improving myself.

I'v gotten so far behind on life. It feels like I'm lacking in almost every area. However, I'm working on it. Consciously trying to improve myself. I'm taking hold of my life and working on my bad habits. Have you ever felt lost? Like you can't do it anymore because you don't know where to start? Well, here is my fresh start. Ironically it happens to be at the birth of a new year. Cliche though it may sound, I plan to be better and do better. 2013, you will be my year.

That being said, my dear friend Anna gave me the opportunity to improve myself in another way. It's been so long since I've taken pictures for someone else. And I fell in love with photography again. Even though I have a lot to improve upon, I'm pretty proud of these images. Of course, it helps a ton when your subjects are super photogenic and the snow gives off the best kind of light. 

Happy New Year!

three months.

Dear Jake,

I can hardly believe another month has passed. You continue to grow and learn each day. It is so fun to watch little bits of your personality start to peek out of those baby blues. You've learned some fun new tricks this month!

  • You've discovered your hands, and think they make a good snack.
  • You laugh! It is quite possibly the best sound in the world, and we try our hardest to get one out of you.
  • You're learning to like playing with dad. You love it when he flips you upside down, and you can balance sitting on his hand pretty well.
  • Since you hate being cold and wet, we now bathe you directly in the bathtub, and you love to splash even if you can't control it very well. You still hate getting your face wet, just like mom.
  • You're *this* close to sitting up on your own. Daddy and I will sit you in our laps and hold your arms and you do the rest so well. 
  • You can lift your head, shoulders, and chest up during tummy time.
  • You smile all the time and it is the most adorable thing. Mornings and diaper changes are usually your favorite. 
  • You try to imitate Daddy when he sticks out his tongue. 
  • You've learned how to control your legs enough to lift them in the air and kick them straight and stiff. It's especially comical when you're all giddy and wiggly during diaper changes.
You also have a new nick-name, with accompanying sub-nicknames: Boogers (along with the eloquent: booger brain and booger butt....we are horrible, I know). You got this nickname because for the past two weeks or so, you've had a lot of congestion. The doctor says it's just a normal thing because your nose is still small.

I love you baby boy! I can't tell you that enough, even if I told you every minute of the day. Thank you for being ours.

love always,

Thankful Thursday. (on Monday) (again) (+wrap-up)

[Day 22: For my little family. At the end of the day, they're all that really matters.]

[Day 23: For extra-long weekends spent snuggling, laughing, and just being with these two. This was Jake's first all-out giggle fest and it was adorable. Maybe I'll post a video since I caught the whole thing!]

[Day 24: For clothes and the capability to wash them. I'm grateful for the generosity of friends and family, and for the means that allow me to provide my baby (and husband) with clean, dry clothes every day. Even if this outfit was the first of four that day, I'm so grateful we have more than enough when I know some mothers have to do without.]

[Day 25: For the reason.]

[Day 26: For my missionary brother and his sweet emails.]

[Day 27: For my parents. They are always there for me, and have taught me how to be the best I can be. I'm so grateful for their example of a healthy and loving marriage, and their example of righteous parenting. I'm the luckiest.]

[Day 28: For his giggle (again).]

[Day 29: For Costa Vida and their life-altering sweet pork burrito & salad. Seriously.]

[Day 30: For mistakes and trials. Sometimes, that's how I learn the most valuable lessons. This is a picture of a fleece throw that I made. I had to seam-rip it about 2,456 times. It's so far from perfect, but I love it now and I'm glad I finished it no matter how frustrated I got.]

>>> <<<

Thanks for following along on my Thankful November. I'm really proud of myself for actually doing this challenge. I don't usually finish this type of thing, but I actually did it, and I only forgot to post on one day. I think it might've been because this really mattered to me. I really wanted to see if I could find something to be grateful for each day, especially the little things. It was really hard to find something to be thankful for on some days, but finding just one thing helped me to find perspective. It's easy to be thankful in retrospect, but it can be difficult to be thankful during a trial/hard time. This little exercise will help me to appreciate things in the moment. I hope to continue this mindset throughout each and every day. 

Week 1 / Week 2 / Week 3

they're mine.

When I stop to think about what matters the most, this is what I picture.
These three people (yes, including me) are my number one priority.
More than anything else, I want my little family to be happy and healthy.
And that's just what we're going to work towards.
That's my focus.

I feel like there's a lot of noise in my life right now, so I'm searching for some clarity.
I'm reminding myself to simplify, and I'm trying to reconnect with myself and who I really am.
I'm a work-in-progress.

