Free Back to School Devotional

Today is my daughter’s first day of school and to kick off the academic year right I created a free 5 day Back to School mini devotional! Since many kids have already returned to school or start mid-week like mine, this devotional is made for Monday-Friday. It’s never too late to begin!

“The dog days of summer have come to an end and the cool autumn winds carry with them with them a new school year. Whether we home school or send our kiddos on their way each day, households with school aged kids have to adjust and settle back into the school year routine.

I think parents and kids alike could use some encouragement to help us ease into the new academic year confidently and prayerfully. I hope that this 5 day mini-devotional will help you to do just that!”

Click the link to get started and have an amazing year!

Free Back to School Devotional!

❤ Cait

Our Trip to Newport

Hi everyone!

I am adding a new element to my blog: my travels! While, I don’t travel too often or too extravagantly, I have visited a few cool places over the years and thought it would be fun to revisit these locations and memories and share my experiences with you all!

Recently we visited Newport, Rhode Island!

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We visited family for the night who were checked in at Newport Beach Hotel and Suites in bordering Middletown. We stayed in the historic building pictured above. The hotel is  part of Historic Hotels of America which describes it’s interesting history:

A massive hurricane in 1938 wiped out the town’s numerous beach establishments…the Toppa family decided to build a new inn on the beach, positioning the property 100 feet from the rocks and the ocean’s crashing waves. Over 65 years later, the Newport Beach Hotel and Suites is the only beachfront hotel in town.

The rooms were a little small but you can’t beat the location! Right across a (pretty busy, be careful crossing there) street from the shore. I liked the off road parking, signs pointing to the beach, and old timey photos in the hallways. I am a history lover and find it so interesting that there were once people in full suits and petticoats on the beach. It made me hot just looking at it! They had a tiny fridge which came in handy but we had to keep all of our snacks in plastic bags because there were ants that would come to eat it. They also showed up in the closets. There was a breakfast spot adjasent to the lobby manned by a lone millenial with a man bun. The food was okay but a bit pricey for some basic egg sandwiches and terrible coffee. The front desk was great providing seemingly endless towels for beach and pool use and parking passes for visitors.

 

 

Across the street was the hotel’s modern building. They had an indoor pool which was accessible with our room key. The option to be indoors was helpful with the kids because it was hot. And I mean 90’s, air quality alert hot. It was nice that they could escape the blazing sun of the beach but still enjoy fun in the water. The pool area was humid but clean. Floor to ceiling windows framed a nice view of Newport Pond.

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Easton’s Beach, or First Beach to the locals, provided a scenic backdrop with turn of the century mansions and the beginning of Newport’s famous Cliff Walk. There is a pier with concessions, bathrooms and a carousel. I didn’t go but the kids and their Grampy got a bite to eat there. The waves were gentle and sparkling. The beach was very clean, not much for shelling but, no litter and you could tell that the sand was maintained in the morning. But halfway down the beach, red seaweed was washed up. It was sticky and smelly and the seagulls liked it but my little princess’ toddler toes did not. Luckily it was just a band of gook sandwiched between the soft, sandy shore and the wet, packed sand near the ocean. There were people around having a good time because its a touristy spot, but the beach wasn’t crowded.

 

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The main drag offers a few restaurants a stone’s throw from the hotel. We were deciding between pizza and Americana type foods and chose Tickets. We decided against eating outside due to the heat but there was the option was there. They were good about our huge double stroller and a waitress even held the door for me. Once seated it took a while to get our drinks and put our orders in. The drinks came sans-straws and signs and employee t-shirts adorned with sea turtles encouraged patrons to consider going straw-less for the good of the environment. I appreciated the trendy but noble persuit. We ordered mozzerela sticks for an appetizer. They were good and came out in a flash but we had to cut them open for them to cool enough to be edible. My husband had a pulled pork sandwich that he liked and he is a picky eater so that says a lot! I ordered the chicken taquitos. The taquitos themselves were a little bland but came with a yummy mango salsa, guacamole, and sour cream which made up for it. Much like the appetizer the entrees came out quick but were too hot to eat right away.

 

Another establishment we visited was Flo’s Clam Shack. It’s a restaurant/ bar with a kitschy, beachy feel. Sand, tiki-torches and grass hut style umbrellas create ambiance for outdoor diners. Swaying sea grass and a mini boardwalk lead to a take-out window and the indoor dining room. Upstairs is the bar where we sat. There was an upper deck feeling with nautical details like porthole windows and buoys and fishing nets on the walls. We ordered drinks and split a quahog, french fries, and a fried cod sandwich. The food was fast and fresh and the best companion to a cold beer on a warm day. There were tourists and a few people that were clearly regulars enjoying colorful conversation. I asked the bartender what was in the crock pot on the bar next to him and he said “Buttah!” But, of course!

