Author Archives: Jen

About Jen

I am married to my husband, Tim. I am a Mom to Rachel and Jake and my black lab fur baby Zeus! I am a Kindergarten teacher who loves to jazz up the school day by singing and dancing and finding new ways to make learning FUN! I am loving life as a wife and teacher while navigating through this new journey called parenthood! You can find me on Twitter: JDalton21 Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/daltonjen Instagram: jenniferadalton

Relationship Advice #10

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“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

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Wow! Can it possibly be true that 10 years has flown by in the blink of an eye?! Your Dad and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary today and we are proud to say that we have grown closer together in those last ten years than we ever thought possible.  It is true what they say–a good marriage is a labor of love!

Every year I write to you a little bit about what I have learned over the past year.  My hope is that by the time you are venturing into your own marriage you will have 30+ years of marriage tips/tricks and advice to help you navigate the waters.  When I think back on each year as they go by, I try to determine any over-arching themes, any areas that have stretched my thoughts or times that I have felt myself grow as a person.  Then I use what I have and try to convey some sort of (hopefully) helpful advice to you.  Also, if you look back on each year, it would be a pretty safe to say that the pieces of advice that I give are areas that I am currently or have intensely struggled with.  That is why they “stick out” to me as being important or recurring themes.  I am not perfect.  Marriages are not perfect.   They are a team effort that require a lot of give and take along the way.  If you look at each post as a “snapshot” of my year, I also hope that you’ll see little pieces of my heart and who I am/was during that time.

Sidenote: I just felt completely overwhelmed and compelled to tell you how much I love being your mom.  I am blessed to have you both in my life and I consider it the honor of a lifetime to be a part of yours.  ❤

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Here are links to previous years posts:

Years 1-6: (Year 1-5 were the “carefree” pre-children years, although they of course weren’t totally carefree…I just didn’t give much thought to the motherly advice I wanted to give yet.  Year 6 is when things got real and I had to start a blog so I could tell you all the things!), Year 7Year 8 and Year 9

This year’s relationship advice is a bit of a personal one and is something I believe we all may struggle with to a certain extent.

Relationship Advice #10: “For richer or for poorer” refers to  BOTH of those seasons of life and everything in between. Otherwise known as: Your “things” do not define you.

Hard times are bound to happen.  A lost job could turn your financial situation upside-down overnight.  A newly purchased car can become totaled within a week of purchase.  Bills can pile up, unexpected medical bills can nearly put you in near financial ruin.  Your health can deteriorate, a family member can pass away unexpectedly.  Life is good in the good times….but guess what– life is good in the hard times too.

This past year has been a tough one for us financially.  We struggled to see the good around us when it seemed like time and time again we just kept getting knocked down.  It was a difficult time, to say the least.

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“Team work makes the dream work.”

After sulking for a tiny bit, your Dad and I developed a plan.  We cut down our expenses, we nearly eliminated all of our personal disposable spending, we were creative with our grocery shopping (you’d be shocked at how many variations of spaghetti we have had in the past year! But at around $2.50/meal it truly can’t be beat!) and we prioritized every. single. thing. that we bought and constantly asked “Do I really need this?” before buying something new.  I’m talking down to questioning whether or not we really needed a new bottle of ketchup one time at the grocery store.  Things were really that tight.

Stress can ruin a lot of things for people.  Stress can either make or break a person. Financial stress is one of the biggest issues that can plague a relationship.  Spend time being intentional about how you handle the stress in your life.  Being intentional about handling the stress in my life is what made all the difference for us. We worked together, made decisions together and were determined to come out on top. We knew that nothing could be gained by trying to fix it alone and we knew that we could rely on each other no matter what came our way.  Find a partner who values your “team” and who knows that “team work makes the dream work.”

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Since I was questioning every single expense down to the bottle of ketchup, it goes without saying that items like new shoes, clothes, camera gear, etc. were completely and understandably put on the back burner.  You might have looked at our bank account and thought “Gee, these people sure don’t have a lot.” I’d be the first to tell you that you were completely and utterly wrong.

I found myself becoming increasingly aware of people around me.  I noticed my husband working harder than ever to support our family.  I saw my children (you!) laughing and smiling and learning and growing each day.  I began to see that God was placing certain people into my life for different reasons.  Some people had great messages and always seemed to say and do the right thing at the right time.  Sometimes it gave me chills, sometimes it brought tears to my eyes and sometimes it made me exhale in relief.  For example, the bible verse listed at the top of this post is a verse someone had shared with me after I had an exceptionally hard day.  I know with all of my being that that person was meant to share that scripture verse with me that day.  That was a time that I knew God was there.  I knew He was stretching me.  I knew He was growing me as a person and refining me to see the big picture in life.  I know he was trying to help me see what really mattered….and what didn’t.  I was reminded in that moment that God works all things together for good.  All things.  Even when we don’t understand it.

