run!

Carbs the night before are a good idea, but don’t go overboard for every long run. The Hubby and I both prefer to eat a little something about an hour and half before the run – a half a banana or an English muffin with a little peanut butter. As far as during the run, according to Runner’s World:

Runners need to add in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate each hour that they are running longer than 75 minutes…Start taking in fuel within 30 minutes of hitting the pavement.

This past weekend, during my nine-mile run on the TREADMILL {blech}, I used fruit snacks and ate some at miles 3, 5, 7, and 8. That worked really well for me this time around! Sports Beans are my fuel of choice, but fruit snacks and Lemonheads have worked well in a pinch for me! The Hubby also likes Clif Shot Bloks.

2. Hydrate Well

I have learned this lesson the hard way. I have spent many afternoons post-race or post-long run sick because of dehydration. Drinking plenty of water is important on a regular basis, but even more so leading up to a long run. If I’m doing a morning long run, I drink water as soon as I get up.

Then there is the issue of hydrating DURING the run. The weather, the distance, and your body will determine how much water you need to drink during the run, but for me I always underestimated how much I would need. So how do you get that water in when there won’t be perfectly spaced water stations? I prefer to carry a small bottle that straps to my hand like this one. For longer runs and/or hotter days, drop water bottles along your route where you can grab them quick as you come by! Just don’t forget where you left them so you can pick up after yourself!

And drink well afterwards! You could also use Gatorade during and after to help replace lost electrolytes.

3. Take It Easy

Long runs are actually supposed to be quite a bit slower than your “normal” or goal pace. For example I was hoping to run my last half-marathon at an overall 9:08 minutes per mile pace. During training, my pace for my long runs {10-14 miles} was between 10:30 and 11:30 minutes per mile. It really feels like you’re crawling along, but it’s a great way to build your endurance and that’s the point of long runs! {And yes, with those slow long runs, I DID beat my goal!}

If you’re training for a race and trying to meet a time goal, you’re going to want to throw speed work into your plan as well. You can work on that even in your long runs, running 3/4 of your run at the slow pace and the last 1/4 at your goal pace. Most of the run is still “taking it easy” but you get a little taste of finishing strong for your race!

4. Plan Some Distractions

My distraction of choice is a running partner, but that is just not always possible. My next choice is great music. I’ve posted a few times about my running playlists here and here and they are seriously inspiring to me. Another great distraction is a good podcast. It almost feels like you’re running with a friend having a great conversation, but you don’t have to talk at all and can just focus on your breathing! Lately, it’s been a great “distraction” for me to run WITHOUT music. The Hubby has done so as well and says that enjoying the fresh air and nature around him is a wonderful distraction.

5. Mix It Up

Run somewhere different than you normally run. Do the first few miles at a slower pace, push yourself in the middle, and end at an easier pace. Don’t make your long runs the same old thing every time or you will get bored and being bored while running makes it much harder to push yourself!

I went from not being a runner at all to running a half marathon in nine months and these tips were very helpful for getting me there. Increase your mileage gradually and you’ll be running longer and enjoying {most of} it, too!

What helps you get through a long run? What questions do you have about running longer distances?


The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks eBook

Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil Giveaway!

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil Giveaway

I was slow to jump on the coconut oil bandwagon, but now it is a staple used in our home every day for reason or another!

Most often, our coconut oil is used in the kitchen. Popcorn cooked in a pan on the stove in coconut oil with just a little salt added afterward is divine. The boys ask for coconut oil popcorn all the time! I throw some in when making this fabulous Slow Cooker Chicken Soup. And I’m always finding new places to substitute it into recipes!

Tropical Traditions is a new discovery for me, but it is a standard online source for the best coconut oil around, especially with their Gold Label products. If you’re like me and have been a little confused about all the differently labeled kinds of coconut oil, this post does a great job explaining virgin coconut oil, the kind sold by Tropical Traditions!

If this coconut oil world is all new to you and you’re wondering just how you might use coconut oil, you’ll find lots of ideas and recipes here!

Since the FDA does not want us to discuss the health benefits of coconut oil on a page where it is being sold or given away, here is the best website to read about the health benefits of coconut oil: http://coconutoil.com

Based on the quality of product, the wealth of knowledge and information, and the high level of customer service, I highly recommend Tropical Traditions for all your coconut oil purchases!