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Perhaps my favorite part of the trip was going for a sunset picnic at Brenton Point State Park. A short drive past pastures and stately Newport mansions leads you to there. It’s known for it’s wonderful shoreline breezes and it’s common to see colorful kites flying over the grassy hilltops. The views are nothing short of stunning.IMG_1793 (3) This place is special to me because when we were kids our parents used to take us there for day trips all of the time. The sun was gorgeous over the water and though it was cloudy there was still a decent sunset as we ate. Some nice people gave our kids a couple of kites to on their way out of the park. Before it got dark I took my daughter and nephews past the rock wall through the field to walk the forest trails that I used to play in as a girl. Though I hadn’t been there in years and years when I started to walk it all came back to me. I told my nephews that we were on our way to the castle (the lookout tower) and we pretended that we were in medieval times riding horses on our way to see the king. We got to the lookout and everyone climbed to the top with a little encouragement. There is something that is so enchanting to me about a woodsy path, the beauty of nature takes me in and ignites my imagination. It makes me feel small and full of childlike wonder. there is another old abandoned structure back there but I didn’t bring them there. Its not safe for climbing and with my two nephews, fearless and rambunctious, I was looking to avoid injury at all costs. This place is great for families but could easily serve as a cool date location.

 

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Overall we had a great time. Though this destination was familiar to me and not too far away as I live in Massachusetts, it still felt like enough of a change of scenery to make it feel like an escape. Make sure you follow the blog for more travel stories coming soon!

What’s your favorite place to visit in Rhode Island?

❤ Cait

My Team Green Experience

I was checking out at the convenience store I stop in for gas and snacks for the kids a few times a week. The cashier, a kind older woman smiled down at my rotund middle and asked how far along I was. “32 weeks!” I said with joyful exasperation. “What are you having?” she asked. […]

I was checking out at the convenience store I stop in for gas and snacks for the kids a few times a week. The cashier, a kind older woman smiled down at my rotund middle and asked how far along I was. “32 weeks!” I said with joyful exasperation. “What are you having?” she asked. “I’m not sure actually, we decided not to find out!” I replied. “Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed with a puzzled look, “That’s crazy! How will you know what color to paint the nursery?” I grabbed my items and smiled “We’ll find out soon enough!”

Continue reading “My Team Green Experience”

Postpartum: Why Its More Than Just The First 6 Weeks

We’ve come home, bonded, and established nursing. We’re back to driving, cleaning and errands. When weeks begin to turn to months, especially at the 6 week point, the pressure is on to let go of our birth experiences and move on. We are expected to be completely healed and back to our daily grind full force. We’re cleared to exercise and should be focused on getting back into pre-pregnancy shape. People around us start checking in on us less and we put pressure on ourselves to be back to “normal”. This pressure is only stronger by our society’s obsession with post baby celebrities in their slinky dresses and Instagram models posing with their newborns in body shapers and full glam.

Yet, I don’t feel normal. I had a harder delivery and slower recovery this time and I don’t feel “over it”. I just got to a point where I’m almost totally pain free and besides the occasional stroll I haven’t started working out. The world may have forgotten but my body hasn’t as it continues to feel  the twinges of muscles repairing themselves from surgery, the ache of streams of milk, and my noticeably weaker knees. I’m still sporting my linea nigra , stretch marks and a fresh red scar. I still feel emotional about having a newborn. But I’ve reached the 6 week mark! I’m not “postpartum” anymore. Why don’t I have it back together by now?

When I was pregnant I used a week by week pregnancy tracker, asked my midwife a million questions and googled every little symptom. Yet up until today I had neglected to brush up on anything regarding the post-partum period beyond my c-section recovery.  This was not due to me thinking that I know it all by the third time around. I just got so wrapped up in the baby that I forgot all about checking in with myself.

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So what did I learn on my quest for knowledge? That the postpartum period doesn’t abruptly end at the 6 week mark, but consists of 3 distinct phases:

The Initial or Acute period- This is the first 6-12 hours after your baby is born where you’re potential for complications is higher and you’re monitored closely by the hospital or midwife.

The Sub-acute period- which last 2-6 weeks, when you are more stable but still recovering from delivery. This is what most people think of as “postpartum”.

The Delayed period- According to an article on The Journal of Prenatal Medicine website, this period can last up to 6 months! The article states:

“This is the time of restoration of muscle tone and connective tissue to the prepregnant state. Although change is subtle during this phase, it behooves caregivers to remember that a womanʼs body is nonetheless not fully restored to pre-pregnant physiology until about 6 months post-delivery.”

No wonder I don’t feel normal again yet, I’m not! The article goes on to say that in some ways we may never be back to our pre-pregnant state and certainly, our lives are changed by our little ones forever. Yet, once the baby comes Earthside we’re encouraged to show as little evidence of carrying a child as we can. We’re told to get back to work, tone up and erase the marks left on our bodies as quickly as possible. As if it’s something shameful.

