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6 Steps to Meal Planning Success

Either Monday or Tuesday night, I grab my small notebook and start to menu plan for my grocery shopping trip the following day.  I’ve menu planned almost weekly for the last two year or so.  I couldn’t imagine trying to go grocery shopping without a menu planned it.  I would spend so much money and time just wondering the store trying to think of meals and going back for that random item that I forgot that I needed.

I’m not gonna lie when people say that they don’t menu plan, I do wonder how you grocery shop and what your grocery budget might be like.  But I know it can work for some people but I need a plan and this is how I do it.

1: Find a best menu planning method that works for you

I know this is very undescriptive but there are so many options out there from pretty printables on Pinterest to a Menu planner petite planner from Erin Condren.  My personal favorite is just this simple $3 notebook that I scored from the Target Dollar Spot in January.  I’ve done the big binder with all the sheets and we don’t have a colored printer so the pretty sheets just wouldn’t be the same but the little notebook has really worked for me.  It’s not the full-size notebook and fits perfectly in my backpack and doesn’t take up much space in the cart when I have it out.   One side of the page I make a list of the days of the week (more on this below) and the other side is the items that I need to get.  Simple and that’s how I like it.

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But I do think that finding a method that works for me has what makes all the difference in how regular I menu plan and I do it every week.  I don’t have a ton of pages to keep track of or flip through when I’m at the store.

I do want to stress that this is the method that works best for me.  If you like all the colorful printable or like the big binder with multiple pages, that’s great.  If it helps you menu plan and saves on your budget, that’s even better.  You do you!

2 – Figure out the day that you are going to need to cook and what those days look like.

This is can either make or break your menu plan and grocery budget.  The first thing I do when I sit down to do my menu plan before I start to think about recipes or write down what items I need to get at the store.  I write down the days of the week then I take note of the days Wes is at the station (I don’t cook on those days) and if we have any other plans in the evening.   If I know that I’m going to my parents for the day, I’ll pick a crock pot meal or something insanely simple to cook for dinner because I don’t feel like cooking when I get home with the kids after their house.

Knowing how your week looks, what days can you make the long meal because you are going to be home or what days do you need that simple and quick meal because you have 5 other things going on that night.  The more you think about your week, the more you can plan for it and less likely you are going to say ‘screw it’ and pick up fast food.

Also, you need to think about breakfast and lunch as well.  I don’t normally menu plan breakfast. I have a couple of simple meals that I rotate through and keep the items on hand.  Lunch depends on a lot of what my dinner menu looks like.  If I have a meal for dinner that will produce a lot of leftovers then I’ll just do that for lunch but if they won’t, then I’ll plan something for lunch normally something that I can prep once and eat it for the rest of the week.

3.  Take Inventory of your pantry, fridge, and freezer.

This will save you huge on your grocery budget.  Before you get you lost in your recipe page on Pinterest, take stock of what you have already brought.  Do you have that meal that you were going to make last week but you ended up going out instead?  If it was good enough for you last week, move it to this week and if you are missing a couple of ingredients, add them to your list.   Think about that meat that is frozen in your freezer that you forgot all about – make something with that.  Or find a way to repurpose your leftovers.    You probably have more complete meals in your pantry/ freezer than you think you do.  Use it and save yourself some money.

4.  Check out the Ads.

We almost all know that the best deals are the front page.  That’s where the best deals are and the rest of the ad is fluff.    I don’t shop the ads as well as I should.  I like to look at them for meat but I don’t really do it with the rest of my grocery items.   I would like to get better at buying my pantry items at the best prices I can find like I do with my meat.

5.  Finally, write down the recipes

I don’t really do themed days but some days of the week we do have the same thing as pizza Friday and Binner (breakfast for dinner) on the weekend.   I try to find recipes that are simple, don’t require a lot of different ingredients especially ones that I don’t normally have.  Some weeks, it’s all new recipes, other weeks it’s a bunch of old favorites or a mix of both.