And now to the fun part…

I am giving away a quart of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil from Tropical Traditions! Just enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*If you order by clicking on any of my links and have never ordered from Tropical Traditions in the past, you will receive a free book on Virgin Coconut Oil, and I will receive a discount coupon for referring you.

**Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks eBook

VITALITY in Self-Care + Personal Growth

As I was exploring vitality as the my word for 2014, the areas for goal-setting were clear to me: faith, marriage, motherhood, ministry…

…and wasn’t there something else?

What about exercise? nutrition? rest? reading?

There were all these little but important leftover areas I wanted to see changes in for 2014, but they didn’t fit in anywhere.

Except…wait…they all had to do with ME. My personal growth, taking care of myself, my health and well-being, both physical and mental.

I’m at a place in my life where I’ve finally realized how much better I am all around – Christian, wife, mother, friend, writer – when I take care of myself. DUH!

So that’s where I’m wrapping up my vitality goals for 2014 today: self-care and personal growth…

Vitality in Personal Growth

food as fuel

I really like eating. I am not a dieter and I never will be because I LOVE food and I don’t like being told I can’t enjoy the yummy stuff. But I HAVE to take a different approach with food this year. Since becoming more active, I am much more aware of the effects food has on my body, both positive and negative. On a regular basis, each and every day, I need to think of food as fuel for my body. For me, this means more real food, more protein, vegetables, and fruits, more of what my body NEEDS not WANTS. You bet I will still thoroughly enjoy some of my favorite indulgences, but only in the context of a much healthier diet overall.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

~1 Corinthians 10:31

challenge myself

Last year, I tried several new things in the area of fitness, but I also had a few periods of time lacking motivation and gusto. Not this year. I’ve got a plan to attack my physical fitness and strength, and if I ever feel myself dying off, I’m coming back to this goal. As of now, I’m not planning on any new distances for races, but I would like to set a new PR for a 10K. A half PR? Maybe! I broke 2:00 last year and that was my ultimate goal! We’ll see about getting faster!

And I’m not just challenging myself with events, but with a few tougher or new workouts a week. It might sound crazy, but my Tuesday evening speed work runs at the gym are super hard but make me feel AWESOME. I want more of that this year.

Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint. ~Isaiah 40:31

water, water, water

There isn’t much to say here: I just need to drink more water. The winter months have me reaching for coffee much more often, but I’m trying to down a whole Camelbak of water in betweens cups of coffee. I also grab a glass of water FIRST when I feel hungry to see if that satisfies me. Lots and lots of water this year, people. Bring it on.

motivate others

I have seen firsthand what taking better care of myself has done for every aspect of my life and I want to tell the world. Well, really I just want to come alongside other women, especially other moms, to say, “If I can do this, you can do this.” I was not an athlete growing up. I only started running less than two years ago. We have three kids, my husband is a resident, I homeschool and write and… I still find time to workout and my body thanks me for it!

I want to dedicate time this year to cheering on women who want to get started on this path or want to reach a new goal or need to get back on the treadmill or bike or whatever they were doing to improve their health before they stopped. {If you’re one of these women, please email me at homewiththeboys at gmail dot com and you will have yourself a health + fitness cheerleader!} This may not seem like a goal about personal growth, but I feel more alive and inspired myself when I’m connecting with and encouraging others, so there you go!

Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other. ~Romans 15:32

finish more books

I made this big long list of books I wanted to read last year, and I read many books, but not the whole list. I also started a lot of books that I never finished. I’ve started this month with finishing off a few books I didn’t quite finish in 2013. I’m fitting more reading in here and there, keeping books all over the place to grab for five minutes of reading here and there as suggested by Crystal Paine in her book Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. And my appetite for reading has definitely regained vitality. And I’m not putting a reading list out this year because new books keep popping up all the time and I don’t want to be tied down!


Sleep. Analog weekends. Family cuddles. Feet up, deep breaths, stillness. I need more rest in 2014. Earlier bedtimes are in order. I take a “quiet time” in the afternoon while the boys do as well and all of me breathes easier for the rest of the day. I’m finding at least one day a week, usually the whole weekend to unplug and just be. Taking time to rest used to seem to me a hindrance to getting all the things done. Life has shown me differently.

And so dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. ~Romans 12:1


Hmmm…turns out I had a lot to say about taking care of myself!

On the topic of self-care, can I share a few of my favorite reads for moms? Jessi from Naptime Diaries and Hayley from The Tiny Twig have been writing many encouraging things lately in this area. Please take some time to read and be inspired by these ladies.