We shouldn’t be ashamed. We should be proud of all of the ways in which motherhood has changed us, body and soul! Though sometimes I struggle to appreciate my postpartum body, it has done amazing things. These lines and scars are symbols of sacrifice and strength. This vessel has co-created with God. Its loved, housed and grown my family. It continues to nourish myself and flourish my baby. When the temptation to rush back to some false sense of normalcy comes I need to remind myself to take it slow. To be less eager to shed these signs of pregnancy, these physical memories, and to fully appreciate them for the beauty that they represent.

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Did you feel pressure from yourself or others to get back to normal after baby? Share in the comments below!

❤ Cait

Adjusting to Life With a Toddler and a Newborn

While pulling into the parking lot of the pediatrician’s office today I began to strategize. Find a spot close to the entrance, Okay, grab the diaper bag, then take the baby out first since he is in the carrier, then grab Claire and hold on to her squirmy little wrist and when it comes time to open the door to the building? Well…lets just cross that bridge when we get to it!

Adjusting to life with a newborn is a feat in and of itself, and when we threw a toddler into the mix things quickly got complex. Here are a few reasons why.

Naps- 10 minutes after the toddler falls asleep, the baby cries, waking the toddler. So I sit on the floor of the nursery next to her small bed nursing one while patting the back of the other. 40 minutes (if I’m lucky!) later I slink out of the bedroom and carefully close the door only for the squeak of the hinge to wake the newborn, then, repeat.

Too Much Love- If Billy is napping, Claire wants to wake him up to play. She gives his cheek a gingerly pat and says “wake up baby!”. Her love for him is sometimes too strong! She wants to kiss him and hug him and grab his face. We’ve had some fingernail scratches and many reminders to be gentle.

Playtime- My newborn is limited in what he can do physically and my toddler needs me to protect her from herself! One is fragile and still being coddled at the breast in the shade while the other wants to climb, run, jump and play in the sunshine! I’m tethered to one, and chasing the other.

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Tandem Nursing- I thought I made it to easy street only nursing Claire for 5 minutes at nap time and bedtime She was practically weaned! Then the new baby was born and we reversed right back to…difficult street. I don’t know at what time it is that you are reading this but I can bet that it is time to nurse at our house! Baby boy feeds round the clock which makes my toddler interested when she normally wouldn’t be.

I only ever nurse them one at a time and she gets jealous when I tell her no. I am trying to nurse her as little as possible, the goal being to completely wean. Often she cries and I distract her with a snack or ship her off with another family member to do something else. Most of the time it works, other times it doesn’t. Still, I’m beginning to learn how to balance the physical needs of the baby and the emotional needs of my toddler.

Mommy, Mommy!- Both kids still require a lot of my attention and with dad back at work I find myself outnumbered. One is crying in my arms while one is clinging to my leg, or Billy is spitting up while Claire squeezes her juice onto the floor! I try to prioritize by need and not want which means asking a lot of patience from a naturally impatient 2 year old. Claire is used to having all of the focus on her and is still getting used to sharing the spotlight.

Having two babies of different stages and needs can be pretty chaotic at times. Two car seats, a double stroller, another set of those annoying onesie snaps, twice the crying, twice the diapers, twice the coffee! But at the end of the day its worth it because we all get to share twice the love.

What was your greatest challenge when you brought home a new baby? Comment below!

❤ Cait

How I Prepared My Kids for a New Baby (& Family Update)

Hello Friends,

After a short and much needed hiatus I am finally beginning to feel like myself again and this includes getting back to blogging! Here’s a little update on what has been happening the last couple of months.

On May 31st 2018 our youngest daughter turned 2!

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Five days later on June 5th 2018 we welcomed a healthy baby boy!

Yay! Our family is complete!

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But going from a family of 4 to a family of 5 is a huge change! Here are some ways that I prepared my kids to welcome the new baby. I hope that you can use some of these ideas if you are adding another monkey to your zoo soon as well (& if so, Congrats!).

For My Toddler:

No Stork Talk-

When I found out I was expecting again I wondered how much of it my toddler would understand. Pregnancy is mind blowing even to those of us who experience it! Nevertheless, I spoke to her about my pregnancy (in an age appropriate way of course) as if she could understand. We told her excitedly that there was a baby in Mama’s belly that would part of our family soon. Even if they don’t grasp the concept of gestation completely they may pick up on more than you think! I’ve learned not to underestimate the comprehension and emotional intelligence our little ones can have.

Songs and Stories-

Songs and stories are a fun way to introduce the concept of a new baby. Reading books and listening to songs with baby themes is a great way for kids to learn through a comfortable medium. Here’s a song that my daughter really liked: Song (via YouTube)

Promote them to “Big”-

I made sure to pump our daughter up for her brand new role as “big sister”. We reminded her often of her upcoming ‘promotion’ and told her what to expect by telling her how much fun she would have playing with her new sibling. We also bought “Big Sister” shirts for the girls to wear to the hospital. A special outfit highlighted how special of a day it was.

