Our Family Fall Bucket List

I quit making bucket lists for the longest time. I’m a Type-A, achievement-driven perfectionist, so I tend to treat a bucket list less like a wishlist and more like a checklist. Then I get stressed out if I don’t complete it. Y’all pray for Andrew…he has to live with this. BUT, having a baby has mellowed me out in a lot of areas, and this year I was excited to make a bucket list of experiences we’d love to have as a family. Last year during fall Lyla was a newborn and we were first time parents navigating a bad flu season. We went to a pumpkin patch for about an hour one day and that was it. This year she’s the perfect age for so many of our favorite fall traditions. Of course there are many things you can’t do with a one-year-old, but the sweetness of this age is so worth it! What are your favorite fall traditions?

Visit a pumpkin patch: We still want to visit another pumpkin patch and take Lyla for a hayride, let her play in the patch, and get some apple treats.

Make fall soups and casseroles: I’m going to share some of our favorite fall recipes soon. Andrew loves cooking and he couldn’t wait to bust out the crock pot and dutch oven this year. I think we made chili as soon as it dropped below 80 degrees!

Buy local cider and apples: Apple cider is my favorite fall drink (yes, even more than the PSL), and I love to snack on apples and caramel. To make the BEST caramel, leave a can of sweetened condensed milk with the label peeled off submerged in water in a crock pot on low for eight hours. It will turn into the creamiest caramel ready for dipping!

Eat kettle corn & apple cider donuts: Two of my favorite treats and I can’t let the season pass by without them. The smell of kettle corn is heavenly. We found a place in Lawrenceburg last year and bought it hot out of the kettle. Salty, sweet, and warm is a good combination!

Make S’Mores: I got so addicted to S’Mores one year, I Macgyver-ed a tool to push the top cracker down to smoosh the marshmallow in the microwave. I think we will wait another year to make them over a fire. I’m not too sure about my crawling, curious baby and open flames. Actually…I am sure. We’ll stick to other methods this year!

Go trick or treating: We’re hoping our church or another church will have an outdoor trick or treat event where we can take Lyla. She won’t totally get what’s going on, but she will have fun watching all the other kids and munching on candy.

Decorate our porch: I can already check this one off my list thanks to our visit to the pumpkin farm around the corner from our house! I’ll share photos soon!

How To Make Housework Manageable

Running a household is a full time job. Now more than ever, I think we’re all acutely aware of just how overwhelming housework can be. It often feels pointless and thankless. All the tasks are never-ending. Even if you get it all done, you just have to do it all over again the next day. As things pile up, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and, consequently, paralyzed. And yet, none of us want to live in a filthy house. So how do we make it work? Today I’m sharing tips for how I’ve made housework feel manageable in our home. As you read them, please remember that I don’t have a job. If you’re one of the many who are balancing a job AND managing your home during this insane time, please give yourself a heaping helping of grace. I believe these tips can help everyone, whether you stay home with kids, work from home, or are back at your workplace, but remember–perfection is not the goal!

1. Know your why:

This is a concept a lot of business coaches talk about: honing your purpose so that when things get hard, you can go back to that core “why” statement and focus on what motivated you in the first place. Ask yourself, why am I doing this? Here’s my why statement:

I want my home to be a place of peace for those I love, and a place that readily welcomes guests.

I stay on top of housework because I believe clutter and messiness cause avoidable stress and chaos. There’s so much in the world I can’t control. I can’t protect my husband and daughter from what the world throws at them, but I can make sure the place they come home to is a respite for their hearts, minds, and souls. I can structure the day-to-day realities of our lives to be seamless and serve our needs. I can make our home inviting for guests so we can practice Christlike hospitality. I have a policy that if someone asks to come to my house, the answer is yes. Keeping these core values in the back of my mind makes doing housework feel purposeful and even rewarding.

2. Break it down:

Once you know WHY you’re doing housework, the next thing to tackle is HOW to get it done. I believe this will look different in every household, but here are some broad principles that can be tweaked to your lifestyle:

