Saturday, September 23, 2017

Why blogging and I are breaking up

...or at the very least, becoming just friends.

I'm not really sure how to start this, so I'm just going to jump right in.

I started blogging about 7 years ago. I started it as a creative outlet and a way to catalog my growth. I was single, in need of community, accountability to continue to challenge myself, and a fun hobby.

It wasn't until the last couple of years that I actively started to pursue blogging as maybe something more than a hobby. I wanted to send my ship out from the port, take a risk, and maybe turn it into a successful side business.

However, in the last couple months, I've been feeling gentle tugs on my heart that maybe this isn't for me. It began to feel more like a chore, I was spending more time on my phone, and I was constantly feeling pressure to do or post or style things in a way that would get me more followers. In the meantime, I was slowly starting to lose the joy I found in blogging.

I ignored it for a while. I had already dedicated so much time and effort into my blogs. I've poured my heart out, I've been honest, and vulnerable, and I put myself out there when I really didn't want to... all in the name of blog growth. I did grow, the blog and personally. But as I'm entering a new season of my life where I'm looking for balance and refocus on what really makes my heart sing, blogging has a much smaller place there than I had anticipated.

I love that I've catalogued this much of our lives so far. It's crazy to look back at Single With A Purpose and even early posts here and see how far I have come. But I'm also in a much different place in my life now. And now I have the thoughts, hearts, and privacy of four other wonderful people to look out for.

I've teased here and there about some big changes that are coming this way. Those changes did include a massive re-brand and website overhaul with a Justine In Pearls shop opening. However, it has become clear to me over the last few days that I shouldn't continue to pour so much of myself into a place that doesn't fill me up back.

I'll continue to write once in a while, probably with some house updates, book challenge updates, and what have you. If you're interesting in still following along, please feel free to use the link or subscribe to receive new posts via email. I'd love to still connect via Facebook and Instagram, although I might not be as active as I have been.

I'd like to close in thanking you for following along this far. I could not have come this far without your love, support, and encouragement. I am eternally grateful and I hope to someday thank each and every one of you in person. 

BUT, there will still be a shop opening and I REALLY think you're going to like it... so don't disappear yet!



**I originally wrote this in June. It's finally time to let this chapter end (at least to the extent that it has been around) and start fresh, keeping my current state in life in mind.

I'm finally feeling like I have a little closure. I'm feeling free. Free from feeling like my profile isn't good enough, that I don't have enough likes or followers, free from the pressure to always have something "worth" sharing, free from the pressure to always be plugged in and connected. Maybe now that all of this is out in the open, I could even take a week or two off of the Internet. Maybe? Too much? Probably too much for football season (Go Broncos). We'll see. From here on out, it's up to me.



Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all of your love and support over the last seven years. I You all hold a very dear place in my heart.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bingeworthy & Cringeworthy: Episode 3

We watch quite a bit of TV around here. I'm not ashamed of it; I try to keep a healthy balance. We watch very little when the kids are up, but when I get into a show, I really get into a show. It's a big way that I unwind, especially because it's hard to me to find the patience to read books all of the time, and even then, sometimes it's easier to follow along in the book when I can put a face to the characters (because I've already seen the movie).

Here are my thoughts on our Recently Watched list...

Note: As much as I tried to stick to strictly Netflix shows in the beginning, Amazon has slowly been winning me over with some zingers. Also, BBC is on point yet again.



Victoria : Binge-worthy (PBS / BBC)
As a Doctor Who fan (well, I watched through two Doctors a few years ago) I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get past seeing Jenna Coleman as the Doctor's companion, but let me tell you: she totally nailed this role. I don't think I've ever Googled more history about the British monarchy (except maybe when I watched The Crown). It was not an accident that I mentioned this show first. Highly recommend.
You might like this if you also liked: The Crown, Downton Abbey



Veep: Cringe-worthy (Amazon Prime / HBO)
Unless extremely foul language doesn't bother you. It's really a shame. I tried to look past it, but after watching the first two seasons (the only ones available with my Prime membership) I found myself thinking and even dreaming more "colorfully." The show itself was phenomenal. It's a perfect cross between Arrested Development and The West Wing, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, I could not get past the language. HBO, why do you have to make it so crass?
You might like this if you also liked: Arrested Development, The West Wing, Gilmore Girls



All or Nothing: Binge-worthy (Amazon Prime)
"Baseball is America's pastime, but football is America's sport." - Me. I've been a football fan for as long as I can remember, and this is the first time I've ever seen anything like this. A full season of behind the scenes footage and interviews for a pro team. I learned more than I thought I would and it turned out to be really eye opening to see how the pros aren't that different from you and me. If you're into football you might enjoy this more, but it's still a really cool inside look. Also, Jon Hamm narrates, so...
You might like this if you also liked: Remember The Titans



Father Brown: Binge-worthy
One word: delightful. This is like a more updates, British Murder She Wrote. It's clever, the characters are likable, and it doesn't show the Catholic Church in a bad light. Actually, he's a pretty great example of what the priesthood should be: honest, compassionate, and Christ-centered. Also, I watch enough TV (embarrassingly enough) that it's become quite a bit easier to predict plot twists and whodunnits, but this one keeps me guessing pretty much all of the time. Family friendly for kids probably 10 and up or so.
You might like this if you also liked: Murder She Wrote, The Bletchley Circle, Midsomer Murders



Kurt Seyit ve Sura: Binge-worthy
Ok, I'll be honest. I was hesitant too. It took me a while to get past the fact that I was reading along with the show and it was hard to fold laundry while watching... given the whole thing is Turkish. BUT hear me out: It's somewhat based on a true story (I Googled everything I could after watching to find out what was true and what was embellished). I love that the characters had their own flaws and weren't totally perfect. I'm also super into analyzing relationships, and there's definitely a lot to talk about with the whirlwind romance turned roller coaster that drives the two season series. I'm pretty sure after I finished episode 2 I turned to Joel and said something along the lines of "How can I FEEL this much?!" Not for everyone, but I couldn't quit it.
You might like this if you also liked: North & South, Downton Abbey, Poldark


Right now I'm also working my way through Z: The Beginning of Everything and The Last Tycoon, both on Amazon Prime. 