6.  Making my list of items to get

After I figure out the recipes that I’m going to make this week, I write down all the ingredients that I need to get at the store. And all the other things that I need for the house or for the kids or snacks.

I used to make a big list, divided by store and store department but it all just got too much.  So now I just do one list.   I have a good idea of what I can get at each store so I just go through the list as I go through the store.

7. BONUS TIP Write down the price of the item and add up as you go.

I’ve only recently started doing this and it has really paid off on keeping my total within my budget.  Since I go to two different grocery stores to shop, I try to keep a total in my mind about how much I need for the next store so writing down all the prices helps me do that.

So those are my 7 tips on how to meal plan successfully and how it can keep your grocery budget in check too.

Do you menu plan?

Do you like to try out new recipes or do you make the same ones every week?

Love,

Megan 

 

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My 5 minutes, 5 products under $40 Make-Up Routine.

Like most moms out there I don’t have a lot of time to do my makeup or sometimes I don’t feel like putting a full face on but I do want a little something to even out my skin tone and give me a little pep.  So I’ve developed this 5 minute, 5 product makeup routine that does just that.

Before                                                  After

The Products That I Use:

  1.  Physicians Formula Organic Wear CC  Cream ($14)- If I’m not really going anywhere fancy or just doing errands around town, I don’t like to wear anything heavy.  So this CC Cream is my go-to foundation.   It evens out my skin tone but still looks natural.
  2. Neutrogena Healthy Skin Pressed Powder ($10)- I like to apply a little powder over the CC cream to set it a little bit.
  3. Elf Brow Pencil ($2) – My eyebrow turn a little blonde on the ends so I use this  fill out my brows
  4. Maybelline The Flashies Volum’ Express ($6) –  This was actually my second layer of mascara until I lost my first one.  I’m really not too picky about mascara and it’s just the one that I have right now and it does the job.  It makes my eyelashes look thick.
  5. Covergirl Cheekers Blush ($3) – In all honesty, I like this blush because it’s cheap.  The color goes on well and it seems to last for a while.

How I apply my make up

I squeeze a little physicians formula on my hand and use my beauty blender to apply it to my face.  I try to focus on the middle part of my face where it’s the reddest and uneven skin tone.

After blending in the foundation, I cover it with a little powder just to set it.

Before                                              After

You can see in the first picture, my eyebrows get blond and thin at the end, so with the ELF pencil, I just fill it in to frame out my face.

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Not the best picture, but here is a close up after I put my mascara on.

I did grab a picture of me before and after the blush but I just put it on the apples of my cheeks and blend if I need to.

And that’s it, my 5 minutes, 5 product Mommy Make-Up Routine.

What products do you use?

Do you have a different makeup routine depending on what your day looks like?

Love, 

Megan 

Year of Growth

Planning My Year of Growth

Last Sunday, as I was driving to church, I had this idea that popped into my head.  The idea was what if I took 12 areas of my life that I would like to improve and spend 30 days (or a month) working on each one. What would my life look like a year from now?

I’ve learned while doing this 30 Whole Day Challenge is that if you focus on improving one area of your life for a certain amount of time, it really change make a difference. I’m gonna talk about this more when I do my review of the Whole 30 but it has helped me reevaluate what I eat, what I feed my kids, my emotional relationship with food and realizing that one is just enough.  But if unless than 30 days has changed my relationship with food, what could 30 days for other areas of my life.

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So I took a little bit and thought about the areas in my life that I would like to improve.  Some of them came really quick – relationship with God, my marriage, friends, and finances.    Some of the other ones took a little more soul searching and thought – my relationships with my kids, sisters, and in-laws.   Then I thought about areas that I would like to try and branch out in – minimalism, meditation, fitness.    And the last areas that I want to improve on are two areas that I’m already doing but can always improve on – saving and shelf cooking.

I think working on and improving each of these areas in my life will lead to huge growth for me.  It will help improve my marriage, my relationships and myself.

You may be asking yourself, well what are you going to do after the 30 days.  My plan is to take what I’ve learned from those 30 days and induced it into my regular life, mainly just the key points.  They say that after 30 days your actions become a habit and that’s what I hope happens.