  • Make a daily list: This is a list of chores you want done every day. Think through what things are the most urgent, pain points in your daily routine, things that get the dirtiest/messiest, etc. My daily list is: make the bed, tend to laundry whether that’s washing or putting away, pick up in each room, sweep main living areas, wipe down kitchen surfaces, wash dishes, clean out litter box, and shake out small rugs. I make the bed in the morning and the rest gets done during naps and after Lyla goes to bed. Remember that tidying goes a long way. Oftentimes if you just pick up in a room you’ll realize there’s really not much to do other than quick, basic cleaning. Create a habit of picking up after yourself as you go about your day. Build from your daily list until you have tasks you tackle daily, weekly, and monthly.
  • Be realistic: Set yourself up for success by having realistic expectations. The point of this exercise it to make housework manageable, not stress yourself out even further. For example, I’ve heard some people say to do laundry every day to stay on top of it. I tried that method and it didn’t work for me. I need to be able to feel a sense of accomplishment when I complete a task in order to stay motivated. Finishing laundry each day knowing I was just going to turn around and have to do it again the next day was so depressing. I now do laundry on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Mondays to start the week fresh, Fridays to get us through the weekend, and Wednesdays to catch up in the middle. If I don’t manage to get it put away day-of, Tuesdays and Thursdays act a buffer. Think about yourself laying down to sleep each night. What completed tasks would make you breathe a sigh of relief? Focus on those as your daily tasks and prioritize the rest based on your working style and household needs.
  • Take time off: The cold, hard truth is: housework is never-ending. Has anyone else gotten the hamper empty only to pick up dirty clothes to put in and thought about running away and starting a new life? Just me? The point is, you have to take time off or it will drive you crazy. I take off weekends just like you would for a 9-5 job. My “job” is being a stay at home mom. That means I never clock out. I never get a lunch break. I don’t get a drive to and from work to decompress. I am at my job 24/7. If you’ve been working from home during COVID, you know what I mean! We all need permission to play, and there’s no bigger fun suck than housework. Have a designated time where it’s allowed to fall by the wayside, and don’t feel guilty!

3. Give it grace: Once you have your list of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, remember that none of it is rigid. A couple weekends ago I had a burst of cleaning mojo on Sunday evening. I usually take weekends off, but I was feeling productive so I tackled a few things that ended up saving me time on Monday. Breaking everything down is just a tool to give you a starting point. Know that some days the housework is just not going to happen. Life is for living, not cleaning. Some days your kids are going to be needy. Some days work is going to demand your time. Some days you need to sit motionless on your couch eating snacks because you just NEED A MOMENT. As with any good habit in life, if you are disciplined and faithful most of the time, you can afford to be lenient some of the time.

I hope these tips will inspire you to tackle your housework with a new mindset. What tips have helped in your house? Share them in the comments!

Helpful Household Rhythms

The uncertainty and turmoil in the world right now can feel like such a heavy load. I wanted to share some simple, non-strenuous habits that have helped me care for myself and my household well. Now more than ever it’s important that our homes feel like a refuge. These tips can be implemented in any home.

1) Self-care before chores: You know how you’re supposed to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else on an airplane? Running a household is kind of like that. You can’t care for your loved ones if you’re constantly depleted. I used to turn into a Tasmanian devil of productivity during Lyla’s naps. She would wake up and I’d be frustrated because I hadn’t gotten to do anything for myself. I was acting like Cinderella pre-Fairy Godmother—a servant in my own house. I re-prioritized. I read my Bible, eat something decent, and try to move my body before doing housework. I check in with myself. If I’ve got cleaning mojo, I turn on a podcast or music and see how much I can get done during a nap. If housework sounds like a huge bummer, I rest or do something creative.

2) Help with hydration: If you’re reading this, you’re dehydrated. When Andrew and I were newlyweds, I would tease him about being obsessed with hydration. But during my pregnancy, I became really intentional about staying hydrated. And y’all…I felt so much better! Ever since Lyla was born I’ve had the hardest time drinking enough and I can tell a difference. Dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, kidney problems, digestive problems, and so much more. If you’re like me and you have a hard time getting water down, here are some tips:
-Use a straw. I drink so much more when I use a straw. You can get re-useable straws everywhere now.
-Make up a pitcher of water with fruit slices to keep in your fridge. Having that little bit of taste will make you more likely to drink. I use orange slices. If you don’t find this realistic, try buying Hint water, which doesn’t have added sugars.
-Use a water bottle with hours. You can find these on Etsy. This has helped me be mindful about how much I should be drinking.
-If you’re really struggling, try making unsweet, decaffeinated tea and adding fruit slices or fruit juice. This isn’t ideal as there is a lot of sugar in juice, but it’s better than a Coke or nothing at all.

3) Donate unwanted items: I’ve been asking myself recently “Doesn’t anyone just give things away any more?” Every time I get on social media, someone is selling something. I understand wanting to be frugal and get money back from an item you’ve purchased, and I’m certainly not judging anyone! But I also wonder if it’s worth the time and energy. For me personally, there’s no way the money I would make could justify the time I’d spend. Look for a charity that is currently able to take in-kind donations, or pass the items along to someone in need.

