Friday, July 15, 2016

Simple + No-Fuss Memory-keeping

As you may have noticed, I blog significantly less these days. I began this blog in 2010 (what!?) and have been pecking away at it for about 6 years; basically, my blog is an internet dinosaur.

Between adding a new baby, starting a business, and just general life upkeep, the blog has been a bit dusty and vacant. For a while, I felt a self-imposed pressure to keep up with the blog at the pace I used to have. Honestly, I didn't love that pressure hanging around and curiously questioned why I felt guilty about not blogging as often (because I certainly don't have thousands of followers waiting for my next post...). It boiled down to this:

For years, my blog has been my memory-keeper. My 775 (yes, 775) blog posts have filed away motherhood thoughts, captured the essence of Luke's early years, and collected favorite recipes and projects. My blog has been the digital journal for hundreds of thoughts, stories, and ideas.

It has been the pictures and words of my life.

But life is transitioning to a less digital and more tangible season. A season that sorting through pictures while sitting on the floor is easier than having eyes focused on a screen. A season that I want to protect our family by not sharing everything online. A season that simply feels more private.

I'm far from saying "adios" to blogging, but I decided to start working in other mediums to collect our family memories. I tried to design a fancy photo book online, but I got so distracted by choosing fonts and lay-outs (even though it was fun!) that I knew it was time to try something else.

So, I'm preserving memories in two ways that are simple and fuss-free.

First, I'm going all 1985 and putting pictures in a picture album. I love that I can take out the pictures, rearrange them, and add little notes to the back just like my mom did.

I found a giant 3-ring binder (a honking 12x12 one). The one I found was on clearance at JoAnn's (it's actually a Project Life album), but this is the one I originally planned to buy.

I've printed loads of 4x4 prints (trying my best to stick to my favorites). Right now, I'm using the Shutterfly app on my phone, and it's worked so well. Plus, they often offer free 4x4 prints and you just pay shipping--so that helps keep cost down :)

Then, I grabbed these 12x12 photo inserts on Amazon and started filling them up. The other day, Luke and I did some simple watercoloring on 4x4 pieces of card stock to use as little inserts for jotting down dates, notes, and memories. I loved how it was an easy way to involve him and add a little artwork to the album.

I do plan on adding some 8 1/2 by 11 clear plastic inserts/folders to include Luke's artwork or other mementos. I may also print out some of my past blog posts to add to it as well.

The second thing I am doing is journaling 5 things about everyday. I take a little time at the end of the day (usually about 5 minutes) to write in a simple, lined journal. I don't have any set guidelines--but I try and think of details, moments, feelings, etc that made that day unique. I've written about milestones, hair cuts, Luke's sayings, frustrations, things I'm thankful for, observations, etc.

I also jotted down a list of prompts because sometimes as a mom my brain is mush at the end of the day and I need some prompts to encourage me to write more than: The kids took naps or What did I do today?

If you are interested in trying out this kind of journaling, you can download the prompts here.

It doesn't replace a good, process-it-all-out blog post/writing, and it's certainly not as fancy as a cool bullet journal, but it works. Right now, it's a manageable way for me to keep writing and stockpiling memories and thoughts.

These methods are not prettiest or most creative ways of memory-keeping, but they are simple and easy enough for me stick with them. Right now, that's more important to me than fancy + pretty albums. Maybe that will come in another season :)

What about you? How do you preserve and record memories?


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dear Samuel: 5 Months

Dear Samuel,

What a busy boy you have been this month! Being the strong and determined baby that you are, you decided that sitting is where it's at. In seemingly days, you went from being a wobbly sitter to sitting up without any assistance. Now, you spend most of your waking hours sitting up, reaching for toys, exploring new textures with your hands, and watching Luke with focused curiosity.

You think sitting up by yourself is the best, but laying on your belly is still ridiculously not cool. In fact, after about 2 minutes on your belly you make it clear that you So, still working on that!

This month, we visited Minnesota to introduce you to lots of new family and friends. In classic Sam fashion, you charmed them with your chubby smile, bright blue eyes, and cheery disposition. Thankfully, you went with the flow and didn't seem to mind that your schedule was a bit wonky. Even though you didn't have the best airplane manners (for just a bit during each of the flights), you still exchanged smiles with many passengers and flight staff.

Not only did you start sitting up on your own and took your first airplane flight this month, you also started eating some solids. I was a little worried that you would hate eating because of your surgery, but I was wrong. So far, you like oatmeal, sweet potato, avocado, and banana. However, you gave your clear and strong disapproval for peaches and green peas.

(this face...ha!)

Mommy and daddy were hoping that starting solids would be the tipping point for helping you sleep through the night, but we were wrong. In fact, now that you started sleeping flat on your back for the first time (you graduated from the rock'n'play), you are waking up more often. So, kiddo, let's work on sleeping for more than three hours straight because that would really help us out. I know you'll adjust in your time, but we certainly hope it's soon!

