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How I Balance Being A Working Mom, While Going to School Full Time, and Everything Else

One of the most frequently asked questions that I've been getting since I announced that I'm going back to school is, "How in the world do you do it all?" To give perspective into my life, I'm currently taking 7 college classes, working full time on the blog (if you're still of the minority who believes this blog cannot possibly be a full time job that financially supports our family, I'm sorry, I can't help you.) I'm serving as our ward Young Women President, which eats up roughly four hours a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. I also have zero help with childcare, and I don't have a maid... so basically everything is on me most days. 

With all of that mentioned, the question of "How do I do it all?" is a very fair question. The first thing to mention is that I don't do everything perfectly, and I really have to prioritize what is important to me, and what isn't. 

I made the decision at the beginning of the semester that weekends were going to be sacred to me, and that I would never do homework on the weekends. I wanted this time to be able to relax, and do fun things with my kids. So I made it a priority to get all my school work done during the day when the kids are at school, and in the evenings long after they're asleep. 

Each morning after I drop Jay off at school, I come home with Em, and while she plays with toys, I try and get an hour or two of school work done before I have to start getting her dressed and ready for preschool.  Em is in school for 2.5 hours a day. Most often when she gets dropped off I hit it hard and get as much work done in that two hour block as I can. Whatever I don't get done in that time I have to do when the kids go to bed. After school time is another part of the day that I've safe guarded as a no work time. This way I can help Jay with homework, and spend time playing with the kids without them feeling like they never get my attention, and make dinner so we're not in a drive-thru every night of the week.

When the kids go to bed at 7pm, I start working on school work, and will until about 11:30pm, but sometimes as late as about 1:30am. I'm much more willing to give up on sleep during the week when I know I'm going to be able to catch up again on the weekends. 

My church calling has a really structured schedule, so I'm always able to know and predict when that's going to happen. I have about two meetings each Sunday before church, and then activities on Tuesday nights for about 2-3 hours. If I'm teaching on Sunday, then I plan my lesson on Saturday before church, and if we're going on visits during the week, that happens after bedtime when the kids are asleep, and means that I'll work later on homework that evening. 

As far as the blog goes, I realized that there were a lot of tasks that I was doing each day, that didn't necessarily benefit blog growth, so I cut them out and now only do the most important tasks. It means that I don't write as much unsponsored content right now, which I feel bad about, but I've been blessed to have really amazing sponsors the last few months which has helped me to be able to put out amazing content, keep making money, and keep this place floating along without having to worry too much about whether I'm going to have money to pay for all the medical bills and extra life things that happen at the end of the month. 

Another thing we've been doing for the blog is taking all the photos that we can for posts over the weekend, and then writing as many of them during the weekend as we can, that way I can schedule them ahead of time, and only spend about an hour or so working on the blog each day when the kids are at school, or while I'm waiting in the carpool line, or whenever I get a few seconds here or there. 

And lastly, if you pick up one new thing in your life, it means that something has to hit the back burner. Last year I spent so much time on physical exercise. I ran one marathon, ten half marathons, and completed one 100 mile bike ride. I quickly learned that physical activity would definitely be the thing hitting the back burner this year, and I'm completely okay with that. I'm still exercising about three days a week, but it's nowhere near the volume or intensity that it once was. My goal is to maintain a good base of fitness, eat healthy, and then when school is done in June, hit it hard with some new big goals for 2020. 

Like anything, life is a balance. You have to figure out what is most important to you, and then work all the other things around it. We each get 24 hours, and we each get to decide how we use that time. This certainly is a very busy and tiring time in my life, but it is also so incredibly rewarding. I'm filled with gratitude for all the things that I get to do this year, and I know that finishing my degree is going to have major benefits for my family in the years to come, so it's worth it, every bit of it. 

My Go-To Layers With Cuddl Duds

This post is sponsored by Cuddl Duds but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Now that the weather has cooled off from our super hot summer, it is officially cold in Utah and I'm busting out all the cold weather gear. Whenever there is a change in the season I like to take out all my clothes that I had from the year before, see what will still work this year, donate the things that no longer work, and then add in a few more key pieces to get me through the new season. 

A few staples that I didn't have to get me through the winter were long sleeve basic shirts, some classic black leggings, and thicker sweaters that will actually keep me warm, instead of being more than just a fashion piece. I needed something that was actually functional and would keep me warm. 

I was recently introduced to the Cuddl Duds line at Macy's and have been super impressed with the quality and feel of their pieces. The leggings and long sleeve tee that I'm wearing feel as soft as butter, while the long, open-front fleece cardigan is not only incredibly soft, but super warm and functional for both cuddling up inside, and playing with the kids in the backyard or running out . to grab the mail. 

I feel like I can go from super hot, to super cold in a matter of minutes, so having base layers like their high-waisted Softwear Leggings with Sretch, and their Softwear with Stretch Long Sleeve Crew as a base is the perfect start to a cozy outfit, and then I can easily take on and off my Fleecewear with Stretch Long Sleeve Hooded Wrap whenever I need for optimal comfort. 

