Marriage Mondays: Growing Together

Tonight I thought I would write about the importance of growing together as a couple. When people divorce, you often hear the phrase, “We grew apart.” How does that happen? I think it probably starts subtly. It likely creeps in and before you know it, you feel like you don’t recognize the person you’re married to. I strongly believe any good marriage takes work. When I look at couples I admire who have amazing longstanding relationships and are still in love, I hear the same thing! What you put into it, you’ll get out of it.

But back to my point, how do you fight against the whole growing apart? I think you learn to grow together! This is something my husband and I try to work on daily, weekly, and just make part of our relationship. We don’t always get it right but we constantly are evaluating what we can do to do better, be better, and love each other better.

Here’s the thing: there are so many times we fail! We snap at each other, attitudes get the best of us, we want to be right so pride kicks in, and the list goes on. I can probably write several books on our imperfections and shortcomings. But I want to be married to this man for forever because I love him. This means I will do everything I can to continue to strengthen and build our relationship.

What I’m sharing here is what we’ve done in the past and what we are currently doing. Please share what you and your spouse do, would love to hear it!

Ways You Can Grow Together: 

1. Pray together and keep a prayer journal together.


This is simple and if you think you don’t have the time, I promise you it’s not some long drawn out process. Also, there are times where we miss some nights. Give yourself grace, don’t be hard on yourself, and get back on the horse. Anyway, we sit down together and we come up with a list of things we want to pray about. Topics are sometimes broad but usually super specific. The more specific the better. We write these down and take turns praying for each one. This isn’t longer than ten minutes. I really like doing this because I feel like I get to hear about what’s on my husband’s heart, different parts of his day, and what he feels a particular burden for. Then I can share with him what’s on my heart and we can share that together and pray about it together. We’ve seen God do some amazing miracles in our lives in direct correlation to what we’ve prayed about together during our sessions.

2. Find hobbies or interests you enjoy together.


My husband and I are really similar but we’re also complete opposites in a lot of ways. The things I like and the things he likes to do vary on a really wide scale. In the past, I’ve focused more on just what I liked (because God is still working out the selfishness in me – don’t judge me y’all) but recognizing that marriage is about compromise. The things we enjoy doing together are reading a book together out loud and talking about what we’ve read, watching comedic shows, riding bikes, and singing/playing music together.

3. Take a genuine interest in each other’s life.

I live for pillow talk!

Ask questions! Don’t get so comfortable that you forget the wonder of each other and the wonder of marriage. Be interested and engaged in what’s happening in your spouse’s life. If you know me, you know I love to ask about 101 questions. Sometimes I drive Jose crazy because  I will ask about everything. He’s a realtor so when he gets home I’ll ask him about the houses he showed, the clients, his day, anything else, and it may drive him nuts sometimes but I am genuinely interested in what’s going on in his life! This is because I am highly interested in HIM! Never stop asking questions, never stop caring, don’t just ask mundane questions but be specific. Can you tell I’m all about the detail?

4. Challenge each other.

Challenge each other to be better and do better each day. ENCOURAGE. Push. Build one another up. Don’t do it in the form of nagging. It’s really easy to slip into the nagging mode, which I know pretty well! Ha! Don’t be afraid to call each other out on the carpet. My husband calls me out and I call him out. I don’t mean to publicly shame your spouse. I mean that when you’re on your own time, don’t be afraid to call them out/call them up to all who they are as needed.

5. Hold each other accountable.

Earlier this year I asked my husband to write down a list of his goals: specifically what he wanted to accomplish this year. I asked him to share those goals with me and then we talked about it. I shared my goals with him. Because we both have an idea of what we are aiming for individually and as a family, it’s easier to hold each other accountable. For example, I know of my husband’s goals is to cycle more. It’s a hobby of his and he enjoys it. Because I know this, when I see life getting hectic I’ll ask him if he’s cycled this week. If the answer is no, we’ll look for a way to pencil that in so he can do that. It may seem silly/simple but it was something on his goals list. One of my personal goal’s was to work more on a story that I’ve been writing. I enjoy writing. When there is down time, my husband will say, “Hey, how are you doing with your story?” or “Why don’t you take some of this time to write?” In this way, I feel like he’s holding me accountable to my goals. This kind of goes with #4 and it’s important that we don’t nag, but it’s nice to know that I have someone who will hold me accountable and push me forward.

6. Serve together.

This is probably the most important! Grow together by thinking outside of yourselves and thinking of others. So much of a healthy marriage is about living a life of selflessness.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  1 Peter 4:10

For Jose and I, this looks like serving in ministry together! We both serve in our local church. We have always served in whatever church we have attended together because it’s important to us. Find a place or a way you can both serve together.

These are just a few things that we do that work for us and that, in my opinion, help us grow together. What are some things that you and your spouse do to grow together? Would love to hear your thoughts below! Thanks for

When It’s Time to End a Friendship

I am grateful for friendships. I believe that powerful, healthy friendships can inspire, breathe life, and encourage you in the valleys of life. These friendships will challenge you, correct you, and push you to do better and be better. When God places this kind of friend in your life, you hold on tight. I’ve written about that before about two of my closest friends.

Yet, I wanted to tackle this subject from the other side. What happens when a friendship is no longer life giving and instead seems to choke the life out of you? When instead of feeling challenged you feel defeated and instead of pushing you to your best, this friendship brings out all the ugly sides of you? What happens when a friendship is no longer very positive and produces no good fruit in your life? What do you do?

The Bible does say after all, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” – ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭17:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

But what happens when a friendship turns toxic? What choices do you have? In my opinion, a pretty simple one. You end it and love from a distance. What I’m NOT saying: drop your friends at the drop of a hat anytime they’re struggling. Nope. I’m talking about a “friend” that consistently and continuously drains all the life out of you and more. Keep reading.