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After a time of not really thinking about buying “things” for myself, I started to notice that I stopped thinking about them (mostly, at least).  I recognized that “things” are just objects…some are helpful, some are not.  Some are just there.  They don’t define who we are.  Our personalities, who we are as people and the values that we have can define us as people.  What are we doing to make this world a better place? It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, something simple will do just as well.

I started to realize that life wasn’t about your job or how much money you had.  Your job title did not determine who you are.  Your job is fleeting.  Life is fleeting.  The only thing that lasts is love.  When we die, we can’t take any of our stuff with us.  We can, however,  leave the world a better place than how we found it.  We can realize that we are more than the clothes we wear or the things we have (or don’t have!).  Love is the only true wealth any of us can ever have.  The ripples left from a loving relationship can affect generations.  It truly is a beautiful opportunity we’ve been given to make the world a better place simply by loving others.

Helpful Tip: Be careful when justifying your purchases with phrases like “Well I work hard, so I deserve this.” A lot of people work hard.  A lot of people “deserve” those things too.  But for one reason or another, they may not be able to have it.  Keep that in mind, always.  Nothing in life is guaranteed or “deserved.”  Be thankful for everything.  Life is a gift.

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“I wish you bad luck- again, from time to time- so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life. And understand that your success is not completely deserved, and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.”- Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts during a commencement speech for his son’s ninth grade graduation.

Some questions to consider to help you determine where the desires of your heart truly lie:

-Do I place more emphasis on wanting to acquire material items instead of what I can do to help make the world a better place?

-Do I notice the “things” people have and constantly compare what I have to what they have?

-Do I know without a doubt that although sometimes life is hard, God uses all things to work together for good?

-Am I capable of seeing myself, my partner and the people around me for who they are as people and not “what” they are?

So, my sweet ones, when you take your wedding vows and you say “For richer or for poorer,” know that that means during BOTH of those times and any time in between as well.  Use the hard times learn more about yourself and grow in your relationship with God and your spouse.  Realize that life isn’t just about you and sometimes the chips are going to be down.  Who are you going to be when the chips are down? Maybe you’ll decide you want to be that person when the chips are up again too.  I hope so.

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I love you, I love you, I love you.  To the moon and back! A thousand times! Forever and ever.

Love always,

Mommy

Lenten Reflections #1

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For Lent this year I have decided to read the entire New Testament over the course of the season, reading just a few chapters each day. So far I have read through the gospels and am in the midst of Acts and learning more and more about the early church.  I’ve read parts of the bible, and I’d even venture to guess that I’ve read most of the new testament already, but never in order and never consistently over a short period of time.  So, it’s been quite enjoyable to take time each day to learn a little bit more and maybe get some more context about some things that I thought I already knew or understood to be true.

One of the stories that really stuck out to me was the story of the woman at the well.  If you want to read it, you can find it in John 4:5-42.  The image of thirst is used through out the Bible to speak to the human longing for God.  In this story, the overall message is that God is thirsting to have a relationship with us more than we even realize.

Here’s a synopsis of the story to give you some background info if you are unfamiliar.  Jesus, travelling back from Judea to Galilee, had gone through Samaria and sat down beside the well to rest.  He was hot.  He was tired.  He just needed to sit.  We’ve all been there, right? So while he’s sitting there, a woman comes up to the well to get some water and Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water.  But Jesus, being Jesus, isn’t just thirsty for some water–he’s thirsty for the woman’s faith.  He wanted the woman to believe in him and he wanted her to see him for who he really was–the son of God.  In many ways, our salvation is summed up here, in that our thirst for God meets God’s even greater thirst for us.

Sounds like a simple story so far, right? You’d think so, but that’s not where the story ends.  At first, of course, the woman is a bit evasive with her response. She doesn’t understand why this Jewish man is asking her for a drink.  You see, fierce hatred between Jews and Samarians goes way, way, way back in the history books, so the woman is at first just a tad confused. The woman asks Jesus why he wants water from her, since she is a woman of Samaria.  Since we know that Jesus is actually referring to a spiritual thirst, we can take the woman’s response to refer to her spirituality as well.  Here she’s essentially asking Jesus: how could God be thirsty for my faith and my attention? What would he see in me? What do I  have to offer Him?  Maybe you’ve felt like this from time to time too.