Right now you can get 25% off Cuddl Duds warmwear for her, in-store and online at Macy's. Offer runs 11/7-11/20. These come in the best packaging that would be perfect for either treating yourself, or wrapping up under the tree for someone you love this holiday season. 

When Both Our Kids Can Play Freely + Video

This post was sponsored by Landscape Structures as part of a Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

There were a lot of perks to our new construction home falling through on us over the summer. It meant that we were able to find a handicap accessible house in our current neighborhood, keep our kids in the same school, same church congregation, and we were still only minutes away from a Landscape Structures all abilities playground. This might not be a huge deal for some, but to us it means everything. 

Our house that we were building was on the other side of the mountain from where we live now, and it would have been a 40 mile drive to the closest accessible playground for Em to play at and be comfortable. When you have a child with physical disabilities, the number of places you can easily go-to is already small, and loosing our awesome community playground that she loves would have been heartbreaking for us. 

October is Sensory Awareness month and Landscape Structures believes that through inclusive play, kids learn life lessons like leadership, persistence, support, and empathy. I love when we're out in public and little kids see the wheels on Em's wheelchair light up and exclaim to their parents, "That's so cool!", or when little girls in the hallways at school gush over how cute she is. It's amazing to live in a community where kids with disabilities are widely accepted and have the support and resources that they need. 

Inclusive play goes beyond accessibly though, and addresses age and developmental appropriateness, and sensory stimulating activity. I love that our local Landscape Structures playground has not only your typical playground equipment, but it also has a fun music station with percussion instruments to play with too. 

Social equity and inclusion are huge topics in society today, and I firmly believe that inclusion begins in childhood. If we give our kids the tools and opportunities to immerse themselves with people of other cultures and abilities when they're young, it's going to open the doors for them to be leaders and inclusive when they're adults. This pays huge dividends for people with disabilities who rely on and need those strong and inclusive leaders when they grow up. Inclusiveness begins in childhood, and Landscape Structures lays the foundation for those relationships and experiences to happen, and our family couldn't be more grateful for that. 

20 Minute Tika Masala

This post was sponsored by Passage Foods as part of an Influencer Activation. All opinions expressed in my post are my own. 

Whenever my life get's super stressful and out of control, I feel like the first thing to go downhill for me is making weeknight dinners. I really love cooking, so it makes me sad that this is the first thing to always take the fall. With school this year and all of life's demands, I'm constantly looking for quick and easy meal ideas that are unique and different, but also super flavorful and kid friendly. 

Our family has been huge fans of Indian food for the last several years, so we're always on the lookout for some quick and easy ways to make it at home. We recently purchased the Passage to India Tika Masala simmer sauce from Walmart to make for dinner one night this week, and our entire family was blown away by how delicious and flavorful it was! Passage to India simmer sauces are non-GMO, gluten and BPA free, and they're made with only wholesome and all natural ingredients. I love quick and easy meals that I can feel good about giving to my kids, without having to worry about all the hidden ingredients lurking inside of them. 

Passage to India makes Indian recipe cooking easy with their easy-to-use authentic flavored simmer sauces that can be cooked in 20 minutes of less. Basically these sauces are weeknight warriors in our house. We can't get enough. 

1lb boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped into bite size pieces
1 Passage to India Tika Masala Simmer Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
broccoli, for side dish

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook your chicken for a few minutes, so that it's no longer pink on the outside. Salt and pepper to taste at this point. Once your chicken is no longer pink on the outside, pour in your Passage to India Tika Masala Simmer Sauce, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked all the way through. 

While chicken is simmering, cook your rice and broccoli. To save time on busy weeknights, I cook a steam-able bag of broccoli in the microwave, and boil some instant rice on the stovetop so that everything is done cooking right when the chicken is cooked all the way through. 

Once your chicken is finished cooking, plate and serve immediately. 

Right now you can enter to win the Explore Passage Sweepstakes, where you can enter to win a $50,000 kitchen makeover and other exciting prizes. Visit www.explorepassage.com for official rules and more details.

Fall Living Room and Dinning Room Decor 2018

Oh the joy to be in our own home and feel like we can decorate and invest in a space again. Our home posts are some of my favorite ones that I do over here on the blog. When we moved from Georgia last year we got rid of all our decorations that I actually really loved, and so we're really starting from scratch in terms of decor and getting this house just how we want it. 

I really tried to replicate the same thing in this space that we had in our last house, but I was unable to find a lot of the same pieces, so I just had to do the best I could. The first thing we did was get some new pillows for the couch. I wanted something neutral that could last multiple seasons. When we moved here last year we did a Christmas project with At Home and had some Christmas pillows on the couch, and then we never got new ones and lived with Christmas pillows for an entire year. I got these pillow forms on Amazon, and then bought these buffalo check pillow covers to go on top of them. The other two pillows we've had from previous homes, and they work perfectly here! 