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The first area that I’m gonna work on is my relationship with God.  If my relationship with God isn’t good, isn’t on point, then I’m going to see the kind of growth I want to see.   Luke 1:37 says “For with God Nothing is impossible”    And that’s why I’m starting there.

So here is my game plan for Month 1 – improving my relationship with God.

  1.  Pray when I wake up and before I go to bed every day.  Right now I only really pray when something is really wrong or when I do the generic prayer that I do with James when it’s his bedtime.   They say that the best way to improve your relationship with God is to talk to him.  Go to him for every need, worry or thought.
  2. Do my daily devotional in the morning via the First 5 app.
  3. Every day/ night complete one page of the Faith Dare –  this book is a 30-day guide to help you live your life to the fullest while improving your relationship with God.
  4. Listen to God-centered music and podcasts.
  5. Practice grace and living a God-centered life every day.

So those are going to be the five things that I’m gonna practice every day to strengthen my relationship with God and to start the Year of Growth.

Here is my rough order of when I’m gonna tackle each month, they make move around a little bit depending on what I need in my life at the time.

August – Relationship with God

September – Marriage

October – Finances

November – Saving

December – Relationship with Kids

January -Minimalism

February -Fitness

March- Friends

April -Relationship with Sisters

May –  Meditation

June- Relationship with In-Laws

July – Shelf-cooking

So this is my plan to help myself growth in the next 12 months.

Have you ever felt motivated to grow yourself?  what did you do?

What area in your life would you like to grow in?

Love,

Megan 

 

 

 

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My Weekly Grocery Haul and Meal Plan

From the blogs/vlogs/Instagram stories that I see, there are two favorite things that all people like to see – Day in the life and grocery hauls.  I think it’s because people are so curious about what other people’s day really looks like and what they really buy.  So before I put away my groceries from my grocery trip on Monday, I grabbed a couple of pictures including my favorite picks for this week.

Also, I included my meal plan for the week.

I do 95% of our grocery shopping at either Aldi’s or Meijer.   I like to hit up Aldi’s first since most of their items are cheaper and try to get as much on my list there as I can before I go to Meijer.

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My Aldi’s Haul

  • bananas
  • 2 dozen eggs (I eat a lot eggs now)
  • broccoli
  • celery
  • fruit multigrain bars
  • strawberries
  • 2 lb of ground turkey
  • spinach
  • sugar snap peas
  • 4 6oz tomato paste
  • carrots
  • 1 pint of blueberries
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • green onions
  • almond butter
  • french dressing
  • red grapes
  • 10 baby food pouches
  • 2 containers of grape tomatoes
  • garlic
  • bacon
  • cauliflower rice
  • mix string cheese

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Meijer Haul

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 3 regular potatoes
  • red onion
  • white onion
  • snowpeas
  • 3 salad cucumbers
  • chocolate chips for cookies
  • face wash
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • body wash
  • rice vinegar
  • Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • mini beef ravioli
  • orange
  • tapioca flour
  • ginger

fullsizeoutput_c19I found these at Meijer when I was looking for a new shampoo and conditioner.  I had a $2 off coupon for each one and they were $2 off at Meijer.  So it took it from about $8/ bottle to $4/bottle.  A little more budget friendly.  I will give a review of them when I get to try them out.

fullsizeoutput_c1fThese chips were on clearance so I thought I would try them out and see if they make my chocolate chip cookies any better.

fullsizeoutput_c1bWhile I’m on the Whole 30, I can’t have peanut butter but I can have Almond butter.  I haven’t priced it out to see how it compares to other almond butter but I’ve really liked it and will buy it when the whole 30 is over.

fullsizeoutput_c1cAnother Aldi’s find.  We are having orange chicken with veggies this week.  And I haven’t had cauliflower rice before so I thought I would buy it first before I try to make it myself.

fullsizeoutput_c1dI ended up grabbing 10 of these for Norah this week.  At only 79 cents per pouch, it’s not a total budget buster.  Yes, 79 cents per pouch for organic baby food.  Aldi for the win!!!

fullsizeoutput_c1eThis is my new favorite bacon.  I put it in the oven at 375 and cook it for about 15 minutes and it perfect and so easy.