Jesus’ answer to the woman’s question is beautiful and sincere: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.”  We are made to have a desire for God and a desire to know him.  At times that desire may seem small, other times you might feel that desire become overwhelming.  Here Jesus shows us that His desire to know us and be with us is even greater than our desire for him.

Your picture at the top, Rachel, is supposed to represent the times of prayer and reflection that happen during the season of Lent.  Lent is an excellent time for spiritual growth and reflection, and I urge you to try to incorporate that into your life as you get older.  When I took this picture though, aiming to capture prayer and reflection, I found that what I actually saw ended up being different.  When I look at that picture, I see the innocence of a child.  The purity and the sweetness of a child, combined with my own personal overwhelming feeling of love and pride that a parent has for their child. I am proud of you–you are kind, and smart and funny and compassionate.  You have some faults, like the rest of us; however those faults could never outweigh the rest of my love for you.

If we only had the power to see ourselves through God’s eyes, imagine what we would think about not only just ourselves, but other people too.  As I think about you and Jake and how special you both are to me, I can’t help but think about what God must see in me too.  When I have trouble thinking of even one thing that I would have to offer Him, He can rattle of probably 50 things that he sees in me.  I know He thinks of each and every one of us that way.  Let’s try to see ourselves the way that God sees us.  After all, He is thirsting for us.

 

I love you to the moon and back. Forever and ever.

Love always,

Mommy

 

 

2016: Patience and Trust

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2016–Wow! What a year! In some ways it’s hard to believe that an entire year has gone by,  but in other ways it seems like this year might have just been the longest year of my life. 2016 was a great year for our family, but at the same time it was also a very tough year for us emotionally, mentally and spiritually for various reasons.  Your Dad and I tried to keep things in perspective when times got tough, and worked hard to rely on each other even when we felt pulled towards the opposite.

It’s easy to feel helpless when it seems like one thing after another keeps happening to bring you down–like things pile up and you just don’t know how to stop it. Everyone’s been there, every one goes through a season like this in their lives.  Don’t ever think that bad things or tough times only ever fall on you–it happens to everyone.  The way you react to those times says a lot more about your character than how you act when things are smooth sailing.

When it seems like things are getting too hard, take a look around and realize that life is good.  The kids are healthy and happy.  Our home is peaceful and steady.  We have food, clothing and good friends.  In the whole scheme of life, we have it pretty good.  Even if life is hard right now, I know that it won’t be like this forever.  Yes, even through the hard times, life is still good.  God is still good and faithful, even in time when it seems like He’s not.  Please know that, like *really* know that.

This past year was an exercise in trust for our family.  Life isn’t always butterflies and rainbows, little ones.  But it is *always* good and we are always here for a purpose.  Thanks for always keeping things in perspective for us.  For 2017 we are holding on to the hope that the future brings goodness and happiness for our family, our community, our country and our world.  IMG_3849

Happy New Year, my sweet babes! I love you to the moon and back!

Love always,

Mom

P.S. I hope you enjoy looking back on some of my favorite photos from this year.  If it seems like many of them are from the summer, it’s because they are.  Summer is my jam.

 

Happy 5th Birthday, Rachel!

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My sweet Rachel,

Happy 5th Birthday!  It’s hard to believe that five years has flown by in the blink of an eye! It seems like just yesterday that we found out we were pregnant with you and now here we are–5 years later. Wow! 5 years of sharing our lives with you and you sharing your life with us.  Five years of snuggles and hugs and love.  You, my dear one, are the embodiment of the innocence of childhood. You are tenderhearted and thoughtful.  The way you talk to people and interact with those around you makes them feel like you really “see” them for who they are.  Several of your teachers and many of our friends have told us how special you are, and that they feel like when you talk to them, you are really talking to them and seeing them for who they are.  That is uncommon, especially for someone so young.

