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Create a Family Cookbook| Holiday Gift Idea 2017

This post is sponsored by CreateMyCookbook, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

I've mentioned many times on the blog that my grandmother played a large roll in my life. I spent many weekends growing up at her house while my mom was at work, and she passed onto me a strong love for home cooking, and making meals for my family. My grandma cooked all her recipes from memory, and never wrote anything down. She has had degenerative Alzheimer's for over 10 years now, and any cooking question that I'd want to ask her, or a recipe I'd want, I can no longer get because it's trapped within her memories that she can no longer access. 

Because of this, it's been a goal of mine to write down and collect as many recipes for my children as possible so that they don't have to go through the pain of not being able to recreate a favorite recipe from their childhood when I'm gone. I think family cookbooks are such a wonderful Christmas gift for parents or grandparents to hand down to their children. It's a whole new level of passing down family traditions and culture that can really last for generations to come. 

I recently made a cookbook for my family on CreateMyCookbook.com. It is such a user friendly interface that makes compiling all your recipes into one place super easily. You can either copy and paste recipes directly from the internet, or take a picture of a recipe card you have in your drawer, and they'll type the card out for you. 

Once you have all your recipes organized the way you want, you start making your book. The software allows you to import all your recipes right into the book, and will organize them all by type (soups, main dishes, dessert, sides, etc...) for you in one easy click. Then you just choose the layouts that you want for each recipe, and insert a picture if you want, and your book is done!

Since I have a majority of my favorite recipes already here on my blog, all I had to do was copy and paste the text into the recipe uploader, save the images from my blog to my computer, and then upload them into the book's editing software and was good to go. Ordering the book itself was also super easy, and I can't wait to share with you all what it looks like when it arrives in just a few weeks. 

8 Things I'm Grateful For This November

November is the month of remembering the things your grateful for. We should try to do this all year round, and I think I'm fairly good at that, but for some reason, this year especially, I'm filled to the brim with gratitude for so many different things. I don't do these posts every year. The last time I did was in 2014 right after Em was born, so I figured it was a little overdue. (Ps. All these things are not in a specific order.)

Awesome Neighbors: We've been blessed with good neighbors. From the amazing ones we left behind in Georgia, to our new ones here in Utah, we're blessed to be around good people. I'm especially grateful that Jay has a new friend across the street that he wanders over and plays with often. He misses his Georgia friends dearly, so I'm grateful he's making new ones here too. 

Running: Running and I have had a rocky relationship for basically all of my life. But I'm grateful to be in a season of life where I feel like I have guilt free time when the kids are at school everyday to dedicate to it. Also grateful to live in a safe area where I can step out my front door, and run to my heart's content. 

Great Teachers: To the people who teach my kids in church on Sundays, and the ones who are with both my kids Monday through Friday, thank you for making my kids feel loved and safe. 

Community: I've never been one to put myself out there and meet new people when we've moved. I usually stick to the church crowd and that's it. This move though, I've made friends through various running groups and other outlets, and it's fun to have friends spread out, and not concentrated to one area of my life. 

A Non-Dramatic Move: This was our 8th move in 6th years, and by far the easiest transition for everyone. I'm grateful that it's been uneventful and how well everything has gone, because that hasn't always been the case. 

Family Nearby: This is a given since it's a main reason why we moved here, but I love that we have Derek's sister fairly close to us, and that the rest of his family is all within three hours. It's a blessing to have family so easily accessible. 

Rekindled Friendships: Derek and I lived in Utah six years ago, so it's been fun to revisit and rekindle those friendships all over again and catch up with friends that we loved so dearly back then, and still love now. 

Friends From Afar: I miss my friends in Georgia and NC so much. This has definitely been the first time that we've moved where I've made a large effort to keep in contact with people. Our friends in the southeast have made such a lasting impact on us, and I'm grateful for their roles in our lives then, and for continued communication now. 

Family From Afar: We're close to Derek's family, but far from mine. I'm grateful that we're able to talk with my family regularly through texts and FaceTime. Technology really it amazing. 

Never Lose Your Valuables Again + VIDEO!