The next area to tackle was the fireplace. We're actually going to be painting the tile white and putting up a wood beam in the next few weeks, but for now we just found this garland at the craft store, and then painted some glass bottles white and stuck some fall leaves in them. We found this awesome holiday countdown at the Target Dollar Spot, and it even works for every holiday. It's fun to have something like that for Jay to look forward to changing each day. I bought the metal pumpkin from TJ Maxx, along with the candle and the small pumpkins. 

The final space we decorated was the dinning room. When we purchased this house we knew the first thing we would be getting was a new dinning room table. We found this Ashley Home Furniture table on Amazon, along with the four chairs, and the bench. The centerpiece and placemats were another TJ Maxx find, and then the spider web on the wall is something I started doing in our last house it Georgia. It's just black masking tape, and is super easy to do, but the kids love it! 

A Flammily Halloween Party

Over the weekend we went up to Idaho for our oldest nephew's birthday. He is the oldest of 17 grandchildren, and was turning 12 and getting ordained as a deacon at church on Sunday, so we went up to celebrate his big day, and since everyone was all there at the same time, we threw a Halloween party for the nieces and nephews too! 

This party was basically a pinterest explosion with all the fun things we've seen on the internet since the dawn of the beloved social media platform in 2012. We had everything from apple monsters, homemade root beer, a pumpkin made of carrots and black olives, string cheeses with ghost faces drawn on the wrappers, and so many other fun things!

We also did several minute to win it games, like carrying a plastic eye ball on a spoon and seeing who could cross the finish line first, and who could blow a spider ring across a sheet pan while only blowing through a straw the fastest. I made a fun ping pong ball game where I painted some mason jars orange and black and then we had ping pong balls and you got a prize every time you got the ball into a jar. One of my sister-in-laws made a fun pumpkin poke game where they hid tricks (toothpaste or floss), or treats (candy) inside some solo cups wrapped with tissue paper and you had to blindly poke through one and see what you got! My super talented niece made the pin the hat on the pumpkin game, which turned out so cute! I can't believe she is only 11 and can draw like that!

I come from a super small family with zero first cousins and so I love that we get to live relatively close to all of Derek's siblings so that we can do fun things like this from time to time. One of Derek's older sisters is usually the one that takes the wheel for the big gatherings like this and she always knocks it out of the park. Reasons like this are such a huge reason why we moved back to Utah, and I'm so grateful our kids get to grow up having moments like this in their life.

Six Week #HappyFlammilyBetterHealth Challenge + Instant Pot Giveaway!

As many of you know, I'm finishing the last year of my undergrad program this year in Public Health. The further and further I get into my classes, the more and more I realize that there are so many things that I could and should be doing to better my overall health and quality of life.

Me post 10 mile run on Saturday!

The problem is, when I think of all the changes I need to make to be "healthy",  I get overwhelmed and tend to do nothing instead of doing anything at all. When I feel overwhelmed by anything in other areas of life (long list of daily tasks, homework, kids, errands, etc...), it's easy for me to take a deep breath, tell myself to do one thing at a time, and then get going. 

I realized a few weeks ago that this same principle applies to health as well. We don't have to change every bad habit over night, we just have to change one thing at a time. This is where this fun challenge that I have created comes into play!

This entire challenge is going to take place over on Instagram. If you're not following me over at @thehappyflammily, then do that so you don't miss out on any of this. Each Sunday I'm going to announce what the week's challenge will be. The challenge for the week will run from Monday-Saturday. On Sunday I'll add up all the entires, announce the winner, and then announce the giveaway and challenge for the next week. 

To enter the giveaway each week, all you have to do is take a picture of you on your instastories each day completing the task and tag @thehappyflammily with the hashtag #HappyFlammilyBetterHealthChallenge, and #InstantPotGiveaway. Each day that you enter the giveaway gives you an entry into the weekly giveaway, but it also gives you an entry into the grand prize giveaway on week 6... AN INSTANT POT! How awesome is that!? I don't even own an Instant Pot, so consider me jealous of whoever wins this thing! 

Some house keeping details: All the prizes being given away each week are being funded with my own money and are not being sponsored or endorsed by the brands, people, and companies involved in these giveaways. All of the items being given away are high quality items that I either personally love myself, or would really want to personally own. 

Listed below are the weekly challenges along with their respected prizes. I am so excited to kick off this challenge and would love all of the support that you're willing to give!

Week One: Drink 64oz of water per day. Prize: 32oz Hydro Flask 
Week Two: Exercise for 30 minutes per day. Prize: 1 pair Senita Athletic Leggings
Week Three: Eat five fruits/veggies per day. Prize: FitnessCarli 14 Day Meal Plan
Week Four: No processed sugar for a week. Prize: Gift basket of Walden Farms Syrup, Kodiak Cakes, iHeartMacros Protein of choice
Week Five: Take a daily probiotic or vitamin supplement. Prize: Collection of vitamins from NOW Foods.
Week Six: Cook dinner at home each night. Prize: 6 Quart Instant Pot