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Yesterday when you woke up on your birthday, there was snow on the ground! How exciting! You were so happy to see snow and patiently asked if we could go for a walk in it.  Out on our walk you told me that you thought it was really nice that God gave you snow on your birthday, and that “he must really, really know what my heart really wants.” Often times you’ll say things like this that makes me pause and reflect on what is happening in my life.  Jesus tells us we should be more like the children, and you remind me of that verse often just by being you.  You are sweet, sensitive and kind, and open and accepting.  You don’t notice if anyone is different, and in fact, you know that we are all different–and that is ok with you! You are patient and eager to learn.  You see the best in people and hope for the best in situations.  You trust and just know that everything is always going to be ok.  You might not think that a 5 year old could have all of these qualities, but you are proof that that is not true!img_2483

Out of all of your special qualities, I feel like you need to know how much I love watching you grow into your role as a sister. You are an amazing big sister.  You are so patient and kind to Jake each and every day.  He is a big huge ball of energy and often times we tell you that he is still learning how to behave, but you always take it in stride.  Thank you for being such a wonderful big sister and taking it upon yourself to try to encourage Jake by showing him “how to be good” (you have always been a pleaser!), you make us proud every day!

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For your birthday this year we took another trip to the American Girl store and let you pick out an outfit for Polka Dot, your favorite Bitty Baby.  You take Polka Dot with you everywhere and I have a feeling that Polka Dot is going to be around for a long time to come.  I love seeing glimpses of the Mommy I hope you will become some day when you play with Polka Dot.  You are so, so sweet with babies–real or not!

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One thing  is for sure, my girl.  Your Daddy, Jakie and I are so very lucky and blessed to have you as a part of our lives.  You might feel like we are teaching you and helping you grow into a better person, but in truth you are the one who is teaching us and helping us to become better people too.  Thank you for showing us that there is living proof that goodness and kindness can prevail in this world.  The world is a better and brighter place with you in it.

 

I love you forever, to the moon and back until the end of time.

 

Love always,

Mommy

xoxox

Happy Birthday, Jake!

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Happy birthday to our lovable, energetic, wild and super sweet baby Jake! Life in your eyes is like one big party.   From the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to sleep–you never, ever, EVER stop moving. Ever.  You love to play with trucks and cars and have recently started loving anything and everything Star Wars.  IMG_9596

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Earlier today when I asked you what you wanted to do, you said “Dump water on something.”  That pretty much sums up what life with you is like.  It’s expecting the unexpected, looking for fun in every situation and not being afraid to bring a little bit (or a lot) of love and laughter to each moment.  Some times your Dad and I feel like we’re not sure where exactly all of your spunk and energy came from, but we know that we are blessed to be your parents and so lucky to have you as a part of our family.

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You play hard and you love hard, and for all these things and more we will be forever grateful that you are our boy.  I can’t wait to see where life takes you, or more appropriately in your case, where you are going to take your life.  Thank you for reminding us that beauty and fun can be found all around us.  From chasing a falling leaf, or clapping for motorcycles passing by, or when you’re just looking for something to “dump some water on,” you always show us that there is good and happiness just waiting to be found in this world.

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I love you to the moon and back.  More than you could ever know.

 

Love always,

Mommy

Relationship Advice #9

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“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord  not for men.”  Colossians 3:23

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Rachel and Jake,

For the past few years I have written to you here, here, and here with a variety of relationship advice for you to use in your everyday life.  Your Mama’s “pearls of wisdom,” as I like to call them, are not meant for mastery but more for your own reflection.  These little pieces of advice that I give are things that I am working on myself in my relationships and are in no way anything that I have mastered or do day in and day out.  Simply put, each year when your father’s and my anniversary rolls around, I reflect on what I have learned over the last year or what stuck out as the most pressing piece of advice I want to share with you.

When the time comes for you to get married, my hope is that you’ll be able to see what it takes to make a marriage last for a lifetime.  Your father and I have committed to the vows we made before God to love, honor and cherish each other as long as we live. It’s a large scale promise that can only be fulfilled by purposely choosing how we make up those day-to-day moments that create a lifetime of loving each other. What do those moments look like? Well, sweet little ones, that’s what I hope these posts will help you understand.

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{Relationships are a lot like sledding.  You have to mentally prepare yourself beforehand, get all of the tools you need in place and then you get to enjoy the ride! When you think you’re done, you just get back up, climb the hill again and head back down for some more adventure! Important note–It’s more fun if you enjoy the people you are sledding with.}

So, here it is, relationship advice number nine. It might sound a bit odd, but just bear with me here: get a hobby.  Yes, that’s right, a hobby.  The key to happiness does not rely on  relationships alone.  You need to be able to find things that make you feel happy and content and confident in yourself because as you will find in your life, and I’m sorry to say this, but people and relationships will sometimes disappoint you.  You need to be able to find satisfaction and fulfillment outside of relationships so that when the chips are down you can still have something that brings happiness into your life. On the flip side of that, your hobby will allow you to share your joy with others and many times will bring new and varied relationships in to your life.   God has given you specific interests and skill sets for a reason–it is up to you to develop and explore the natural talents He has given you!IMG_3135