If you knew me in high school, you know that I was the queen of losing my wallet, gym bag, phone, keys, you name it, I lost it. I have no idea how this always happened to me, but I'm glad for my mental sanity that technology has been invented so that we can eliminate these hardships from our lives. 

Tile is the world's best selling bluetooth tracker. You simply attach it to anything that you don't want to lose, and you can keep track of it through the tile app. Through the Tile app, you can gather together with friends and strangers to help find lost items around the world. So far, over 2 million items have been found using tile. 

Jay has inherited my misfortune of losing things all the time, so we've attached a Tile to his favorite stuffed puppy. He got Sophie as a gift right when Em was born, and she has been with him through all his major life moments. When he had surgery on his eyes, family vacations, all of our major moves... it would be devastating if we ever lost her. Now that she is safely tiled, our minds are at ease that Sophie will be around for as long as Jay needs her. 

Tile isn't just for stuffed puppies, you can use them on phones, keys, backpacks, literally anything you don't want to be without. You can see more of how Tile works through the short video we created below, and be sure to head over to their site to join the Tile movement.

Transitioning to Gen-Ed Preschool

This week we had parent teacher conferences for our kids. I don't really know how I'm old enough to be going to these types of meetings, but here I am. Jay's meeting went really well. He's right where he needs to be for the school year, and is thriving in Kindergarten. Em on the other hand while doing well, is exceeding our wildest dreams and I couldn't be more happy for her and the progress that she's making. 

Derek and I have had a feeling the last few weeks that Em might be at the top of her preschool class. In just the last month she's rattled off her numbers one through ten, and has learned her colors very quickly. We started thinking that maybe it wasn't crazy to think that she might attend the general education kindergarten in a couple years when the time came. 

At her conference this week, we asked the teacher if she thought that the kindergarten goal that we were mentally setting was realistic or not, and she told me it was definitely within reach. I then asked her how she compared to the other kids in the class and she said that Em was very bright, and that she was definitely higher functioning than what we'd originally anticipated. 

I was under the impression that there was another preschool class in the school, and I asked the teacher about that, and she told me that there was a general education preschool that meets two days a week in the building. She then told me that she would like to see Em starting to transition to that class starting in January.

Currently Em goes to the special education preschool four days per week, Monday through Thursday. The gen-ed preschool meets M/W and T/TH. The plan is that Em will start off by attending the gen-ed preschool two days a week for 20 minutes, and then go back to her current classroom, and then attend her special education preschool like normal on the other two days. Through the rest of the school year, they will work her time up in the gen-ed class so that she's going there two days a week, and attending her class two days a week, and then carry out that same schedule for the following school year as well. 

I really don't know how we've made it this far with this little girl. I can assure you that none of this is a reflection of Derek and I's parenting skills. We're worn out, tired, and are in survival mode most days. We engage, love, and play with our kids, but certainly aren't doing enough to merit much credit for Em's success. She's writing her own story, Heavenly Father is opening doors, and miracles for her, and I'm grateful that we get to be here for the ride. 

There's more that I want to say, but I hate that it's not going to sound eloquent and well written (like anything here is well written...). But I want to remember this phase with Em. How we pick her up from school and she's so excited that she got to play on the playground. Or when I get her out of her wheelchair to put her in the car and she gives me the biggest hug ever. I love when you ask her a question and her little finger points enthusiastically with every answer. I love that she's becoming more brave. Crawling off of furniture without hurting herself, getting on all fours and taking the tiniest little baby crawls that are more like shuffles than actual crawls. She's learned to play with toys and has an actual desire to play and make messes and does it for hours on end. Something completely new and freeing for Derek and I. 

I often feel a crippling guilt about these miracles that we've been given. How come we're given so much and other people have to face such hard and devastating things? I remember being pregnant with Em and thinking I could really handle whatever her life turned out to be. Maybe I'm not as strong as I thought I was, and maybe Heavenly Father keeps proving himself to me now, so that I can look back and remember all the miracles that we had to ease the pain later. I don't know how all this ends. Right now though, we're in the season of miracles, and it's a season that I will relish my entire life.