Samuel, you are a breath of fresh air in our home and bring so much joy to our family. Your brother finally came to the conclusion that you really are pretty fantastic to have around--mostly because he realized he can boss you around a bit. He gets a kick out of playing with you, finding and taking away toys from you, and also comforting you when you have one of your "dramatic" moments. Because, really, you do get pretty dramatic at times--like if I walk away for too long or Luke grabs a toy from you.

We love that newborn tuff of air that still refuses to disappear and all 18 + lbs of you. We love your deep giggle and the way you stare at someone until they smile at you. And when they do flash you a smile, you smile such a big, gummy smile that I just want to eat you up!

We love you, Mr. Sam-the-Man. Keep being you.


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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

An Apron, Q&A, and a New Shop

Last week, I pressed "open store" on a new online shop adventure.

And it all started with an apron--Susanna Wesley's apron.

Instead of writing out a long backstory, here's a little Q&A to keep me on track ;)

Q: You already have an online shop, why would you start another one?

A: Late last summer, I knew I needed to make some decisions about the Nicole Joelle Print Shop. I was in a rut, and I was envious of other shops that seemed to be so successful. Even though I was spending a lot of time creating for it, my sales weren't reflective of that time. Not only that, but I wasn't excited or passionate about what I was doing. I felt like I was just doing it to keep doing it--not because it was life-giving or providing for our family. Many days, I felt discouraged by lack of "success" or frustrated when I saw other shops doing so well. Especially since I was pregnant with Sam, I knew something had to change. So, I began to pray. I prayed for wisdom and direction. I prayed for clarity.

A few days after I began praying about it, I reheard the story of Susanna Wesley and her prayer apron (the only other time I had heard it before was probably 10 years ago). And then later that week, I heard it again.

All of a sudden, sitting there on my bed praying/thinking, I had an "aha" moment about aprons.

Q: Um, what do you mean you had a moment about aprons?

A: Even though I had heard the story of her prayer apron years and years ago, it always stuck with me. Susanna Wesley had a lot of children, and she would cover her head with her apron to pray when she needed to stop and spend some time with Jesus. Her children knew that she was praying and not to bother her. The reason the story always resonated with me was because I thought it was a perfect example of seeking Jesus in the everyday and showing your kids that you were seeking and talking with Him. That's what I want in my life and want my children to see.

Then I had a thought:
What if I created aprons to be a visual reminder to moms and women that Jesus is with them in the everyday?

What other everyday products could I create that are visual reminders to seek Jesus?

Suddenly, my creativity was no longer dried up. Instead, everyday I felt like my ideas were multiplying. I felt renewed, excited, and passionate--it was a sweet gift from God after a season of discouragement.

Since September, I've kept a notebook filled with lots of ideas (some good, some not so much, and some way too-big-for-my britches right now).

Q: But there are no aprons in your shop. Why not?

A: First of all, my vision for the aprons is unique and I want to do it right. Since I don't sew more than a straight line, I'll need help (and money!) to launch the aprons. So, I began with what I knew: paper goods to be a starting point for the shop. My hope is to launch aprons this fall.

Q: Why did you name the shop Cultivate Co?

A: I spent weeks brainstorming for a name because I wanted it to represent the purpose of the shop: to remind you that God is with always present with you and working in you. When I looked into the word Cultivate--I loved that it meant to prepare, to grow, and to develop. Faith is not stagnant--it is growing and being cultivated. The motto for Cultivate Co is to plant encouragement in the everyday because I really do desire that each product encourages you in your faith.

Q: What is your favorite product in the shop?

A: Well, I really love them all--but my favorite are these scripture seeds (little verse cards to help you plant scripture in your heart and home). The Comfort + Care set all have verses that were so dear to me after Sam was born and I needed encouragement and nearness from God and His Word.

Q: What's happening with the Nicole Joelle Print Shop?

A: It's currently still open and stocked with just a few products. It's on auto-pilot right now, and I plan to officially close the doors at the end of summer. However, I am thinking about transitioning it a lightly-stocked Cultivate Co Etsy shop in addition to my official shop. We'll see :)

Q: What are most excited about with Cultivate Co?

A: Goodness. So much! I think it's so easy to fall into the trap that following Jesus means following the rules. I have often felt guilty about not having twenty minutes of daily quiet time or that I'm not doing enough (or that God can't work in me if I'm not crossing all my t's). You know what? That's a big lie. God is in me. He works in me. He is there when I need grace after being harsh with my toddler or disrespecting my husband. He gives me wisdom about how to teach my kids about Him. He is there to praise and thank as I do those thankless and praise-less household duties. He is there. This is the heartbeat of my little shop: to encourage others as they walk day in and day out with Jesus. It's about growing where you are planted--and trusting your Creator to work in you.

Q: What's your big vision for Cultivate Co?

A: Well, I certainly have ideas, but my biggest vision is to follow God's vision. I want to keep my hands open to His plans. I look forward to seeing what happens!

Q: Where can I find out more about the shop?

A: Over here on Instagram, here on Facebook, and here is the storefront.

Q: Are there any discounts available?

A: Well, you made it to the end of the story--grab 15% off with the code STORY15


Of course, there are a lot of tiny little details that are tucked away in my mind--but hopefully this gives you a little glimpse of the story behind Cultivate Co :) 
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