How do you know when and if you should do that?

1. The friendship is no longer life giving for either of you.

If friendship is supposed to be refreshing for the soul and it no longer happens to be, then it’s time to move on. A friend should not feel like a burden. When I spend time with good friends, I leave feeling happy and encouraged. The Bible says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17. If the only thing that’s sharp about this friendship is the attitude given both ways, re-examine. 

2. You are constantly pouring in with very little return.

Have you ever had a friendship where you’ve given your all only to receive nothing in return? Yes, it’s better to give than to receive, but a friendship where you’re always giving with very little reciprocated will suck all of the life out of you. These are the “friends” that you never hear from unless they are in crisis. Then you are supposed to drop your life to tend to theirs and if you can’t, you aren’t a good friend. No. Just no.

3. It’s always all about them with little interest in your life.

I love to talk, but even more so I like to listen [but don’t get me wrong, I can talk too].  I like to ask questions and learn more about a person. There’s a 90% chance I’ll ask something that’s personal or that most people might not dare to ask. I know this because my husband tells me all the time to relax on that end, but I can’t because I genuinely like learning about people. However, there are people who will demand that your entire world revolves around them without a simple, “HOW ARE YOU THOUGH?!” This isn’t cool. If very little interest is given to what’s going on in your life then it may be time to reevaluate.

4. It brings out the worst side of you.

If your friends bring out the worst aspects of your personality, it’s time to say #byefelicia. I won’t even elaborate on this one because I feel like it’s pretty self-explanatory.

5. It’s full of drama and they are petty as all get out.

I HATE DRAMA. There are people who thrive on drama and would love nothing better than to eat, sleep, and breathe it. Drama with a side of crisis please. No thanks! Save the drama for your mama. High school was more than ten years ago and I have zero interest in going back! People who will get mad over petty things (LIKE OMG, CAN YOU BELIEVE SHE DIDN’T SAY HI TO ME OR INVITE ME TO HER PARTY! *Insert Hair Toss Here*) have no place at my table. I’m a middle school teacher who deals with pettiness all day long (SO AND SO TOOK MY FIDGET SPINNER!) and will be over a petty drama filled person in two seconds flat. Ain’t. Nobody. Got. Time. For. That.

Questions You Might Have:

  • But what if we’ve been friends forever? He’s my childhood friend!

Just because something has been going on for a long time doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a good thing. It may be a friendship of comfort or convenience. In my opinion, that is not enough of a good reason to maintain that kind of friendship if it looks like the reasons that I listed above.

  • What if my mission is to help them? After all, I really want to help them.

If you feel you have been specifically called by God to do that, then, by all means, go forth and do so. But so many times we try to save something or someone that we have no business saving.  There comes a certain point when helping someone begins to hurt them instead of helping them. You will wear yourself thin trying to constantly help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

Real Talk: I didn’t write this post because I have always been the epitome of a perfect friend. There have been a lot of times where I’ve failed and times where even now, I still get it wrong! But as I get older, I want to surround myself with people who will build me up, encourage me, challenge me, and put me in my place when I need to be put in my place. In the same regard, I want to be that person for others!

So here is my final thought: take a close look at some of the friendships in your life. Take a close look at yourself. Evaluate.

 

And then they were…FOUR?!

I blinked and my babies became toddlers who became small children. Weren’t they just born? Didn’t I just celebrate their first birthday? Didn’t I just write an open letter to them after their first year? WHAT IS HAPPENING.

Mommies and Daddies: Hold on to every single second. Cherish every moment. Document less. Just be. Soak in every moment. Hold their hands, kiss their boo-boos, snuggle with them every day. You blink and they’ve moved on to the next age.

Here are some fun facts about my boys:

micah:

1. He Is such a dreamer and has such a powerful imagination.

I love to quietly observe him. My Micah gets completely lost in his world of superheroes and toys. He goes on wild adventures, his imagination is seriously astounding. You can give him a box and he’ll turn it into an imaginary castle for all of his toys. He will envision a world. The TV stand becomes a cliff for the Justice League to jump off to save the day. He inspires me to imagine and dream on a daily basis. He is such a kid in the best way.

2. He takes an eternity to like anyone.

Micah is the kind of kid who won’t hand out his love for free. If you want him to be in your corner you have to earn his affection. He doesn’t smile for strangers or talk to them. If you want an in when it comes to his heart you better get to know him and be entertaining. Otherwise, expect stares and scowls. The best part is that once he DOES like you, you’re in for good. He’ll give out his million dollar smirks like they’re free candy. It just might take you a year to earn it.

3. He lives for the tease and likes to prank people.

I know I probably shouldn’t love this, but it’s actually funny sometimes. He likes to play jokes on people and trick them. I see it as someone who’s creative and clever. He does it to Josiah the most and Josiah HATES it the majority of the time, but he gets a kick out of driving people nuts at times and mostly Josiah.

JOSIAH

1. HE’S OBSESSED WITH MUSIC LIKE HIS PARENTS. AND HE’S REALLY GOOD AT IT.

Josiah loves the drums and is actually quite good at playing them for a toddler. He has his own kid set upstairs and will play hours on end and when he doesn’t want to go upstairs, he will play on the couch. My favorite Josiah moments are when I hear him humming loudly the songs that we’ve sung in church. On Sundays, he says, “Mommy are you singing today? I like when you sing” and my heart pretty much melts right into the floor.