My Winter Medicine Cabinet Must Haves

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc., Breathe Right, DIAL®, Halls, Kleenex, Theraflu and TYLENOL®. All opinions are mine alone. #HappilyStocked #CollectiveBias

During the winter months I become the world's most paranoid person ever. I haven't been like this my entire life, but because Em is considered "medically fragile" with her diagnosis of holoprosencephaly, I try to be extra vigilant during the winter to make sure our house stays germ free, and that when someone does catch something, I like to make sure our house is well stocked and prepared ahead of time, so that we can nip whatever is going around in the bud before it gets out of hand. In the early fall I usually head over to Smith's and pick up everything we'll need in on fell swoop, that way everything is on hand when we need it, and we're not rushing out the door to get something the moment someone gets a sniffle. We like to keep lots of things on hand, but here are six things we never like to be without:

Dial Hand Soap: As you can imagine, I'm a huge advocate for hand washing. I try to keep at least three backups of Dial Complete Foaming Handwash in the cabinet at all times. I love that it's antibacterial and kills 99.9% of germs, and that it's America's #1 selling soap.

Halls Cough Drops: These are a must have for when you get that scratch in your throat that won't go away. I love the honey lemon flavor, something Derek turned me onto after we got married, and I love that these ones have triple soothing action, so they get the job done quickly!

Kleenex Anti-Viral Tissues: Tissues are an obvious no brainer, but these Kleenex Anti-viral tissues kill 99.9% of germs in the tissue. Nothing like getting the germs killed right on the spot. Bonus points for being the #1 consumer preferred brand!

Breathe Right Extra: I never understood why my parents used these when I was younger, and now as an adult, I can't live without them. My nose always gets so stuffed when I try to sleep in the winter months and it is awful! I love using Breathe Right Extra because it helps breathe, sleep, and feel better without harmful drugs, and it's super easy to apply!

Tylenol Cold And Flu Severe: Derek is basically good for one intense round of getting "man sick" every winter, and Tylenol Cold and Flu Severe is his go to. He like's that there are both daytime, and nighttime pills in one package so he doesn't have to get multiple products. It's his go to for all in one relief from cold and flu symptoms.

Theraflu ExpressMax: Know how basically every mom says that it should be illegal for mom's to get sick? I love taking Theraflu ExpressMax Severe Cold and Flu because it's powerful relief without a prescription, and it defeats 7 cold and flu symptoms fast. That way I can keep the house running and the kids alive while Derek is in bed being "man sick".
What are your favorite items to stock the house with in the winter months? I love that I can grab everything I need at Smith's before the season gets here, and know that I have some peace of mind all winter long! Take advantage of savings on these products.

Breathe Right - Read and follow label directions.
© The Dial Corporation, a Henkel company - Claims based on unit sales of soap products in last 52 weeks scanned data
HALLS Cough Drops temporarily soothe sore throats.
Kleenex® is a Registered Trademark of Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc. © KCWW..
Theraflu - Read and follow label directions. Theraflu is for use in adults 12 years and older. Use products only as directed.
TYLENOL® - Use products only as directed. The makers of TYLENOL® remind you to use only one medicine with acetaminophen at a time.

What Will Em's Future Look Like

Tracking Pixel
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of ABLEnow.

Despite the fact that Em has overcome many obstacles in terms of her disability, there are still so many unknowns ahead of us that we do not know. Some questions that have yet to be answered are: Will Em walk? Will Em be independent when she grows up? How long Tracking Pixelwill she live for? Will she need assistance her entire life? What happens if she outlives Derek and I?

These are all real things that Derek and I don't have exact answers for, but they're things that definitely worry me, and leave me with knots in my chest if I'm left to think about them for too long. Possible scenarios for Em's future are her living with Jay and his future family, although I would never ask that of him, and I know what a strain that could be on his family. She could live in an adult group home with other people with disabilities, or she could be completely fine, get a college degree, and live and support herself. We just don't know.