4) Set smartphone limits: I had to ask myself, “Do you really not have time to do everything you want to do in a day, or do you not have time to do it AND scroll your phone for hours?” I’m still a work in progress, but I set boundaries based on what I didn’t like. My ideal phone use in a day would look like: no scrolling first thing in the morning, no scrolling in bed at night, and no scrolling during Lyla’s awake time. I don’t nail this every day, but setting those goals keeps me mindful and accountable. It’s incredible how much I can get done when my phone isn’t slowing me down.

5) Slow it down: Speaking of slowing down, be intentional about things that force you to slow your pace. Quarantine has given us all this opportunity. After living in Lexington for four years and having our time there end so traumatically, the slower pace of life in Western Kentucky has been so soothing to my soul. Sun tea steeping on the porch, picking blackberries, playing under a shade tree on a tattered quilt, and trying new recipes have all felt like such luxuries.

I know there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel with COVID and it can send us spiraling from time to time. But even as the months wear on, I’m convinced there is goodness to mine from the slowed down pace we’ve been forced into. What’s something from your childhood you can bring back now? What’s something your grandparents taught you? What’s something you always wanted more time for? It’s now or never! I hope these suggestions will be helpful and encouraging. Even as we all battle the fear and hardship that so permeates our world right now, I am hopeful that each one of us can find some sense of peace by living intentionally. How are you doing this? Let me know in the comments!

& Baby Makes Three.

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Andrew and I celebrate our three year anniversary this week. Three years ago on July 9th, we chose forever with each other. This year is extra special as we await the arrival of our first baby. Below is a letter I wrote to our little lady as we celebrate this milestone and look forward to all the milestones to come.

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Dear Lyla,

As I write this, I am 30 weeks pregnant with you! You are very active in my belly, which may be uncomfortable at times, but keeps me reassured that you are doing just fine in there. You’ve already shown us some of your personality. At our first ultrasound, you were so stubborn we couldn’t get all the pictures we needed. When we came back for our follow up to get those pictures, you stuck your tongue out at us the whole time as if to say “Ha ha! I won!” Our ultrasound tech said she rarely sees the tongue that well, but you were determined to show off. We already love you so much and can’t wait to meet you!

Each week with you brings new milestones to celebrate. This week is extra special because we’re also celebrating three years of marriage. You see, before there was you, there was just me and your daddy. We had three wonderful years together where we were just Ashton and Andrew, not mommy and daddy. It’s impossible to put the significance of those years into words. But as you come into the world, I want you to know how sweet those years have been. I want you to know that they were full of laughter and so much love…true love like you read about in fairytales. I want you to know what a good team we are, and that no matter what comes our way, we stick together and trust Jesus to get us through. I want you to know that even though we’ll always be your mommy and daddy, we’ll also always be Ashton and Andrew-the husband and wife who love each other very much.

I know this season marks the end of something we will never get back, and yet the beginning of something even greater. The best is yet to come for our little family, and we are so humbly grateful to the Lord for giving us the gift of you. The sadness that these years of “just us” are ending is vastly overshadowed by the anticipation of all the joy set before us. You are going to have the best daddy in the whole world, baby girl. Trust me, I’ve had him all to myself for three years now.

With love,

Your mama

Announcement: Baby Cude is on the way!

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It has been so hard to keep this news a secret! Andrew and I are expecting a baby in September 2019! We are so grateful and we don’t take it for granted that the Lord has blessed me with a healthy pregnancy thus far.

I hope this explains why I’ve been quiet on Instagram and the blog for the last couple months. Not only was I afraid I would accidentally spill the secret, but I also had pregnancy symptoms that made keeping up my blogging schedule difficult. Thanks to Kelsey Malicote for these gorgeous photos that give me some new things to share!

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Now, for the frequently asked questions:

How are you feeling?

I’ve been very fortunate to have had a relatively “easy” pregnancy. I only got morning sickness once! While I was so thankful to avoid being sick, I definitely had some symptoms that threw me for a loop. For several weeks in my first trimester, I had fatigue that made me feel like I literally could not get up off the couch. Over the weeks, my energy has gradually improved, but fatigue remains my number one symptom. I’ve just had to accept that I have limited energy for the day, and the rest of it is going toward building a healthy baby! My other main symptom has been hormonal acne. The rest has just been little odds and ends that can all be traced back to the miracle of pregnancy. The book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” has been my best friend as I navigate what’s normal for expectant mamas!