2. HE WAKES UP HAPPY.

I’m not a morning person at all. Early bird catches the worm? Forget the worm. I don’t care about it if it means I can sleep for a few extra hours. That being said, Josiah wakes up with a grin whether it’s in the morning or it’s after his nap. He’s one of those kids that wakes up with a bounce in his step. He’s ALWAYS been a happy little guy even when he was a baby! It’s funny how they say that you can see the personalities of kids as babies because for my boys it was mostly true!

3. HE IS A MOMMA’S BOY AND LIVES FOR THE SNUGGLE.

My Josiah is a shameless snuggler. He will snuggle with me all day long without any apologies or cares. If he’s watching a TV show, he loves it when I sit close to him and hold him. He’s a momma’s boy through and through and I love it so much! Whereas Micah needs his space, Josiah is usually good with me being in his space and welcomes it. He also has a harder time when I go anywhere: “Mommy, don’t go to work! Stay with me!”

Guys, I LOVE THIS AGE SO MUCH. I don’t care what anyone says, for me, each age gets better and better. This stage is probably my absolute favorite. 

Here’s a glimpse of three through the year!

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First day of preschool was approached with mixed feelings by the boys.

They started to find their place in Sunday School and grew to love it! They love going to church and learning about Jesus.

 

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My babies started off as little shorties with their pants rolled up. By the end of the year, the same pants were high waters.

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One of their favorite activities is to play at the park together!

 

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Micah the model. I like this picture because he’s starting to look like a little boy instead of a baby. God help me!

 

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Dress up for school!

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For a school assignment, they had to dress up like old men! Another day in the books for preschool.

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New tradition – tree cutting for Christmas!

 

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This year they became more cuddly with each other. They’re super protective of one another and yell at anyone who goes against a brother. They have each other’s backs.

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Just another hard day in the life of a toddler.

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Micah became quite the little photo lover this year. This is his favorite facial expressions for taking pictures.

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Oh boy – you can read more about Christmas pictures gone wrong [spot the jelly beans?] in one of my previous posts!

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Snuggle king Josiah doing what he does.

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Most kids like their cider in a cup…not my kid.

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Love this picture that captures the dynamic of their relationship so well!

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By the spring, they were preschool pros and came to love school SO MUCH!

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A mommy surrounded by her handsome sons! My babes!

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Birthday party fun for one of our faves!

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They like to unwind with a cup of “coffee” and night time chats.

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Their first pair of Jordans courtesy of our dear friend Sabrina! They felt so cool and love their ‘basketball shoes for basketball!’ they remind me.

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Zoo hangs are our favorite!

fraternal twins Easter outfit

Probably my favorite Easter outfit they’ve ever worn!

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Good Friday they had to look sharp too of course!

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Long park walks and explorations became a really fun way to hang out for us!

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Probably one of my favorite pictures ever – Micah’s face says it all when it comes down to how much he loves his brother.

Prep's Pizza Ocean City, NJ

Pizza and glasses at our favorite pizza place.

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ZOO FUN!

 

Ocean City, NJ

Favorite family spot and the home of our vacation – Ocean City, NJ. This was after school when we all decided we needed some time at the boardwalk!

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Most happy by the sea.

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You’ve got a friend in me.

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I love how tan my boys get every summer! They are my little cookies!

 

Ocean City, NJ

Beach Vacation 2017.

Smithville, NJ

Riding through life together one mile at a time.

 

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The best I can get with toddlers. After all, they’re only…four!

 

Marriage Mondays: Don’t Get Married for the Wrong Reasons

As you probably know about me at this point, I think marriage is awesome. You can check out past Marriage Monday posts and see that I find great value in marriage [to the right person]. That being said, so many people get married for the wrong reasons. They think that marriage is a magical fix-it band-aid that will make everything better.

Newsflash.

That is not what marriage is.

Marriage is a commitment to love someone until your dying day and demonstrate that love by standing by them through the ups and downs of life. Staying with them when you’re swimming in money. Staying with them when you don’t have two nickels to rub together. Being with someone during sickness, health, and everything in-between. Marriage is REAL y’all! It’s supposed to be for forever.

That being said, so many people get married for the wrong reasons. If you’re single, in a relationship, engaged, or whatever the case may be, check your heart and make sure you’re not about to get married for the wrong reason.

5 wrong reasons to get married to someone:

  1. You want a fancy wedding.

Maybe you’re reading that and scoffing at it. Yeah right, who would get married for a nice wedding?  We all know that girl who has been planning their wedding day since they could talk and walk. Some people even have Pinterest boards that have their whole dream wedding documented and they’re not in a relationship yet – I’m not throwing shade, I promise – but some people get so caught up in a beautiful wedding they forget that after the wedding there is an actual marriage to tend to. I think that if people put the effort, time, and energy into their marriages that they put into their actual wedding day, you would see an abundance of relationships thrive. The point I’m making is this: your wedding day is one single day. Your marriage is supposed to be the rest of your life. Invest!

2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend sucks, but if you marry them all of their suckiness will go away.

NOT TRUE! NOT TRUE! NOT TRUE! Can you tell I’m screaming this virtually from my use of caps? The number one mistake I see is that a person marries someone thinking that they can change them. IF YOU WON’T MARRY THEM EXACTLY AS THEY, ARE DON’T MARRY THEM. If they are a terrible person beforehand, don’t think that solely because you have put a ring on their finger they will suddenly be magical. Marriage doesn’t magically make a terrible person a better one. Don’t marry someone for this reason.

3. You hate being alone.

Marrying someone because you hate being alone is just not enough of a good reason to marry someone. Do you hate being alone? Join a book club. Find a church. Go to a paint party. Yes, companionship is wonderful and marriage is beautiful in that you have a friend and a partner to walk through life with. However, marrying someone on the basis of not being alone is just not enough. Know yourself. Spend time alone. Learn to be content independently. I firmly believe you’ll be a better spouse!