Acknowledge Baby’s Personhood-

Show your little one that the new baby is a part of the family by treating them as such even before they’re born. Include the baby as part of your conversations during your daily routine, “The baby likes these waffles, do you?”. Refer to the baby in your tummy often while doing everyday activities, “Baby loves being outside with us in the fresh air!” I encouraged my toddler to kiss and hug and talk to my growing tummy. She learned to pat it and call it baby, and would even play peek-a-boo using my shirt!:)

At Christmastime I hung a tiny stocking for the baby on the mantle with the rest of the family’s (did this with each of my kids). Recognizing personhood of the baby in the pregnancy helps to establish affection early. I truly feel it is so important and helps prepare everyone (including yourself) for the reality to come.

-Hello Dolly

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Children learn so much through play and incorporating a baby doll is a great way to teach kids how babies should be treated. I enjoyed quality time with my kiddo while modeling appropriate behavior. We giggled as we pretended to feed, change, and dress the doll. I made sure to praise her for being nice to the doll and being a great helper!

-Hi Baby!

When you see a baby at the mall or grocery store, point them out! Remind your child that your’s is in your tummy. I liked to say hello to the baby and their caregiver and comment on the cuteness. She so enjoyed greeting all of the babies we saw and eventually she was the one pointing them to me!

Now-

Now that the baby is here she is adapting so well. She loves baby dolls even more now and seeing her mimicking my motherhood is super adorable. Once she met the baby in my arms she never again refered to the baby as being in my stomach. It seems she made the connection of them being one in the same right away (see what I mean about not underestimating?)

There are still jealous times sharing mom but she is loving her brother! She enjoys giving hugs and kisses and is naturally maternal. She fusses over him when he cries, patting him and cooing “It’s okay baby.” in her tiny little voice. I also noticed that she treats other kids that are younger than her more gently and much in the same way she now treats her brother. She’s learning so much from him already!

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For My Preteen:

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My oldest daughter is middle school aged and a seasoned big sister. She understands much more about whats going on than my toddler but I still prepared her by involving her in some baby prep and giving her a few reminders.

What do You Think?-

Invite older kid’s suggestions about things like names and room decor. Kids are creative, you never know what cool ideas they could come up with! For us brainstorming names was a fun way to build some anticipation and involve her in an important aspect of having a new baby.

News Flash-

At 11 you sometimes forget that the world doesn’t revolve around you! I made sure to remind her that things would be different for a while. No friends at the house and not as many activities in the weeks that followed baby’s homecoming. The postpartum period should be about bonding as a family.

Mom Needs Rest-

Families are great for the support we can give to eachother and older kids are a seriously valuable asset! Before my due date I gave my daughter a heads up about increased responsibility around the house. Since I couldn’t do as much during my c-section recovery, her completing her chores and helping with her sister became even more important! She is old enough to complete household tasks of significance and while she is too young to babysit on her own, she is more than capable of playing with our toddler or reading her a book to keep her occupied if Mom’s tied up.

You’re A Role Model-

I reminded her that these kids will look up to her for more reasons than just their height difference! They will be influenced greatly by her example. She’s my right hand gal and so important to our family!

Now-

The babies keep us busy but I make it a point not to put parenting my older one on autopilot. One on one time and activities for older kids only help her not to feel swept aside. She loves her little brother too! She likes to hold him and give him silly nick names.

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As for Mom and Dad? We’re adjusting to more laundry, diapers, feedings, and less sleep than we remember from the last baby! I was lucky to have my husband take time off of work to be home with me for a while. We feel so blessed and cant wait to see how our children’s relationships continue to grow throughout the years.

How did you prepare your family for a new baby? If you have any tips or fun ideas please share in the comments below!

❤ Cait

Read more about Adjusting to Life with a Toddler and a Newborn here!

Why I’m Not Freaking Out About Turning 30

So there seems to be an expectation, especially for women, to freak out about turning 30. Well I just celebrated my 30th birthday and honestly I feel great!

Why the Neurosis?

In our youth obsessed culture, it’s no wonder people have a negative view of growing older. Youth and beauty are seen as valuable and powerful assets. There are billions of dollars a year made on women trying to preserve their youth and slow the aging process with countless products geared towards health and beauty.

A lot of main stream movies and TV shows focus on the young or coming of age group. Young pop stars and models are just getting younger. Social media is dominated by smooth, filtered faces, posts lamenting reaching 26, and 30 things to do before 30 lists..as if after 30 you simply curl up and die!

News Flash!

Life continues after your 30! You still have so much life ahead of you. You’re still young, hopefully physically able, and vibrant! You can still have dreams, goals, education, families, new careers, new travels and experiences in your 30s and beyond. Lamenting 30 reeks of naiveté. Why focus on the negative when you’ve been gifted with another year of life? Think about it..the alternative is death. How will you deal with all of the years to come and live a joyful life if you attach a negative outlook to its natural progression? How will you react to 40, 50, 60 years? Be thankful! Choose joy!

Here are some examples of inspiring women that realized their dreams after 30:

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Lucille Ball: The beloved sitcom I Love Lucy premiered in 1951 when Ball was 40.

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J.K. Rowling: The first book of the wildly popular Harry Potter Series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997 when Rowling was 32.