My Weekly Meal Plan

Breakfast –  eggs and bacon for me, the kids will eat a variety of stuff for breakfast that we already have in the house

Lunch – leftovers, chicken salad, rolled turkey.  Kids – PB&J, string cheese and whatever I can pull together

Dinner – I don’t normally plan a meal on the days Wes is at the station and just eat leftovers for dinner or make something quick.

Monday: Turkey meatballs and zoodles w/ homemade spaghetti sauce

Wednesday:  Orange Chicken with cauliflower rice

Friday:  Burgers and Fries

Sunday: Shredded Barbecue Chicken on Sweet Potato “Buns”

So that’s my weekly grocery haul and my meal plan.  What do you have plan for this week?

What are your favorite places to grocery shop?

Have you picked up any new products to try?

Love,

Megan 

 

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Small County Fair, Big Family Fun

One of my strongest childhood summer memories, besides making bicycle trips to the Frozen Custard for ice cream, is going to the county fair.   My aunt’s house butted up next to the fairgrounds so we always had the best parking spot and it felt like we spent the whole week there.  Not only did the fair have the animals barns and the homemaker exhibits but there was always tons of food, carnival rides, and games.   It was one of my favorite places to go in the summer and something I always looked forward too.  I’m sure I’m idolizing it as we do with a lot of things in our past (say your favorite song “Mmmmbop” by Hanson or TV show “Full House”) and how watching them now they just don’t quite add up to our memories but I want my kids to have similar memories so I saw that the county fair was happening last weekend, we packed up and the kids and went.

Given that we live fairly close to the Indianapolis, where the Indiana State Fair takes place, the local fairs around here aren’t as big as they were in Lafayette but honestly, that’s what we enjoy about it.  This past weekend, Hamilton County Fair went on from Friday – Monday and we were able to visit it on Sunday in the afternoon and had a great time.

First, we visited the trackers (James is a 3-year-old boy, enough said)

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After that, we hit up the animal barns.  These were always my favorite when I was little. I was always  daydreaming about what it would be like to own these animals.

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It has been a while since I visited a local country fair and was surprised to see that there was a Llama barn now.  I guess llamas are pretty expensive to raise and need to have access to A/C but they are growing in popularity so cue the llama barn.

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While we were walking through the homemaker exhibits Wes and I started talking about the future and what we want for our kids to do.  I told him that when it comes to 4H, it’s easy to get wrapped in all the animals and to think that it’s just that.  But there is whole other side to 4H and I think it has something for every kid and every interest, not just farmers.  I didn’t take that many pictures of the homemaker exhibits but there were woodworking, fashion, painting, and even gift wrapping.  Not to leave out all the food/dessert/cake decoring areas too.   I can’t wait until James and Norah are old enough to enter 4H and to see what they will be drawn to do.

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Next, we hit up the food.  Since I’m still doing the whole 30 food challenge, I didn’t get anything but the kids shared some pretzels, Wes had a pork tenderloin (it’s an Indiana thing) then all three of them shared some ice cream.  The best part about the food is that we got all that for under $10.  In a normal situation, that wouldn’t be a deal but in a fair situation, it’s a steal. And definitely won’t be that cheap when we hit up the Indiana state fair.

Our second to last stop (we hit up the trackers on our way out because once again James is a 3-year-old boy who loves trackers) we headed to the horse barn.   I think this was Norah’s favorite stop.  Because of how the stalls were set up, I held her so she could see the horse and when they would swing their heads over to her, she would get the biggest smile on her face.  She is also loving peek-a-boo so when a horse played a little round with her, she let out a sweet little giggle and smile.

After a few more minutes testing out the tractors, we pilled back into the van and headed home.  Which was just in time for a storm to roll in.