4. It’s part of your 5 year, 10 year, ___ year life plan.

Perhaps you are one of those life planner people. For example, it goes like this: By 25 I want to be in a serious committed relationship on the way to engagement. By 26, I want to be engaged. By 27,  I want to be married. By 28 I want to have my first kid because I CAN’T HAVE KIDS IN MY 30S OMG WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I HAVE A CHILD IN MY 30S.  Calm down. There’s nothing wrong with having a plan! But here’s what I’ve learned: life plans are funny. Most of the time we plan away and there are certain things you can’t control. Don’t settle for someone who isn’t the right person for you so you can check it off your life plan.  A lifetime is too long to be with someone just because it fell into your five-year plan.

5. you’re tired of dating. 

I once heard someone say, “This is the last relationship I plan on being in because I’m tired of dating and just want to get married.” They didn’t mention being in love, whether the person they were dating had the qualities they wanted or anything along those lines.  All I could think to myself was, “Well, that’s some love story to tell one day.” They just wanted to be done with what they felt like was the grueling process of dating. From what I can see from the outside looking in [people not wanting to be committed and living in more of a hook-up type of generation] I can only imagine how exhausting the whole dating process must be now.  Especially when so many people play games. However, it’s not a good reason to settle. Forever is too long. If you’re tired of dating, take a break from it for awhile. Don’t settle for some Joe Schmo who you don’t really care about. It’s a waste for you and that person and will cost you both in the end.

All of this to say, marriage is awesome and if you are going to get married to someone, don’t do it for the wrong reasons. Xo!

 

8 Years Married: 8 Lessons I’ve Learned

Jose and I are celebrating 8 years of marriage! I am kind of in awe of that. I’m not surprised that we’re still married, but I can’t believe it’s been 8 years already.


It feels like just yesterday I was floating down the aisle towards my high school sweetheart, a bundle of nerves in my stomach but so sure in my heart. Eight years later, I am still so sure and so in love. In a culture that minimizes the importance of marriage and practically scoffs at commitment, where divorce runs rampant and marriages apparently face some kind of ‘7-year itch’ I can shout from the rooftops that MARRIAGE IS BEAUTIFUL. I still love it!

8 Lessons I’ve learned in 8 years of marriage:

1. Teamwork really does make the dream work.

I think part of what has helped our relationship flourish so much is the fact that we are a team. We team up on pretty much every single thing in life. His dreams are my dreams. My goals are his goals. We do what we can to support one another. I found that this is especially critical when it comes to parenting. We have always parented and continue to parent as a team. There is nothing that is deemed something that only mom does or dad does [okay, except maybe wrestling but I’m just not a wrestler!] We support each other. If he’s had a busy day with clients and has been out all day, I know I may have to step up when it comes to cooking, cleaning, or getting school things together for the boys. If I’ve had a challenging day and his day is slow, it’s nothing for him to cook dinner, do laundry, and pick up the kids from school. He is always willing to help me and vice versa. This is so integral to any relationship, in my opinion.

2. You reap what you sow.

You have heard this a thousand times. Why is that? BECAUSE IT’S TRUE. You will get out of a marriage what you put into it. If you treat your marriage like a piece of garbage, that’s what your marriage will eventually become. If you don’t prioritize your relationship or each other, it will reflect, I can promise that. Something that’s big for us is quality time. We can live in the same household and be two ships passing in the night if we don’t prioritize spending time together and having conversation. Because this is essential for the both of us, we make sure we pour a lot of that into our relationship, even if it means turning down other engagements [sorry family and friends – I still love you!]. I always want to sow into my relationship so that we can see the benefits of that.

3. for better or for worse truly means for better or for worse.

Life isn’t a fairytale and sometimes crap hits the fan. Life gets SUPER REAL all of a sudden. For Jose and I, three years into our marriage we faced the challenge of infertility. When our boys were born, they faced quite a few medical issues. The first year of their lives was SO hard! After that, one of the boys had a medical diagnosis that presented more challenges. And the list goes on and on. The point I’m making is that for all of the mountaintops we had, we had a ton of valleys. Our vows were tested repeatedly. Don’t go into marriage with the false assumption that you will ride off into the sunset and it will always be a fairytale. Yet, know that when you hit the hard times, these challenges will be a catalyst for growth if you allow them to be.

4. There’s no room for selfishness.

Marriage for me was a reality check that the entire world didn’t revolve around me. Growing up as a middle child but the only girl out of two brothers meant that I was the apple of my family’s eyes, especially on my dad’s side. I usually got what I wanted. I scoffed at the idea of cooking and cleaning because it wasn’t “fun” and I “didn’t like it.” I stood firm all the way up to the wedding day that I wouldn’t cook or clean and I shouldn’t have to because it was a gender stereotype that I was supposed to. A whole lot of words to sum up me being selfishness. Guess what? When I got back from the honeymoon and realized my new husband and I had to eat food, I learned to cook pretty quickly.

5. The Words you speak to each other matter.

I wrote a post already about this one, so I won’t repeat myself too much except to say this: you can’t take back words. Words have the power to bring life to your spouse or to destroy their spirit. Choose wisely and recognize that many marriages are destroyed over words.

6. romance and intimacy are important.

Sometimes couples get really comfortable and start to think this doesn’t matter or start treating their spouse like more of a live-in roommate. Don’t fall into that trap! Go on dates. Get creative. Try new adventures together. Protect your marriage and recognize that a little romance goes a long way! If you haven’t read the 5 Love Languages, I recommend that for any married couple. Find out your spouse’s love language and start speaking it. For me, whenever Jose gives me a handwritten card my heart just melts into a giant sappy puddle on the floor. Written words from him always make me cry for some reason. He can get me an amazing gift, but the card and his note to me is what always gets to me! It’s the little things!