Relationship Advice #9: Get a hobby. It could even be something that doesn’t have to involve the other person at first, if you want.  “How does that work?,” you might wonder. Or “What does that have to do with anything?” Well, that’s the beauty of this blog, just let me tell you…

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According to the researchers at the School of Medicine at Temple University, engaging in a hobby awakens the area of the brain that produces positive feelings and reduces stress.  Doing a particular task that you enjoy can enhance your ability to concentrate and encourages self-motivation and increases self-confidence.  All of these can have a profound impact on your relationship with those around you.

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Over the past few years your father and I have developed several hobbies.  Some we share with each other, and some we do completely on our own. Having a hobby that we can share together is a fun way to connect with each other, especially during these years when most of our conversation centers around you.  For example, in the past year or so your Dad and I have started exploring craft beers together.  We enjoy trying new beers together and finding beers for each other that we think we might like.  Sometimes we are surprised at how well we know the other person’s taste!

After you are in bed for the night, sometimes we will try a new beer together while we talk about the day or anything else that might be on our mind.  It’s a way for us to purposefully make an effort to connect with each other. Recently your Dad has even started learning how to brew his own beer with a friend.  I fully support that endeavor and enjoy reaping the benefits of it as well! IMG_3656.JPG

Photography has been a bit of an outlet for me lately.  I enjoy taking pictures and have been blessed to be able to share some of the joy that you, my children, bring me through sharing my photos with others.  I have been humbled that other people have chosen me to take their family photos and am loving some of the experiences and doors that photography has opened up for me.  It was completely unexpected, but it was an outlet your father (and some really great friends) encouraged me to explore!

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It’s no secret that your Dad has always been in to cars and Corvettes especially.  When we first started dating I thought “Go to a car show? Really??” Sometimes your friend or spouse might have a hobby that you are “just not that into.” And that’s ok! But, please try to like it for that other person.  There is always something that can be gained from new experiences.  Something that brings joy to your friend or partner can in some way bring joy to you too.  Even if it’s just spending time together or having something that you do together to support each other–it’s important!

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Who knows, some day you may like it and end up taking your kids there and posing them beside sweet Corvettes that you never really appreciated before your relationship began.  You might realize that it’s really not that bad, after all.  And when you find yourself saying “Hey, want to take the Corvette out and take pictures of it on some crazy back road I found?” you’ll realize that your two worlds have collided in the best way possible and then you’ll realize that the things that you thought were weird in your younger years really aren’t that bad after all.  Because in the end, my little ones, it’s all about supporting each other and bringing parts of yourself into a relationship.

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Trying something new can be a good thing when you look at it as an adventure or as a way to learn about new things.  In fact, we should welcome change and new opportunity into our lives because it helps evolve who we are as a person. Our lives weren’t meant to be stagnant.  You will grow and change throughout your lifetime and you want to be sure that you surround yourself with people who are going to encourage you and support your interests too.

If you want someone who is going to support you, then you need to be willing to do that for them, as well.  Being a good friend requires having a willingness to grow and bond over new experiences.  After all, no two  people are ever exactly the same.  Everyone comes in to a relationship with their own set of experiences and beliefs that can impact the way they view certain situations. Celebrate those differences, encourage others to pursue what makes them happy and enjoy the ride as they find their place in this world.

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I’ll leave you with one final thought, which happens to be an excerpt from an exceptional author.  Read these words and try to let them really sink in.  It took me a long time before I finally got the gist of what he meant.

Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.  Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.  Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.  Give one another of your bread, but eat not from the same loaf.  Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are along though they quiver with the same music.  Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.  For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.  And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow. ~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

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I love you more than you will ever know.  To the moon and back.

Love always,

Mommy

ps. Happy 9th Anniversary, Tim! Thank you for always supporting me and encouraging me and for helping me find my hobby!

 

2015: A Year to Remember

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Dear Rachel and Jake,

Wow! 2015 was an awesome year for our family! Here’s a look back on some (ok, ok, A LOT) of our most memorable moments.  It seems like this year just flew right by us! I guess that’s what happens when you are busy having fun! 🙂

 

I am so thankful for the gift of motherhood itself, but most of all, I am especially thankful for the little ones who call me “Mom.” Life is good.  2016, we are ready for you!

I love you to the moon and back.

Love always,

Mommy

xoxo