Thankful Thursday. (on Monday)

Week 1 / Week 2
[Day 15: For my hair. It's frustrating sometimes, but it's healthy and easy to maintain. I actually like it when it cooperates.]

[Day 16: For TJ's peanut butter and jelly strawberry-jelly sandwiches. He makes them so well, and it's such a sweet gesture when I'm (perpetually) running late.]

[Day 17: Date night! Made possible by free babysitting from the in-laws. I realized this was only our 3rd date night without Jake since he was born. It was so nice to grab dinner and a movie. By the way, I loved Skyfall.]

[Day 18: We were recommended this stuff when Jake was super colicky, and it's a life-saver. Gripe water still works wonders when Jake is being...well...gripey.]

[Day 19: For my formal education. Even though I'm not really using my degree in education, I'm grateful that I have it. I'm also grateful that I will get to continue my education in order to keep my certificate current while I'm not teaching.]

[Day 20: For modern conveniences that make life easier. I had to make cornbread for Thanksgiving stuffing, and this baby make it a breeze.]

[Day 21: This had been a long and stressful day, so I was just grateful when it was over. Sometimes, that's OK.]

What were you grateful for this week? Did you have a fun Thanksgiving?

Leftover Potato Soup

I'm pretty terrible at planning meals. This means I'm usually coming up with a meal as I make it and using what I have. This recipe is exactly that. While sitting at work yesterday, I remembered we had some potatoes left over from our Sunday crockpot dinner. It's also been pretty chilly lately, so I thought I could make some potato soup! I was nervous for the outcome, but it turned out great! I'm a terrible food blogger because I'm too hungry/lazy to take pictures of my food, but trust me, this is tasty. Also, the measurements on the seasonings are guesstimates....I just add stuff here and there until it tastes good (again, lazy cook).  Enjoy!

2-3 medium potatoes, boiled or cooked in crockpot (I used Klondike Rose....basically a red skin with gold flesh)
about 3/4 cup cooked regular sausage** (about half package)
3.5 cups milk (I used skim)
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 tsp granulated garlic/garlic powder
1/2 tbsp dried onion
salt, pepper
desired seasonings (I used dried parsley, paprika, cayenne pepper)
shredded cheese, chopped green onion to garnish

1. Cut cooked potatoes into small chunks. Brown the sausage, and drain on paper-towel-lined plate.
2. Make a roux. In a large-ish pot, melt 3 tbsp of butter on medium heat. Add 3 tbsp of flour, one tbsp at a time, stirring to incorporate. Stir about a minute to cook flour. Slowly add milk, stirring with a whisk to incorporate it into the roux without getting lumps.
3. Turn up the heat, and add potatoes. Use a potato masher to slightly mash the chunks. Add salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and desired seasonings to taste (but be careful when you taste!). Honestly, I just give each seasoning a few shakes and pray for the best. You will probably need about a tsp of salt, but hold off on too much of that until after adding the sausage.
4. Add sausage. Allow soup to come to a boil. Let boil until it reaches desired thickness (for me, about a minute or two). Turn off heat, check seasonings. Add more if needed.
5. Serve. Garnish with shredded cheese and sliced green onion.

Serves: about 2-3 people as a main dish, probably 4-6 as an appetizer.

**I plan on trying this recipe with bacon, canadian bacon, or ham. You could also use Italian sausage for a bit more spice.
***Also, I just realized this is yet another testament to my love for potatoes.

[leftovers, reheated at work for my lunch. barely enough]

Thankful Thursday.

Week 1

[Day 8: For pacifiers. Amen.]

[Day 9: For my beautiful home state, and God's handiwork.]

[Day 10: For temple marriage and the covenants made.]

[Day 11: For my grandpa, the man that he is, and the service he gave his country in WWII. Also, for TJ's Papa and his service in Vietnam. And for all Veterans and US Military.]

[Day 12: For visits home where grandparents and an auntie gladly get up with baby in the mornings so mom and dad can sleep in together.]

[Day 13: For just-because brown paper packages tied up with string, and, more importantly, the chocolates they held inside. Also, for sister for thinking of me.]

[Day 14: For this play mat and the sweet friend who gave it to us. He talks and squeals at himself in the mirror, easily entertained for 10-15 precious minutes.]

What are you thankful for this week?
PS. Follow along daily on Instagram: @misskyliep.

unsolicited (but wise) marital advice.

Last weekend we visited Mesa to see family and friends, and mostly to attend our sweet friends' wedding. The reception on Friday was beautiful: gorgeously decorated, beautiful weather, delicious soups & salads, and good friends to socialize with. TJ even asked me to dance with him, and to that cute song from Tangled no less.