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Oprah Winfrey: Winfrey signed a syndication deal for her hit talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 when she was 32.

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Julia Child: Child was originally an aspiring novelist and didn’t learn to cook until she was 36! Her iconic TV cooking show The French Chef premiered in 1963 when she was 40.

These are just a few of many examples and I highly suggest looking into the stories of each of these amazing women. Age gives us time to have a past which makes us all the more fascinating!

Join the Club-

I don’t know if you realize this but most people are over the age of 30! You’re in great company with the majority of the world.

For me personally, I am happy to leave the tumult of my 20s behind. I’ve grown into myself and have shed so much doubt and insecurity. I know who I am, what I believe, I’m healed from my past, I accept myself, flaws and all, I’ve learned from my mistakes, I’m married, I’m settled, I care less what others think, I have the tools to face adversity with strength, and I’m looking forward to moving securely and confidently towards my future.

With Age Comes Wisdom-

I never want to be one of those women who feels like she wants to lie about her age. I want to proclaim it proudly and wear it like a badge of honor. I want to be like the women who proceed me and that I look up to. We’re experienced, knowledgeable, strong, wise. We know that life still holds many lessons and challenges and only when we cease to learn, to laugh, and to grow in spirit do we begin to die.

We All Carve a Unique Life Path-

Did I accomplish everything I possibly could have before age 30? No. I never did finish college or publish a book, I haven’t seen too much of the world through traveling, I haven’t perfected all of my skills or attained many of my dreams. But I did have a career, fall in love, help others, grow a family, and make some great memories. There is no right way or order in which to live your life. Some people wait until 30 or later to settle into a career or marry or start a family so they get their education and travel in then, I did things in a different order that’s all! And that’s okay. The good news is that there is still so much time!

No matter what season of life you find yourself in wear your age with pride, sisters! Smile and live your life to the fullest in each unique and wonderful stage, and know that you have the power to decide that the best is yet to come!

She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future ~Proverbs 31:25

How do you handle big birthdays and milestone moments of life? What advice would you give to your younger self or the women who follow you about embracing change and enjoying the journey?

❤ Cait

The Liebster Award 2018

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Hello Dear Readers,

Recently I was honored to be nominated for the 2018 Liebster Award! Writing has always been such a huge passion of mine. It is part of the fabric of my being yet, I have struggled to share it over the years. I recently banished my shyness and fear of judgment in favor of following my dreams and fulfilling what I know is my purpose in this life which is to write. I hope you all have been enjoying reading this blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

Connecting with other bloggers and reading their blogs has been such a cool experience for me. I want to give my sincere thanks to Amy at Dear Heart for the nomination and encourage all my readers to follow her blog! It is beautifully laid out and covers a variety of topics from travel to faith to great finds to family, motherhood and more! I love reading her writing because it is so relatable and feels just like talking to a friend!

Ten Facts About Me~

  • I live in the same small town in Massachusetts that both my husband and I grew up in. As a kid I thought it was boring but, as I grew older I began to appreciate the rural life and history of my hometown which was founded in 1683!
  • I am a poet and story teller at heart. I have books, journals, and pages full of poems of all styles and lengths. I also have many book ideas and hope to write a novel one day!
  • I became a mother right out of high school at the age of 18. I survived an abusive relationship but was later blessed with my husband who has raised my oldest daughter as his own since she was 2 years old. She is 11 now and our family is happy, thriving and growing. My second daughter Claire will turn 2 right before the birth of her baby sister or brother this June!
  • I am eclectic when it comes to my musical taste. I like everything from classic rock to top 20 pop, to country to rap. You will find a little bit of everything on my playlist!
  • I worked for years as a medical assistant in a variety of clinical office settings including acupuncture and most recently managed a chiropractic office. Those environments sparked a strong interest in natural remedies and alternative medicine. I even went to college for a short time to pursue nursing. I am now home full time with my kids and love it! My previous experiences as a single working mom allows me to appreciate every moment home with my kiddos and though I sometimes miss my old career I wouldn’t change where I am now for the world!
  • I love to read and am a die hard library card holder. There is something special about an old library book and a dog-eared page that I just can’t get from my kindle! Have you read any good books lately? If so leave your suggestions in the comments so I can check them out! I am always looking for a good book to curl up with!
  • I have an Etsy shop where I sell hand made nursery, home, and wedding decor. I used to give them away or as gifts until someone suggested Etsy to me. I find creating things to be very therapeutic and nothing makes me happier than seeing others get excited about something that was so much fun for me to make! My favorite is macrame and other fiber arts but I am hoping to learn to sew as well.
  • I love nature and have always felt such a strong connection to it. Nothing makes me happier than a woodsy walk, a day at the beach, or sitting by a lake watching a gorgeous sunset. Even more ironic is that I named my oldest daughter Autumn then a few years later started dating my husband who’s last name (and now mine) is Winters!
  • I grew up Catholic but, fell away from my faith as a teen. After I started dating my now husband and my life began to stabilize I felt God calling me back to him. I searched spiritually for a while but found my way back to the Church a couple of years before I got married. I consider myself a “re-vert” and a Christian. I love drawing closer to Jesus by learning about my faith through fresh eyes. Like my hometown I see the beauty in my spiritual home of the Church now more than ever!
  • I am a master song-maker! I love to make up silly tunes about ordinary tasks for my kids. I always sing in a goofy way but don’t sound that bad when I am in the car alone and no one can here me. If I wasn’t so shy I would perfect it and make it a hobby.
In my element, sunbathing by the lake!