Instead of focusing on all of the things we can't control, Derek and I have started putting our efforts on things that we can control- investing money into Em's future. Up until recently, people with disabilities were unable to save for their future, out of fear of losing their public benefits (Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, etc...) Advocates have fought hard for this, resulting in the ABLE Act, and the new ABLEnow program. This means that for the first time eligible individuals with disabilities are able to invest in a tax advantaged savings program and save for their future, enabling them to achieve more independence, financial security, and a better quality of life. We want her future to be secured, no matter what happens down the road.

My favorite part of the ABLEnow account is that Derek and I aren't the only ones who can contribute to it. Over the next few months we're going to be having conversations with various family members who typically send money to the kids for holidays and birthdays and ask them if they would make a monetary donation into her account instead. This will give Derek and I the comfort of knowing that there is money going into the account throughout the year, even if it's not in our own budget to be contributing all the time, especially in this season of paying off student loans and saving for a new home.

ABLEnow is currently available for enrollment online, and is one of the fastest growing ABLE programs in the country. Even though some states have yet to start their own ABLE programs, ABLEnow is administered by Virginia529 (the country's largest college savings plan), and is available to eligible individuals in all 50 states.

The future is so scary to think about, especially when it comes to thinking about how your child will live once you're gone. While those questions break my heart, and can sometimes feel crippling, I'm grateful to know that we're doing what we can to ensure a great life and future for Em.

This is a sponsored post by me on behalf of AbleNOW.

DIY Diaper Clutch

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias Inc, and it's advertiser, all thoughts and opinions are my own. #NothingLikeAHug #CollectiveBias

The holiday season is right around the corner, which means we're going to be doing a lot of traveling in the car the next few months. We'll be heading four hours north to Idaho for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then down to Southern Utah for a few days in Late December for a wedding. We're still in the diapering phase of life right now, and the last few weeks we've found ourselves without a diaper at the wrong time. I sewed this diaper clutch a couple days ago to leave in the car at all times, so we don't have to be caught without a diaper at the wrong time during the busy holiday season. 

Our diapers of choice lately have been the Huggies Little Movers. I love them because now that Em is crawling and moving more and more, I love that they stay in place and keep everything in place during playtime. I'm also a huge fan on the Huggies One and Done Natural Care wipes. They come in convenient travel packs, are thick enough to get messes cleaned fast, and they're the #1 branded baby wipe. 

Hover over this photo to shop the products!

I've been a long time fan of Sam's Club, so they're our number one diaper retailer of choice. I love that I can order everything I need online with the Sam's Club Pick-up service, and then show up to the club and get my order brought out to me. Right now when you purchase two Huggies items at Sam's Club, you can get an additional $8 off their already low prices now through 11/22/17. You can also get an additional $4 rebate when you submit your purchase through Ibotta.

(2) 1/4 yard fabric in two separate prints
sewing machine
Pattern (Found here at Crafty Little Projects)

Print your patter pieces. You need two copies of the large piece and one copy of the smaller piece. Cut and tape one of those larger pieces to the flap piece to form the back piece, and the other piece is your front.

Fold your fabric and lay the pattern on the fold so that the straight edge is on the folded part. Cut one front piece and one back piece in each fabric for a total of four pieces.

Now put right sides together and sew them together around the sides and the bottom.

Now turn your inside fabric right side out and stick it down into the outside fabric, so that right sides are touching.

Flip your fabric over and begin sewing the two pieces of the flap where shown in this photo.

Sew down that side until you get to the part where the front and back piece join across the middle. Sew across those two making sure that you are only sewing the front of the bag and not the back. (So you should be sewing 2 pieces of fabric, not 4.) Then sew across the middle and up the other side. This is what it looks like in the sewing machine. 

Once it comes out of the machine, pull the inside out through the opening in the top. Pull out the inner fabric, and then the outer. Then put the inside fabric back into the outside fabric, and then straighten out the corners and press down the sides. 

Fold the top opening under itself, and then stitch it shut. 

Once everything the top part is sewn, your clutch is ready to be used. You can add velcro or a button to keep it closed if needed. 

What is one way that you're prepping for all the busy holidays and traveling in the months ahead? I love stocking up for all my diapers and wipes now at Sam's Club so it's one less thing I have to worry about later. Be sure to take advantage of the $8 off instant rebate and $4 Ibotta offer until 11/22/17!