But the actual wedding....that was my favorite part.

Kyle and Katie were sealed for time and all eternity in that sacred building you see above. I've had the opportunity to attend a couple of these ceremonies (besides my own). They are always very intimate (only about 50 are allowed to attend), and always beautiful. I tend to get a little teary-eyed, and I'm always reminded of our own sealing. I wish I remembered or had written down more of what our sealer had said to us prior to the actual ceremony, but I don't think I did. This time, I paid special attention to the advice that the sealer (ceremony officiator) gave to this beautiful couple.

I don't remember all of what he said, but first, he told them to be obedient to each other's righteous desires. Fairly self-explanatory. He also reminded them that after this day, they would not be a couple, but a trio, including God as the third party in their marriage. Next, he said, "You can be an entertainment-oholic. You can be an education-oholic. But Kyle, I want you to be a Katie-oholic. Katie, be a Kyle-oholic." Although his phrasing was a little funny (and garnered some chuckling), his message was clear. He wasn't referring to obsession with your spouse, but rather that your spouse should be your priority, number one in your life, your best friend, your everything. I really liked that concept. Sometimes, it's easy for me to become a social-media-oholic or a TV-oholic. Sometimes it's easy to focus on everything going on in life and miss out on truly supporting TJ, thinking about his needs before my wants. It's easy to let life get in the way of being all that I can be for him. This gentle reminder served as a bit of a wake-up call for me. This balancing act called life can be tricky tricky.

He finished his advice with a bit of the usual (at least, what we as Latter-Day Saints are told repeatedly). Pray together, read your scriptures together (even for just a little while each day). Go to the temple, he said, "for it is a bit of heaven on earth." It's amazing to me, again, just how easy it is to let these little habits slip to the sidelines and allow other, less-important and inconsequential things take their place. It's amazing what a difference these things can make, too. TJ and I have struggled with these little habitual things at different points in our marriage...and I can point to those times and recognize how much harder life was, if simply for the fact that our perspective was not as bright and our spirits were tired.

Brother Huber had Kyle and Katie look into each others eyes, and really look at each other. Then he said that in that moment, the other person was perfect in their eyes and in the eyes of God. He reminded them to strive for that perfection, but also to remember that feeling and strive to see one another in that light. Having been married for some time now, I think what he meant was to focus on those strong, beautiful feelings of love and commitment. As time passes, it is easy to nit-pick and realize your spouse's flaws...those little things that annoy...and to let them become what you see. Of course, you know that you still love them, but sometimes it's easy to just be annoyed. Instead, focus on their virtues, on what you fell in love with about them, and what you're falling in love with about them continually.

"Choose your love, and love your choice," Brother Huber quoted. Such a powerful statement in a world where the "possibilities" for "love" are endless, and too many feel that choices are negotiable. I'm entering a stage in life where I am recognizing the true impacts of divorce, and I'm noticing that people as young as I am are divorced. Far be it from me to judge them, for I know that there could be thousands of reasons behind such a life-altering decision. However, it still saddens see the "death" of a marriage, the end of what I thought had been a love story. It makes my heart break with the scary thought of what-ifs and I-never-saw-that-comings.

As I looked up at TJ, who was standing behind me, in that sealing room in that special place, I knew he had felt what I did. I knew he recognized what we both could work on in making our marriage stronger. I know that as he looked at our friends, he remembered our own special day and remembered the way we felt. I'm so grateful for that. I love my husband, and I feel blessed that we are able to feel the blessings of our temple marriage in such a real way. I'm grateful for the reminders I received this past weekend. Marriage truly takes constant vigilance, work, love, and forgiveness.

And baby, if you're reading this, I love you, my Troy James. Thank you for taking me to the temple.

[See that little family of three standing on the steps? They had just been sealed together forever, as a family. Is there anything more beautiful?]

Thankful Thursday.

[Day 1: morning snuggles & smiles]

[Day 2: A job.]

[Day 3: For the father he is, and that he calls him his best friend.]

[Day 4: For the husband he is, and that he still tries to keep the romance alive. On Saturday, we had a party complete with sparkling blueberry grape, pizza rolls, chicken strips, and our first Christmas movie of the season: Santa Claus is Comin' to Town.]

[Day 5: For the ability to be creative and beautify my home.]

[Day 6: For Starbucks' "Perfect Oatmeal." It's the only oatmeal I will eat.]

[Day 7: That he made me a mother; no matter how trying and difficult it is, it is the most rewarding and incredible experience.]