Q & A~

  1. What was the last movie you saw in the theater, how was it? An anime movie from 1986 called “Castle in the Sky”. My oldest daughter loves to read manga and watch anime and a local theater plays selections from the renowned Studio Ghibli about once a month. The showing was in Japanese with subtitles and it was cool to see it on the big screen!
  2. What is your favorite book? This is too tough a question to answer! I love so many so, instead I’ll list some genres, mostly books about spirituality, romance novels, history and classic literature.
  3. What book are you currently reading? I’m actually between books at the moment! Any suggestions?
  4. Are you a dog or cat person? Why? Both! The first pet our family had was a white cat named Lucky. Neither me or my husband were particularly “cat people” but, she was like no other cat we had ever known, a cat with a dog’s personality! Sadly she was scared out of our yard by our former neighbor’s loud lawn equipment and we haven’t been able to find her. That was about a year ago and we don’t have the heart to get another cat. Currently we have a dog and we love her!
  5. What do you believe is your greatest accomplishment? Definitely my family. I always wanted to be a wife and mother so I feel like I am living that dream.
  6. Where is your favorite place to travel? Down to Arizona where my best friend lives. It is such an opposite landscape, dialect, and lifestyle to here in New England. Although it is in the same country it might as well be another planet as everything there is so different! Last trip we got to go to the desert and crack rocks to search for geodes! It was the desert equivalent of shelling at the beach and I thought it was so fun.
  7. What is the best gift you have ever received? Definitely my engagement ring!
  8. Who are those public voices that currently influence you? (Pastors, motivating speakers, celebrities, etc.) I am so inspired by the speaker and author Autumn Miles! I found her on YouTube after the birth of my youngest when I was looking for something inspiring to listen to during a walk. I searched Proverbs 31 and she popped up. My oldest girl’s name is Autumn as well so it drew me in and I have been soaking in her words ever since! I listen to her Texas based radio show through Podbean when I drive or do housework and I highly recommend it.
  9. In your life, what would you describe as your most courageous act you yourself have done? Leaving toxic people in my past, facing my problems and working to change them.
  10. What is your favorite guilty pleasure? Chocolate, wine, and reading in a hot bath (if I can do it all at once it’s even better LOL).
  11. If you could travel to any place in the entire world, where would you go and why? There are too many places I would love to go and have yet to travel to but the top of my list currently is Ireland. I love the thought of all the history and magic in the land there and would love to drink at a pub and see the beautiful green hills.

My Nominations~

Mel at Loving Simplicity– Step by step DIY, crafts, recipes, and simple living!

Erin at Mrs. Mother Dirt-A nature loving Mama sharing stories of family life, fun unplugged ideas, and interesting opinionated essays.

The writers at The Millennial Fiat -Heartfelt posts about faith that inspire and go straight to the heart!

Nikki at Our Jolly Little Home-A blogger with variety! Recipes, opinions, stories from the heart.

Heather at Midsummer Daydreamer -A fellow anxiety warrior sharing personal stories and practical advice

11 Questions I would like you to answer~

  1. What is a piece of advice you’ve received that you want share with others?
  2. Who is the most inspiring person in your life and why?
  3. How do you de-stress?
  4. How would you describe your personal clothing style?
  5. What is on your bedside table right now?
  6. What is your favorite on-the-go snack?
  7. Do you consider yourself more of an introvert or an extrovert? Explain.
  8. Describe a fun date you’ve been on!
  9. If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead who would you dine with and why?
  10. Tell us about an item on your bucket list!
  11. What do you like most about blogging?

Rules of the Liebster Award 2018~

1) Thank the person who nominated you, and put a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you.

2) Display the award on your blog.

3) Write a small post about what makes you passionate about blog posting.

4) Provide 10 random facts about yourself.

5) Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel would enjoy blogging about this award.

6) List these rules in your post.

7) Inform the people/blogs that you nominated.

For more detailed information on the Liebster Award 2018 visit here.

To accept the nomination answer my questions, tag me and notify me of your post by commenting below! I can’t wait to read your answers! Remember to nominate other bloggers so we can all continue discovering new blogs, building relationships, and supporting one another!

❤ Cait

A Blackout and a Shadowban

The Blackout

Waves crash against a seawall near the Scituate Lighthouse, Friday, March 2, 2018, in Scituate, Mass. A major nor'easter pounded the East Coast on Friday, packing heavy rain and strong winds as residents from the mid-Atlantic to Maine braced for coastal flooding.