 

7. The Two C’s: Compromising and Communication

Being married to my husband has taught me a lot about compromise! We have completely opposite tastes in a lot of areas. We enjoy doing different things. We don’t like the same kinds of movies. We have varying tastes in music. BUT the fun part is compromising with each other and as a result, stepping out of our comfort zones and tastes to do what the other loves! Communication is an obvious one, but it’s essential! I’m not a mind reader and neither is my husband. We have to communicate our struggles, desires, dreams, the bad days, good days, and everything inbetween. Also, just to talk. Unplug. Put phones away and have solid conversation.

8. No marriage should be an island.

Support and community matter. For our relationship, the wisdom of people we respect and admire has strengthened us during the hard times of life. There’s something powerful about knowing that people have your back and that you have people you can trust and talk to. I especially love talking to people who have a marriage I admire, have been married a long time, and are filled with wisdom and experience! They’ve been there! They get it! Go find those people, talk to them, hang out with them.

In eight years, I can still say marriage is beautiful. It’s what you make it. We aren’t perfect people. Far from it! Yet I’m so happy I married this guy and am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him. Here’s to growing old together.

  

Our Ocean City, NJ Vacation and Why You Should Visit

Ocean City, NJ Vacation

This year for vacation we went to a local spot and one of my favorite places: Ocean City, NJ. This is my absolute favorite beach! We stayed here once before when the boys were around one and it was a fun experience! When I was thinking of places to vacation I wanted to stay local and have a stress free vacation. Ocean City, NJ for us was a no-brainer. We are only about 45 minutes away and yet it feels like a world away. We rented the same beach house we stayed at before and it was AWESOME.

What’s the point of vacation, after all? For my family, it’s pure relaxation. We are the kind of family that likes to breathe and not run from one place to another. You know how some people like to hit every attraction? Yeah, not us. We are lazy vacationers at best, but I’d have it no other way and this year was no exception.

From the time I was a preteen, Ocean City, NJ has held a really special place in my heart! I used to vacation here with my best friend and her family during my preteen into teen years. I have so many warm fuzzy memories. Long walks around Ocean City, the bay area, beautiful neighborhoods with a Vanilla Pepsi in hand talking about our hopes, dreams, and crushes. When I think back to my teen years, my OC vacations with my best friend and her family are a clear highlight. We always said we wanted our children to love the beach and Ocean City as much as we did and we succeeded.

See, when your life feels like it’s going about a million miles a minute regularly it’s so beautiful to take a week where all of that is on pause. My husband and I literally said we aren’t going to talk work, business, church…anything. We aren’t going to stress or worry. We are going to relax. That’s pretty much what we did as much as possible, except for hubs doing some real estate work (which I have found is practically unavoidable – since he’s become a realtor we’ve never had a trip where he didn’t have to work a little). It was fantastic and we are likely going to do at least one beach vacay a year we are thinking.

If you’re not from the South Jersey Area and aren’t familiar with Ocean City, I’m going to give you some reasons why you should consider an Ocean City, NJ vacation.

Reasons you should consider an ocean city, nj vacation:

  1. It’s family friendly.

    Ocean City - Gillian's Pier

Where we vacationed, the people below us were parents of triplet girls. If you go to the boardwalk or to the beach, you’ll see families galore. There are tons of things to do including Gillians Wonderland Pier, mini golfing, bike riding on the boardwalk, and more. Also, Ocean City is a dry town and smoking is prohibited on the boardwalk.  It’s just so family oriented and you feel it!

2. It’s a Close walk to the beach.

Ocean City, NJ Boardwalk

Ocean City has a fantastic boardwalk that’s really close to its beach. You can walk right off the boardwalk and the next thing you know, you’re on the beach and don’t have to go far to find yourself in the water.  I don’t want to feel like I’m trekking across the great unknown to have my feet touch the water. I love the fact that everything is in close proximity. Let’s face it, the boardwalk food is 95% of the reason I even go to the beach, who am I kidding?

3. It has an Awesome boardwalk with tons to do.


Mini-Golf, Escape Rooms, Rides, Bumper Carts and all of your essential boardwalk activities are available. I never get tired of walking the boardwalk because there’s always something new to do or something new to see. During the summer on Thursday nights, they have ‘Family Night’ where there is tons of live music and a lively atmosphere. My favorite nights of the summer!

4. it’s Budget Friendly.


Some people might scoff at that, but an Ocean City vacation can be quite affordable actually. Here are a few tips: go in with another family or another person on a beach house. When you do that, you can split the cost. So if a beach house will cost you $1250 for the week, divide that by two and you get the idea. What we did was we ate breakfast at the house, usually grabbed lunch on the boardwalk, ate dinner at the beach house and went to the boardwalk for desserts or any snacks we wanted. If you hit the grocery stores and cook half of your meals, you’ll save a fortune. When it comes to the rides, Gillians Wonderland  Pier offers different specials throughout the week. If you hit the rides during the three ticket ride days/hours, you will get more bang for your book. This helped me as a mom of multiples! We bought one book of 150 tickets for $100 and that was enough to last us throughout the entire week with a few tickets left over.

5. fantastic places to eat.

My absolute favorite part of the boardwalk is the food. I don’t care what anyone tells me, it’s the best part of the boardwalk! I’ve had friends try to convince me to go to other beaches and the first question I have is: are there good places to eat? If the answer is no, I’m not interested. I’m not talking about high-end places if you want that go to Atlantic City. I’m talking about simple food that just tastes good in my belly. I have favorites and you can check them out below.