This Sunday will probably go down as one of my favorite family things that we have done in a while.  I’m glad that we got to spend Sunday together and instead of just hanging out at home watching TV we decided to get out and do something.  So I would highly highly recommend checking out your local county fair, who knows what type of day it might lead to.

What summer activity do you remember from your summer as a kid?

What is your favorite summer activity you have done this year?

Love, 

Megan 

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What I pack When I Take Two Toddlers Hiking.

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Last week the kids and I took an early morning trip to the playground.  We had some errands to run and the weather was nice so I thought a playground rump would help the multiple stores errand to go a little smoother.  Not only was the morning a perfect summer morning, not to warm, not to cool but the playground wasn’t crowded or loud.

After we spent some times on the slides and gave the playground a run for its money, we decided to give the nature center a look. The playground that we visited is just a small part of  Cool Creek park it also offers a nature center and a couple of trails throughout some acres of woods. It was good, a lot of turtles but James and Norah are still too young to really get the most out of it.  Before getting back into the van, we wandered into the wooded area and check out the trails.  James liked walking through the woods and going over the bridge but we didn’t have the right shoes with us and I didn’t bring any water or snacks  with us so we headed back to the van and I told him that we would come back tomorrow.

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The small creek that crisscross throughout the trails.

And unlike a lot of my mommy promises I say throughout the day, we did.  The next day, we put on our tennis shoes, made sure we had enough snacks and water and hit the trails.  I didn’t capture any pictures from the first hike but we had a good time.  James played in the creek a little, took a tumble but surprisingly didn’t seem bothered by the cold water or wet clothes.

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Snack Break!!

On Thursday of this week, we made our second hike.  This time I made sure to dress James in his swim trunks and to bring him a change of clothes for after the hike that a left in the van.  I let James lead the way, we didn’t stay on one certain trail or path and ended up doing a lap in the park but that’s okay.  It lasted about an hour which I think was good enough for all of us.   My goal for our hikes is that maybe by this time next year, we can go on longer hikes at different parks and really enjoy them as a family.   Even though it doesn’t release as much of James’ energy as I would have liked it to, it’s still such a nice way to start the morning off.  James and I had some interesting conversions while walking around Big/ Small trees and trees crashing when they fall.  It was really nice to spend this time with them without any interuptions.

So for those whole are curious about what I packed for a hike with two toddlers, here it is:

  • Camelbac backpack – I’ve had this bag for a long time and it’s perfect to take hiking. It’s super lightweight, has a lot of pockets and even has a water reserve if I want to use it.
  • Small hand towel – after our first hike and James playing in the water. I realized that I would need to have a small towel to wipe his feet off before I put his shoes on.
  • Extra socks for James – Just in case he gets his shoes/ socks wet.  I don’t have room to carry an extra pair of shoes but at least dry socks will help against blisters.
  • First-Aid Kit – While the trails aren’t very long.  If James or I were to fall and get hurt, having band-aids on hand would be nice.
  • Water Bottle – One for James and one for me. Both of the ones in the pictures are stainless steel wall bottles. Mine I got at bed bath and beyond and James was from Toy-R-Us.
  • Snacks – I usually do some kind of trail mix for James, a pouch for Norah, and a Larabar for me.
  • Sunglasses – While where we are currently hiking it’s not too sunny but I like to have them just in case.
  • Diapers and Wipes – Just in case someone has a huge blowout.  I do keep extra diapers in the van for backups.
  • A little pouch for my cards and license – I made this small zipper pouch (you can find them on my Etsy page) but it’s the perfect size for my debit card and license so I don’t have to carry my huge wallet or risk leaving it in the van.

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A couple things about Norah’s carrier.  It’s a BabySteps Ergonomic Baby Carrier  . I’ve had a couple wraps/ baby carriers but I was never really sold on them and knew that walking for a while, it wouldn’t turn out well.  So I did a little research and found one on Amazon, it had good reviews and wasn’t crazy expensive like a lot of the baby carriers are.  The cool thing about the carrier is that there is a little ledge or seat for her to sit on and I can have her face in or out, go on my back or on my side.  The only downside is the aquaily blue/green color but it isn’t a huge issue.  Overall I’ve very happy with the carrier and would recommend it to anyone.