Photo via AP/Steven Senne-bostonmagazine.com

Growing up in Massachusetts, inclement weather is just a part of life. The winters are freezing, the summers are humid, and in between we have hurricanes. This past weekend we experienced a beast of a Nor’easter that produced damaging winds and flooding, knocked out power to thousands of homes, uprooted trees and trampolines, and sent branches flying into anything in their path.

Lucky for us we did not experience any damage to our home, just lost electricity for a few days. Nothing brings you back to basics like lack of light and water. Taking something so average as flicking a switch or flushing the toilet for granted is natural to those of us in developed countries. To me this blackout served a greater purpose and put some of my seemingly huge problems into perspective. The lesson hit home to me all the more because of the fact that for lent I have been giving up what I call my “luxurious baths” to acknowledge how lucky I am to have access to water at the turn of a knob. For many others around the globe obtaining clean water is a daily struggle, and often one of life and death.

Now onto my seemingly huge problem. If you are not interested in Instagram you might want to stop reading here! There is a lot of information forthcoming!

The Shadowban

Image result for anti instagram

Anyone who is a blogger knows the value of social media. It is a great way to get your blog or brand out there and take advantage of free advertising, find readers and other writers in your niche, and give people a better idea of the person behind your posts. Everyone has a favorite and Instagram is mine! I used it often to engage in the poetry community there and am comfortable using it as a result. When I switched my focus to blogging it felt like a natural place to start.

I was just beginning to build good relationships and garner humble numbers that I was happy with when I saw a drastic drop in engagement. I noticed that my posts, which would typically get about 50-80 likes were getting more like 10-15. Where before the hearts would pop up immediately after I posted, it was taking much longer to receive that first like. The likes I did get were only coming from the people who were following me already and even they were sparse. Something wasn’t right.

I am no social media expert or major influencer and hadn’t truly tried to build any sort of following before so I researched reasons why this might be happening and came upon the term “Shadowban”. Well, my account had all of the telltale symptoms and it seems that my page has succumbed to the open secret that is the dreaded Instagram Shadowban. Never heard of it? Here’s everything I have found out about it during my extensive research.

What is it?

A shadowban is Instagram’s way to crack down on people going against their community guidelines by spamming, using 3rd party apps to like and follow/unfollow other accounts, abusing hashtags, and buying followers. This can also happen if you post offensive content or get reported by other users. Your posts don’t show up under the used hashtags to people who do not already follow you which seriously limits your reach and growth potential. Even the people who already follow you will be less likely to see your posts as they are pushed further down their news-feeds. You receive no official notice from Instagram or explanation as to why this has occurred. They have not acknowledged a shadowban directly, instead claiming a glitch in hashtags and some believe it is a myth and doesn’t even exist!

How to avoid it

Don’t use the maximum number of hashtags allowed (30). Make sure the hashtags you are using aren’t “broken”. If they are then the page will only show top posts, not most recent show an error message, or say that there are no posts to show. Don’t use the same hashtags over and over again, try to switch them up. Don’t copy/pate hashtags into your post. Avoid putting hashtags in the comments.

Did you know Instagram has limits for certain actions? If you exceed them the app may think that you are a bot. It is suggested not to like more than 150 photos an hour and not to follow or unfollow more than 60 accounts in an hour (some recommend these as daily limits). Don’t use 3rd party applications for growth or buy followers, if you are guilty of this stop and revoke access now! Leave meaningful comments, not just one word or emojis. Just engage in a genuine way and you should be okay (though I do and wasn’t that lucky).

Shadowban check website

there is a website that claims to be able to tell you if your account or certain photos have been shadowbanned or not but the general consensus is that it isn’t reliable. It did not work for me and told me I was not banned even though I clearly am. I won’t leave the link as I don’t trust the site.

How to really check

Use one of your other accounts or ask some friends who do not follow the account in question to check if your recent photo is showing up under the hashtags you used. If they are not you might be shadowbanned.

Image result for anti instagram

How to fix it

My issues seemed to only resolve with time (the largely reported 14 day time frame) so I am not 100% sure if any of these things actually worked but I think they are worth a try! Some claim that there is no way to fix it and you just have to wait it out. Users have reported the ban lasting anywhere from 24 hours to 3 weeks or more. The most common time frame I have read is around 2 weeks or 14 days. Some give up and start new accounts.

If you use any questionable 3rd party applications, log into Instagram on a desktop computer, and revoke access (you can find the step by step process here.) Another suggestion is to delete broken or banned hashtags or just remove all hashtags from your recent posts. Next, report the problem to Instagram (step by step process here.), when you report don’t say you are shadowbanned, rather that your hashtags are not working and assure them you are a real person. Switching from a business account to a personal one may also help as many users reported the ban starting not long after enabling business tools.

After that it is suggested that you take some time off of Instagram. That means no posting for 2-4 days. Some people go so far as to suspend their accounts and/or delete the app from their phones altogether and reinstall with an updated version when they are ready to test it. This apparently gives time for the algorithm to ‘reset’. Once your hiatus is over interact and post like a normal user. Avoid any spam like activities and follow the rules.