 My Favorite Places to Eat In Ocean City:

  1. Brown’s Donuts. [Expect a line but it’s worth it!]Brown's Donuts - Ocean City, NJ
  2. Prep’s Pizza. [Just as good as Manco and Manco’s but with better seating and they give the kids dough to play with.]Prep's Pizza in Ocean City, NJ
  3. Piccini’s Wood Fire Pizza. [Fab Italian food!]
  4. The Hula Grill. [Probably my favorite! Hawaiin food – yum!]The Hula Grill in Ocean City, NJ
  5. OC Surf Cafe [New spot for me, great for breakfast or brunch!]

My Favorite Boardwalk Food:

  1. Polish Water Ice.
  2. Shriver’s Gelato – THE CREPES ARE LIFE CHANGING.
  3. Monkey Bread.
  4. George’s Ice Cream.
  5. Johnson’s Popcorn.

6. Insanely relaxing.


Have you ever been on a vacation that was so jam packed you needed a vacation after it to decompress? I feel like beach vacations are so relaxing and a vacation in Ocean City, NJ  is no exception. As mentioned for us, we would wake up, head to the beach for a bit, come back to the beach house for a nap, and then head to the boardwalk for the evening if we felt like it. We also incorporated date nights, courtesy of having my mom with us, movie nights, and mini golf nights. No pressure, no time constraints, and a go at your own pace vibe. The epitome of relaxation.

Overall, an Ocean City, NJ vacation was the perfect vacation for us! We had an amazing time, as evidenced by the smiles!

What are your favorite family friendly vacation spots? Share below! We are always looking for new places to visit! 

What I Love About Being a Twin Mom!

There are so many reasons I love being a twin mom, but today I’ll share just a few! In January 2013, we found out we were having twins. I remember laying there looking at the screen, my husband out of his mind excited because he had always wanted twins, while I kind of stared in disbelief. Part of me was scared and part of me just didn’t believe it was happening.  Like truly didn’t believe it was true. 34 weeks later, we were parents to two little boys.

Being a mom of multiples is definitely an adventure! If you’re a parent, think back to those first three months. That newborn life. You know what I’m talking about. Picture it times two at the exact time! IT’S INSANE.

As crazy as it all was, double the diapers, double the tears, AND NEVER EVER SLEEPING for most of the first year, I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I love being a twin mom! It’s pretty amazing.

why I love being a twin mom:

1. Built in playmate.

It’s true what they say. When you are a twin mom, your kids are born with a built-in playmate. This means you don’t have to entertain your children 24 hours of the day. You can actually shower, brush your teeth, and sometimes if you’re lucky – you might even be able to use the bathroom alone. Maybe. Don’t push your luck.

2. You feel like a seasoned parenting pro sometimes.

Not going to lie. As a twin mom, sometimes I feel like a baller. I feel like the boys hazed us into a fraternity or something our first year. Near death experiences [RSV], time in the NICU, time in the PICU, gas issues, formula issues, skin issues, rash issues – we essentially lived at the doctor’s office the first year. If we didn’t go through it with one boy, we likely went through it with another. Also, we parented solo for the majority of that first year due to really crappy work schedules. This means that we were on our own doing double the work almost all of the time. Though I’m not interested in being pregnant again, I sometimes think about how easy it would be in comparison. Unless we had twins again.

3. double the love.

Ocean City, NJ

“Double the Trouble!” If you’re a twin mom, you’ll get used to people throwing this cliche at you. You might roll your eyes inwardly like I do. Yes, they can be double the trouble sometimes, especially if they’ve gotten into things they shouldn’t have or if they’re screaming at the same time. BUT, the best part is that you get double the love. Double the kisses, double the snuggles, double the affection, double the hugs, double the pride. For all of the crazy, listening to your babes tell you how much they love you in their squeaky little toddler voices = everything.

4. The Unique Twin bond.

Twins have a really interesting bond. It’s actually pretty amazing. After all, they shared the same living space for quite a bit in momma’s belly! For my boys personally, they have always shared a room, they were in the same pre-school class together, and generally spend a lot of time together. The boys have inside jokes that are only funny to them and we don’t understand. They have made up words that they know the meaning to and we don’t. They have a love for one another that goes deep. Finally, They love hard and fight hard. I like to think they have a special twin connection.

5. Two and done.

I always had the desire to have a really big family. In fact, I actually pictured having five kids. I loved the idea of tons of noise and shows with big families were always my favorite. It just seems so FUN. Between infertility struggles to preemie life, my desire for a large family faded away. I feel really blessed that the boys have each other as brothers! People ask me often whether or not I want to have a girl. Honestly, I’m perfectly content with my two boys. I feel like with twins, you have the option to be “done” pretty early on because as twins, they each have a sibling already. That’s how it feels for me anyway!

6. double the blessing.

The best part of being a twin mom. Double the blessing.

As a person who struggled with infertility and had to go through infertility treatments, I’m so grateful to have double the blessing for what felt like a loss for a long time. I felt defeated and discouraged many times and when it came time for the boys to be born and there really were two, it was amazing to see God’s blessing twice over. When I look at them now, I’m reminded that they are a complete and total gift from God. And that truly is the BEST part of being a twin mom.

Finding Peace in the Midst of Chaos.

My Pastor has been bringing some really powerful truths to our church. For the past month, he’s been doing this awesome series called, “First Things First.” We are on week two of the series and some of the words he spoke felt like a big slap on the face. Not in a bad way, but in a way that shouts: HEY YOU! FIX THIS AREA OF YOUR LIFE.