What are you thankful for this week?
[If you do a "thankful" post, feel free to leave a link to it in the comments! I'd love to check it out.]

on sleep.

On Friday, we went out for some BBQ with our good friends. We took Jake with us, and he was actually pretty good the whole time. During dinner, he fell asleep in my lap....and we eventually found ourselves talking about his sleep habits. When I realized it, I said, "Wow, we've turned into those boring parents who just talk about their kid's sleep patterns." They assured us that we were fine (it helps to have a cute kid), and I explained that you don't realize just how much you value sleep until you can't get it when you want it.

On that note, here's some more about Jake's sleep patterns. Last week, I was thrilled because Jake was starting to do really well at night. We'd put him to bed around 8 or nine, and he'd wake up around 11-12, and then sleep for a blissful 6 or so hours. It was amazing.

Then, on Saturday night, he had a 4-hour stretch from 8-12 as usual, but then he woke up about every two hours after midnight. It was exhausting, and something he hasn't done in a long time. He did the same thing last night and now I'm struggling to stay awake at work when I'm not actively working on something.

He's also been increasingly grouchy in the evenings. He's been congested the past week or so (but he was sleeping during that time, too). I wonder if he might be teething? Sometimes he cries like he's in pain, but I'm not sure. Maybe he's waking up to nurse for comfort?

He's definitely happiest in the mornings, but this morning we were too tired to enjoy it and coax smiles out of him, like the one above. All I know is that I hope he gets past this "phase" real soon. It's totally unfair that human babies are the only babies that can't communicate with their parents (I think, don't quote me on that fact).

And now, I've officially written an entire blog post on this subject. I feel like a mom or something.

while he sleeps.

While he sleeps, I watch his little face, hear his soft little breaths, and marvel at him. And while he sleeps, my heart aches, because I'm watching him grow up before my eyes and I want him to stay little, but I also want to experience the next stage with him. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, I wish he'd grow out of this stage because he's been crying a lot, or because I want him to be able to entertain himself so Daddy can study. But then I catch myself, and remember the phrase, "Let them be little." I want to take all of these little moments, and bottle them up tight so that they can't go anywhere. I want to keep them to myself, private in my heart, but then I think that might be selfish to hoard so much joy.

When his daddy gave him a name and a blessing, he told him that he would be a light to others. He's already my light, and I know this special little boy just might be a light to so many more.

merry halloween, thanks.

I totally said the above to a trunk-or-treater last night. I almost said "Merry Christmas," as more of a joke. Anyways, here's the little man, all studly in his football costume that I DIY'd the night before last.

[All I did was buy a turtleneck and brown pants, then sewed on strips of felt to make lacings. The football beanie was a gift from his auntie that works at The Children's Place. PS, that beanie is size 0-6 months, and is pretty much too slides off his head.]

Truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of Halloween. It's cute for the kiddos, but anything gory/scary/ick is too much for me. TJ, on the other hand, absolutely loves the holiday and I think was a little genuinely annoyed with me for not doing more than hang a Halloween wreath on the door. Maybe next year, when Jake is a little older, I'll try to get into it a bit more. I'm already brainstorming costume ideas for Jake.

November, however, is a great month! It's all about family, food, and thankfulness. I love the simple reminders to look for things I'm thankful for. To help with that, I'll be following Sheena's challenge and hopefully posting a photo a day of one thing I'm thankful for on Instagram (@misskyliep). If you want to follow along too, use the hashtag #novemberthanks. Last year, I had a guest post every Thursday, for "Thankful Thursday." This year, I think I might do it a bit differently, and post my week of IG photos.

For the record, I will slowly start listening to Christmas music now. I feel like I can still give Thanksgiving its due while getting into the spirit of celebrating family, friends, tradition, and the birth of our Savior.

Yeah, it's pretty much my favorite time of year now.

I'll eat you up, I love you so.

[on his blessing day, 10/14/2012]

I left for work today after kissing my sweet sleeping baby (who I cuddled in bed for a little bit too long before getting ready) and kissing my husband. I was tired, and feeling the Monday blues of going back to work after the weekend. A few minutes after getting to work, I got a phone call from TJ asking where the baby's binky was. Then he told me the bittersweet news that my son had just giggled for the first time. He's been trying to for a while, but he just had his first real laugh. I'm really sad that I missed it, but I can hardly wait to hear it myself. 

My baby boy is growing up so fast.
[almost 10 weeks old, or a little over 2 months]

[a little less than a month old]

*PS, I'm giving away a cute fall headband on Ali's blog. And she's giving away some awesome stuff too!