This just may be the new normal

Some believe that this is just the direction Instagram is going. That they have left a lot of money on the table in the past and are trying to take it back by making people pay for sponsored posts to reach their target audiences, much like Facebook. Facebook owns Instagram so it makes sense that they might go in this direction and become a more lucrative and monetized platform.

Image result for instagram

Why I think it happened to me

When I started to take my blogging and freelance aspirations more seriously, just a few months ago now, I looked into how to improve my Instagram account. I invested in a camera for better photos, researched relevant hashtags, and prepped my posts to be engaging and of high quality. As you can tell I put a lot of thought and work into my posts, often writing them out in my phone’s notepad including hashtags. I used as many tags as are allowed (including an original hashtag I created and used every time) and copied and pasted them into my posts. I noticed others on the platform placing their hashtags into the comment section of their posts instead of the body under the photo and innocently thought, “Gee, that looks nice!” and I tried it for myself.

I think that is what triggered the ban. I suppose Instagram thought it looked “spammy”. It is frustrating to me because I am truly trying to grow a following organically. I have never considered using growth applications or buying followers. I never had a business account and am not trying to push a product, just wanted to let people know if there was something new on my blog! I would rather have 100 people that actually are interested in my content and writing than 1,000 fake accounts following me. Sadly I never had that many to begin with. I only ever had a little over 650 followers at most and since I can’t be found by anyone not following me in the hashtags I am sure that little number will dwindle until the issue is resolved. I know there are other accounts that have liked and follow/unfollowed me clearly using bots and they have thousands and thousands of followers so it is pretty annoying to feel targeted when my account is more modest .

Some Perspective

It can feel devastating when all of the hard work you put into your Instagram is threatened. Many make money off of their profiles and it is an essential part of their businesses and livelihoods. The truth is that you don’t own your Instagram and there is no telling if it will one day be as passé as Vine. The algorithms change often and they can delete or suspend your account at any moment. Use it as the tool it should be and not the end all be all of your craft or brand. There is more to life than social media!

Do you have any experience with the shadowban? Did I miss any vital information or solutions that you can think of? Comment below and let me know!

❤ Cait

Banishing the Spirit of Falsehood

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.  …This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. -1 John 4

This week has been another tough one for me. As I am quickly approaching my 26th week (and 6th month) of pregnancy I am beginning to feel the weight.. literally and figuratively. I haven’t been feeling my best and my lack of energy and fuzzy brain has been messing with me big time!

I’m trying my best to write but, every time I go to formulate a complete thought I can’t think straight. I get frustrated with my lack of focus, my kids, house or dog distract me, or I feel dizzy and just want to lay down. Though I made a goal of creating lots of  pretty, white inventory for the upcoming wedding season, my Etsy shop should be selling tumbleweeds. I have five unfinished projects that are giving me side eye each time I walk by them.

This loss of momentum has been disheartening. The lack of inspiration has been making way for feelings of doubt to slink into the corners of my heart and mind and cast their shadows on my soul. I began to slack on my spiritual disciplines and allow my feelings to sweep me into a tide of old bad habits. I began to let cyclical negative self talk revolve in my mind like water swirling a drain. I started to question everything that I was so convinced of just a few short weeks ago.

As believers we have the comfort of living in the truth of God’s love and presence in our lives but, we can’t forget that as long as we are on the Earth we are subject to spiritual warfare. God has been speaking clearly to my purpose and I’ve trusted him and pursued it like never before. This doesn’t please our enemy. He wants nothing more than for me to just give up. He places thoughts in my mind that are contrary to what the Lord has been asking me to do.

Often when we start to listen and make progress for the Lord is when the spirit of falsehood will come around like a prowling lion ready to devour. It doesn’t want me to do the work that God has asked of me but to doubt the Lord’s promises, question my abilities, feel rejected, give into depression, abandon my plans, and roll over in defeat. Even if my words only reach and inspire a few people he wants to prevent that!

It took all week for me to see this attack for what it was and take my power back through prayer. We all stand in victory with Christ so when the enemy tries to make us doubt all we have to do is remind ourselves of that fact. Instead of continuing to believe the lies and sabotage myself I stopped them in their tracks and threw them out like the trash they are. I prayed for strength in the Holy Spirit, restated the Lords promises, remembered my calling, and banished evil back to the sinking pit it crawled out of.

Know that when you reach an incline you are approaching the mountaintop! Don’t give up when you fall off track or things get difficult, just keep going! I am not going to be pregnant and lagging forever although it can feel that way, and I still have talent and dreams and creativity even if they evade me at times. Perseverance is the only way we can break through! I know that the joy that is coming doesn’t compare to the trials of today. I just need to remember not to let so much time go by the next time and banish the spirit of falsehood as soon as it attempts to make me stumble.

How do you banish doubt and negativity in your life?

❤ Cait