As I thought this message over, I felt really convicted and challenged as I wrestled with the question of whether or not I’ve been prioritizing God in my life.

  1. Is the Bible the first thing I read?

  2. Is He the first one I talk to (prayer?)

  3. Is He first in every area of my life?

When I answered these questions truthfully and also somewhat begrudgingly, “Well, mostly…” I didn’t like what I saw.

This morning when I felt like stress was trying to strangle me before I even hopped out of the bed, I thought of Psalm 23. I decided to read it.

 “The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalms 23:1-6

As I read the words, I felt stress release its ugly grip. I felt peace as I reminded myself of some powerful truths from this Psalm:

  1. God’s got me. I have everything I need.

  2. I can rest in Him. He is my peace.

  3. God gives me new strength on the daily.

  4. He shows me where I need to go and what I need to do.

  5. When everything goes to hell and I can’t see the light, fear has no place. He is with me.

  6. God has my back. I can cry to him and He’ll comfort me.

  7. He pours out His blessings over me in the face of people who hate me or don’t want me to do well (hint – these are not always clearly seen enemies).

  8. My life OVERFLOWS with blessing.

  9. His goodness and love literally chase after me and will continue to do so as long as I’m alive.

  10. I have eternity with Him.

If you are going through what feels like a trial or just a really tough spot in life, I encourage you to read Psalm 23. This is a Psalm you have heard a million times. You have probably read it so many times, BUT I challenge you to read it with fresh eyes, a fresh heart. Read it out loud. Feel His peace calm you in the middle of a torrent and remind yourself of the promised rest that comes with knowing Christ.

xo – Until Next Time

 

How To Be a Godly Leader According to Proverbs 16

Godly Leadership according to proverbs

I love learning about leadership and how to be a good leader. More importantly, I love learning about how to be a Godly leader.  As a teacher, a worship leader, and a part of the pastoral staff at our church, I constantly want to learn how I can be a better leader and a more effective leader. I love to talk to other leaders and soak in wisdom and listen to their experiences and mistakes.

Tonight when I was doing my study, I was reading through Proverbs 16. I’m doing a Bible Reading Plan where you go through Proverbs and Psalms multiple times throughout the year. Because I’m in my second round of reading through Proverbs in order, I like to switch through different versions. I decided to read through Proverbs 16 in The Message version and imagine my delight when I came across verse after verse with clear guidelines for leadership. As clear as night and day. I thought I would share. Being a leader is a huge responsibility and healthy leadership is really important. How do you know what healthy leadership and most importantly, BIBLICAL leadership should look like? Look at the word of God. Let’s take a look.

Here are some guidelines of what a Godly Leader Looks like According to proverbs 16:
  1. “A good leader motivates, doesn’t mislead, doesn’t exploit.” Proverbs 16:10

A godly leader will be a person that is constantly motivating you and challenging you. Good leaders will call out the best in you, and will also hold you accountable and be truthful. I love how it says they won’t mislead you or exploit you. In other words, a good leader shouldn’t USE you. If a person is only interested in your talents and abilities but doesn’t care about you as a person – run. You will see this if they drop you like a sack of hot potatoes once you are no longer useful to them.

2. “Good leaders abhor wrongdoing of all kinds; sound leadership has a moral foundation.” Proverbs 16:12

Godly leaders should have a solid moral life. This means they should hate evil. They should hate it enough to call it out. Also, if you are a leader you should be living a life of morality on and off the platform. Who cares if you can fool people when you can’t fool God? #moralitymatters

3. “Good leaders cultivate honest speech; they love advisors who tell them the truth.” Proverbs 16:13

Leaders should speak TRUTH and should love to hear TRUTH. Honesty is important as a leader. This means you have to be willing to speak truth, even if it hurts, even if it’s unpopular. On the other side of it, you should be able to listen to advisors and people who will do the same for your life. I’m extremely wary of people who refuse to listen to others and think they have all the answers. The Bible speaks repeatedly in listening to godly counsel from others, so as a leader – take it to heart and if you’re under leadership that won’t listen to others, that’s not biblical or wise.

4. “An intemperate leader wreaks havoc in lives; you’re smart to stay clear of someone like that.” Proverbs 16:14

Intemperate means a person who doesn’t have control. A godly leader should be self-controlled. A person who flies off the handle and lacks restraint is a person who can bring many lives to ruin. I have personally known people who have no control and who literally have ruined relationships, jobs, and anything good that was going for them. This doesn’t mean that a leader has to be 100% perfect. Trust me, it’s quite the opposite. But if a person is consistently living of a life that has zero control – stay clear!

5. “Good-tempered leaders invigorate lives; they’re like spring rain and sunshine.” Proverbs 16:15

Probably my favorite verse in this chapter. This goes along with the previous verse: a person that’s good tempered will add to your life. They will strengthen your life, energize it, add to it. A Godly leader will do just that – invigorate, strength, and add to the lives of those around them. Unhealthy leadership is a leader who drains the life from those around them. Instead of spring rain, they are more like clouds and storms. Ask yourself if you are bringing something to the table that adds to the lives of those you have the opportunity to influence and impact.

This is just what Proverbs 16 had to say about leadership. The Bible has a plethora of crystal clear guidelines on what leadership looks like according to a biblical standard. As a leader, we need to adhere to these standards. As a person under leadership, know the word and know what God looks for in leaders. I wanted to share because I loved how The Message wrote so clearly about it. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts!