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Will you keep working?

When we originally thought we would be moving this summer with the military, I had given both my jobs an end date of April 30th, 2019. Over the months we spent walking through Andrew’s discharge, applying for other opportunities, and determining that we would be in Lexington for another year, we kept my job decisions on the back burner. Once all the dust had settled, it became clear that it was time for me to stop working every Saturday and look into something that would give me my weekends back as Andrew transitioned into a new role. Fun fact: jobs in the wedding industry are wonderful, but they take up every single Saturday. We had reached a point where that no longer made sense for us. Shortly after we made that determination, we found out Baby Cude was on the way! Taking all these factors into consideration, I’ve decided to keep my original end date of April 30th and stay home for the foreseeable future. I will have plenty to keep me busy this summer as Andrew graduates and starts a new job and we prepare for the arrival of our first child! Once the baby is here, I will rock the stay at home mom life while Andrew is in residency.

In addition to momming, I’ll still be blogging, too! Needless to say, extreme fatigue and perpetual acne are not exactly a recipe for blogging success. Either I was so tired it was all I could do to get up and go to work, or my skin was so bad I didn’t want to jump in front of a camera. Now that I’m getting a bit more energy, I’m excited to get back to connecting with everyone and sharing more about this exciting new season!

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Will you find out the gender?

Yes, we find out the gender very soon and I’ll be sharing it with you shortly after we know!

Do you have names picked out?

Yes, we’ve had baby names on reserve since we were dating (when two Type A’s get married, ha!). We will share this sweet baby’s name after we share their gender.

I think that covers the main topics people are curious about! We are so excited and truly feel so humbled by this blessing. At the risk of sounding cynical, there are just so many things that can go wrong when trying to grow a family, and thus far the Lord has been so merciful to us every step of the way. Thank you so much to all who have rejoiced with us over this news! I can’t wait to share more with you as we move further into this new chapter!

 

When the Plan Changes

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I met Andrew the summer before his senior year at Murray State. Before he would officially ask me to be his girlfriend, he sat me down to tell me about his future plans. He was applying to dental school and planning to enlist in the Navy for the Commissioned Officer program. I was impressed that he even had a plan, let alone a good one. He wanted to make sure that I knew what I was signing up for if I dated him. I was already head over heels for him by this time, and the Navy would allow me to travel the world like I had always dreamed. Needless to say, I said yes to being his girlfriend. Over the next several years, we began to build a life around serving in the Navy. Then, one day-as happens in so many lives that are going according to plan-the phone rang.

In the summer of 2018, we got a very abrupt call that Andrew would be receiving a medical discharge from the Navy. To make a long story short, a very minor medical issue was detected during one of Andrew’s Navy physicals. After doing everything we could to plead our case, it became very clear that a discharge was unavoidable. I’m leaving out a lot of detail, but suffice it to say it was a very stressful time in our lives. We were confident that we had made the right choice in joining the military, and it was so confusing when God closed that door. We also felt like we were scrambling, having received this news during Andrew’s fourth year with very little time to make alternate plans for after graduation.

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So, for those who are keeping up with The Cudes, Andrew is no longer in the Navy. He has been accepted into a residency program with the University of Kentucky, which means we will be living in Lexington for at least one more year. We both feel so much peace and gratitude about that now, but we didn’t feel that way when we first got that phone call. Serving in the military was not just a way to pay for dental school. For Andrew, serving in the military was his dream. We know there are much worse circumstances out there. We’re grateful for God’s re-direction. But this was the biggest curve-ball we had been thrown as a couple, and it represented the death of a dream we had for our life together.

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m a girl who likes a plan. In seasons of my life where that plan is taken away, I feel so lost. The years between graduating college and getting married were so tough for me, because there was no clear-cut path. Even though I “know” I am never in control, I tend to forget that fact until I am confronted with the reality all over again. I feel like God has been gently yet clearly reminding me of the truth that He alone is in control and knows what is best for my life. Even things that seem good from our human standpoint pale in comparison to the glory of His plan for us. I don’t know what circumstance you are in, and I know there are many circumstances FAR worse than what we have been through, but I hope it’s comforting to know you’re not alone. My prayer is that the Lord would continue teaching me to hold my plans with open hands, to find peace and rest in my lack of control rather than fear and strife, and to trust Him as a sovereign Lord and generous Father who gives good gifts. Maybe you need to pray that, too?

What wisdom has God given you in this area? What Bible verses have been helpful to you? Let me know in the comments here or on Instagram and I’ll share those verses on my Instagram story so we can all be encouraged!