How are you doing with taking care of YOU? What do you want to focus on for your personal growth this year?


Read more about my goals for vitality…


The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks eBook

The Family That Runs Together…

A friend recently told me Thanksgiving Day is now the most road-raced day in the country! And while we weren’t in a road race, our family joined the many others racing Thanksgiving morning before consuming all the yummy holiday food!

The Hubby ran a trail half marathon {the same one we did last Thanksgiving} in much colder, windier temps than we endured last year! He also crushed our time from last year without me to slow him down, but said it was much lonelier!

Thanksgiving 2013n

Thanksgiving 2013m

Thanksgiving 2013p

And the boys asked the night before Thanksgiving if they could run the 400m Lil’ Gobbler trail run with me after Daddy’s race! Of course, we said yes! So we bundled up to cheer on The Hubby and then run a little ourselves…

Thanksgiving 2013b
Thanksgiving 2013d
Thanksgiving 2013j
Thanksgiving 2013g Thanksgiving 2013c
Thanksgiving 2013k
Thanksgiving 2013e Thanksgiving 2013f

Thanksgiving 2013h

It was the boys’ first official race and we were so proud of them for taking it on, especially in that weather! Brrr! The Hubby and Double J stayed in the van to keep warm while we did the Lil’ Gobbler, so the boys ran to show them their medals after the race!

To cap off our running holiday, I did a Jingle Bell Run to benefit the Arthritis Foundation the day after Thanksgiving! I love a good fun run for charity! 


They gave each of us jingle bells to tie to our shoelaces and we ran through beautifully lit up areas for Christmas! Fun and festive! And a 8:52 pace – not too shabby!

I love that we all got a little running in this holiday – even Double J did a few laps around the table! The family that runs together, right?!

Did you do a race or fun run this past long weekend? What are your favorite holiday races?

The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks eBook

Day 20: I Don’t HAVE to… Be a Runner

31 Days of NOT Having It All Banner

Are you sick of hearing me talk about running on here yet?!

Over the past year and a half, running has become a big part of my life and the life of my family. After HATING running for so long – I was the kid walking the mile during gym class or trying to figure out ANY way at all to get out of it – I had no idea how much I would love it at age 32.

Running is my way to stay healthy and fit. Running is my stress relief. I have accomplished goals I never thought I would reach in my wildest dreams through running.

But running isn’t for everyone.

Be a Runner

Running may be everywhere you turn these days, but you don’t HAVE to be a runner. Yes, I just had a little trouble saying that because I feel like if I could become a runner, ANYBODY could become a runner.

As I’ve mentioned before, The Hubby is a runner, too. He started about four months before I did. He is fast. And he has run a marathon. And he had NEVER liked running before he joined a gym that January and got started on a treadmill.

His job as a physician lends itself well to sharing his path to physical fitness, especially with patients who want or need to make changes for health reasons. He lost a lot of weight and changed his lifestyle through running, but he makes it a point to tell his patients that they don’t have to be runners. They just have to do something.

If you’ve given running a try and did not enjoy one moment, it’s ok! Maybe a fitness class or DVD at home is your thing. Biking or walking or hiking might be the healthy choice for you.

I had the best time in a Zumba class at our YMCA last year. Of course, the dancing was super fun. I will never be a good dancer, but that was some of the most fun I’ve ever had exercising. But I REALLY loved the class because it was a wide variety of women – all ages, shapes, and ethnic backgrounds – enjoying themselves while taking care of their bodies.

That is also why I love belonging to our YMCA. It’s not a gym where everyone looks like they just jumped off the pages of a fitness magazine. You will find every kind of person working out there and I am inspired by each one. Walking on the treadmill, climbing away on the stair stepper, rocking out in the spin class,  lifting weights, playing basketball. Our YMCA is the perfect picture of people finding their own way to stay healthy and just doing it.

Don’t get hung up on the running thing because it seems like everyone is doing it. If you ask me if you should try running, I’ll probably say yes. But if you don’t like it, I will also be the first to tell you to move on to something you love!

You don’t HAVE to be a runner, but please find something you love to get yourself moving and healthy!


If you are wanting to start exercising or need some fresh ideas or motivation for health + fitness, I would love to talk with you! I am a Beachbody coach and would so enjoy answering any questions you might have and walking alongside you in your health journey! Email me at homewiththeboys at gmail dot com and we’ll get started! There’s even a holiday challenge you could start with us this Monday!

The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks eBook