 

My Top 10 Places in and Around South Jersey to Check Out if You have a Toddler

Top 10 Places to Visit with Toddlers in South Jersey

I’m the momma to two very active three-year-olds who will be four this summer. As a teacher, summer is EVERYTHING! I try to make the most of my time with my boys and since they’ve been born, I’ve gathered some of my favorite things to do with them and my favorite places to go.  Majority of these places work fine in the spring, summer, fall, and even winter. This list is compiled with things that we’ve personally enjoyed in the past and recently. This is not an all inclusive list though, so share what you love to do with your little people! Most places, except for two, are located in South Jersey! All located in the TriState Area. Please comment and let me know what places you enjoy and what activities you like to do over the summer!

My Top 10 South Jersey Places to Visit if you Have toddlers

1. Ocean City, NJ – the shore.

By far, my absolute favorite place to go in the summer is Ocean City. Maybe it’s because as a teenager I vacationed here with my best friend and her family or maybe it’s just the amazing food – Ocean City is a win and when you have kids, it’s a double win. First off, the beach is reasonable and if you buy beach tags for the summer, you’re good to go. Second off, Ocean City is super family friendly and there is a lot out there for toddlers including rides, strolling the boardwalk, surrey rides, parks, and more. We spend out time on the boardwalk and beach and it’s our favorite!

Toddler Fun in Ocean City, NJ

2. The Cape May Zoo.

It’s FREE. FREE. FREE. You can make a donation of your choice if you choose. Cape May is a fantastic zoo for toddlers. It’s very walkable because it’s not insanely big. It’s perfect. On top of that, it has an awesome park for the kiddos! There are plenty of pavilions so you can pack a lunch or you can buy lunch there. It’s not far from the Cape May beach area either, so you can do a combo day where you spend half the day at the zoo and half the day at the shore. Score!

Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo

3. The Philadelphia Zoo.

We are pass holders here because by the time you add the price of the tickets together, it makes sense to buy a season pass and reap the benefits: free parking, 10% off your food purchases and gift shop purchases, and free parking. This zoo was the FIRST real zoo in the US. It’s spacious, has tons of animals and sites to see, and is really easy to walk – though because it’s so big we bring the stroller just in case! You can spend a good portion of your day here!

Toddler Fun at the Philadelphia Zoo

4. The Garden State Discovery Museum or Please Touch Museum.

I LOVE the Please Touch Museum. It’s a bit pricey at $19 per person (unless your child is 1 and under). HOWEVER, they offer $2 admission on the first Wednesday of each month from 4 pm to 7 pm. My husband and I like to arrive as soon as it opens. By the time we’ve gone through the whole museum and are ready to leave, that’s when it’s starting to get busy. The $2 fee on the first Wednesday of each month from 4 pm to 7 pm is unbeatable at that price, so if you’re on a budget that would be a good time to check this place out. The Garden State Discovery Museum is cheaper and discounts on Groupon are frequently offered. If you don’t feel like dealing with Philly traffic or driving into the city, The Garden State Discovery Museum is a fun spot too!

 

Toddler Fun at The Garden State Discovery Museum

5. Storybook Land.

This place is essentially designed for toddlers and for small kiddos. It’s a load of fun, lines were short when we went in the summer, and it’s not hard to access/park. Tickets are around $23 if you buy them online and are a bit more at the door! I would choose Storybook Land over a place like Six Flags any day of the week. It’s not as packed and my boys could pretty much get on anything. Also, it’s themed after different classic children’s stories. FUN!

Storybook Land in Mayslanding, NJStorybook Land in Mayslanding, NJ

6. Sesame Place.

In my opinion, if you’re going to go, summer is definitely the time to go! They have awesome an awesome water park! We took the boys here for the majority of the day and we were pooped! Check out my post about Sesame Place for more detailed information about our experience here!

7. Parvin’s State Park.

Located only fifteen minutes away from where we live, we love going to Parvin’s State Park. There are plenty of nature trails that we explore as a family and so many outlets where the kids can skip stones, dip their feet into the lake, and even bicycle. One of my favorite places to go and best of all it’s FREE. I think they charge in the summer to swim/go in the beach area, but I wouldn’t know because we never go to that part.

8. Sahara Sam’s or Diggerland.

We have done Sahara Sam’s in the past but haven’t checked out Diggerland yet, though according to my friend’s, it’s a must. In fact, Diggerland has made it into Redbrook and some other magazines as a destination to check out on this side of the coast! I can speak for Sahara Sam’s and say that we had a fun experience here over the summer. It is an indoor and outdoor waterpark. It’s best to get here early because it gets really packed with different groups and camps coming through. I felt like there was enough for my boys to do at their age and the pool was fun because we could swim with them.

9. Smithville

Smithville is a really cute little historic town located in Atlantic County. When we go here with the boys, we spend maybe about two to three hours here tops. It’s not geared towards toddlers but we still have fun here! It’s quaint, cute, decorative, and a good place to hang for a few hours and do breakfast/lunch/dinner. My kids get a kick out of the ducks that walk around. There’s also a carousel and train rides. They also have different activities and events, so check out their calendar. Price wise: free. Can’t beat that.

10. Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ

This is a new one for us! We literally have JUST had the chance to check this place out. You can spend a good portion of your day here and your little ones will have a blast. This aquarium has plenty for the boys to see and do and they absolutely loved it. Price wise, it’s pricey! $28 per adult and $21 per child. As a teacher, we get discounts through ticketsatwork.com which saved us $30 from the total bill. Definitely worth a visit!

Toddler Fun at Adventure Aquarium Toddler Fun at Adventure Aquarium Toddler Fun at Adventure Aquarium

This summer I’m looking forward to creating new memories with my family and also discovering new places and things to do while revisiting some of the things we’ve done in the past! What about you? What’s your favorite summer activity or place to visit? We love to travel and I’m always looking for new places to check out!