So that’s the story of our first two hikes and what I pack to keep us going.  I hope everyone is able to find something that makes them excited to go do as a family and helps them reconnect and enjoy each other’s company more.  Bonus if it wears the kids out and leads to good naps.

Love,

Megan 

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My Steps to Self-Care

I was listening to the radio the other day and the DJ asked all the male listeners what was the one thing when polled, did women want more than chocolate and trashy tv shows,. Truthfully I guess the answer before the DJ came back and I’m sure most Moms reading this can too – it’s alone time.

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As a mama of two young kids, I didn’t get that much time alone.  And if I did, it’s usually was filled with cleaning the house or doing office things for Hiker (my husband’s business).  That was until I did something about it.

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The first thing that I did was that I started running.  I really got into running about 4 years ago, that was pre-babies.  I had the early mornings free to myself (besides going to work) so it was no problem for me to find time to run.  Post babies, this wasn’t as easy.  Norah still isn’t sleeping through the night so that means no straight through solid night sleep for me and the idea of taking two kids out in the stroller for a run isn’t appealing and isn’t giving me that alone time that I was craving.  The day after finishing Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis,  I got up early, 6 am, put on my running shoes and got my run on.  And to be honest, it has become my favorite part of the day.  Working around Wes’ firefighter schedule is a little difficult and in the past, I would have let that stop me but not now.   So on the days that he has to go to the station and will be gone about 36 hours (24 hours firefighting and 12 hours at the shop with Hiker) I get up early and go for a run so I can squeeze it in before he has to leave for work.  Going for a run mixed with getting up early and being able to experience the house before everyone else gets up is pretty magical.  I know I’m not the first person to write this but maybe there is a reason that everyone is raving about it.

The other self-care act that I’ve been doing lately is taking a bath.  I know that a lot of people have a lot of different options on baths but I love them.  I took them all the time growing up but since we moved into this house, I haven’t really taken them.  Our master bath doesn’t have a bathtub and we have had issues with our guest bathtub.  But a few weeks ago, I stopped using those excuses to keep me from taking care of myself.   So on Sunday nights (except last Sunday where we had a pooping in the tub accident, not me but one of the kids) after the kids go to bed, I draw myself a bath, put in a nice bath bomb and bubble bath,  prop up my laptop to watch a little TV and relax.  Sometimes I  put a little face mask if I’m feeling fancy.

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These two little things, things that I loved before kids. Before I answered to Mama or Mommy more than my own name during the day.  Before I made everyone breakfasts, lunches, and dinners before my own.  Before my day was started with crying from a monitor.  Before I wore so many more hats than just Megan.   Bringing these two things back into my life, my versions of self-care is my way of filling my cup so I can fill the other around me.   So I can be a better mama, a better wife, a better me.

I’m not gonna lie and say that on days where I do get to go for a run, I don’t have upset or angry or have a bad day.  I’m a mom with two young kids, it happens.  My family and I are human and we have our rough and emotion-filled days.   But getting that 30 minutes of true me time in the mornings fill my cup enough to where I’m more patient, happy and together.

We as mothers do everything for everyone else and honestly it leaving us run down, exhausted and a walking exoskeleton of the person we were before we became a mom.  Our internal cups are empty and when your cup is empty, you can’t be your best self, let alone fill anyone else cups so they can be their best self.

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So find out what fills your cup, what was your passion before you become a mom or a wife?  And make it work, forget about all the excuses that you have told yourself for years that you don’t have the time or money to make it work.  If you love getting your nail done, find a cheaper place to get it done, ask for it for a Christmas, birthday or mother’s day gifts or have your friend do your nail and you do hers.   When you stop letting the excuses be the reason why you don’t do what makes you happy, what fills your cup, then all is possible.

To all you moms and wives out there reading this, I want you to do one thing today for yourself and yourself alone because honestly, you truly deserve it.

 

Love, 

Megan