If you're interested in more recommendations, be sure to check out episodes one and two of this series!

Anything else I should be watching? Let me know in the comments!



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Beachbody: Yay or nay?

I'm not becoming a coach. This is just my honest review of the Beachbody program from my two attempts at sticking it out. I'm thinking about adding some personal experiences with other multi-level marketing companies (or direct marketing, or whatever they're calling them nowadays). If you're interested, let me know!

Anyways, this is about Beachbody. So let's get to it!



A friend of mine became a coach and posted about her progress on social media quite a bit. I thought she was really inspiring and I definitely needed to get my butt off the couch and start losing some of the baby weight from my second, so I signed up for a month of the chocolate shakes and I bought Piyo (an 8 week program that combines pilates and yoga).

The shakes were not what I was hoping for but they were definitely filling if I beefed them up a little with some frozen fruit. I wasn't a big fan of the flavor by itself, but it did grow on me a little as time went on. I didn't reorder the shakes when the time came just because of the price. It averages out to just over $4 a serving (for 30 days), but that doesn't count the milk, fruit, veggies, or anything you add into it. It's supposed to be a meal replacement option, but that was still a little too steep for me.

I wasn't a huge fan of the trainer in the DVD's, so I put it aside and borrowed a copy of 21 Day FIx (The 21 day program with Autumn Calebrese, the tiniest, most muscular little Italian I've ever seen, and her portion control container based meal plan). I loved that program (as in loved the challenge and the post-workout high, but not cardio day). It was great accountability to have the printable calendar and a different workout for each day of the week. I knew I was keeping my body guessing and with the workouts being only about half an hour each, they were pretty doable. After the 21 days were up, I took a break to decide what I wanted to do next. And after a couple weeks on the break (ha ha ha), I found out I was pregnant again.

So I quit.

Fast forward a little over a year. I was a couple months post partum with my third and feeling pretty icky. And large. And curvy (in the wrong places). A different friend posted online about her fitness journey (after a pregnancy with twins!) and she looked amazing, so I figured it was time to get back into gear and stop feeling sorry for myself. I texted my coach friend (the same one as before), asked for a link, and signed up for another program and another month of shakes.




This time around I went with the vanilla shakes and I actually really liked them. I started saving tons of recipes on Pinterest for them and I ended up having plenty of variety, which helped me not to get sick of any one flavor. I also could cater to whatever groceries I had in my house that needed to be used up, which was a nice bonus. I didn't renew my order, again, because of the price.

While I was waiting for my new DVD's to arrive in the mail, I did another round of 21 Day Fix. I bought Shaun T's program Focus T25. And I didn't like that one either. However, I had spent enough money on the programs and I really wanted to have a badass before and after transformation, so I sucked it up and found a hybrid schedule so I could alternate between Piyo and T25. I suppose it's the same with any new teacher or coach: once you give them the chance and figure out their styles, they're not so bad. I just finished week 7 of that 8 week hybrid program.

And here are my thoughts.

Isn't it just like any other workout DVD program?
Yes and no. It is a workout DVD. You get what you put into it effort-wise. The coaches can't actually check your form or specifically cater the workout to your personal needs. However, most of the moves can be modified and you should use common sense, but that goes with all workouts. What I found really sets apart this company is the accountability. You're set up with a coach (granted not all of them have fitness or sports medicine degrees or anything), but someone to offer daily challenges, check up on you, offer moral support and motivation, and a handy app to check in your workouts and shakes every day. I think if I didn't know my coach, it would have been much easier to just stop responding and wait for her to forget about me, but  I can honestly say that this is the longest I've stuck with any kind of workout regimen. 




It's also really nice that there are lots of different workout programs to chose from, so the workouts themselves don't get too repetitive. There is a schedule to follow that ranges anywhere from 3 to 90 days, and each program offers plenty of options to work different muscle groups and switch things up as you go along. For example, 21 Day Fix has a different workout for each day of the week plus another bonus one, so it's unlikely you'd get sick of them as fast as a program with 3 workouts to do for 30 days.

Did I notice a difference with Shakeology?
Yes. When I stopped the shakes, I definitely noticed feeling a little more tired, like my body was used to getting more energy and nutrients that I ended up cutting out. A small part of me also wondered whether or not it was because they added some addictive substance to the shakes, but I'm sure they didn't. I was definitely shedding weight faster than I am now, but I was also very postpartum and breastfeeding, so I was losing about half the total weight I'd gained just from that. Basically, there were a few different variables in play, so it was hard to tell for sure, but I will say that I seemed to have less cravings and especially when I mixed the shakes with a little fruit or veggies, I felt full from them. There are alternatives (ironically from other MLM's), but I haven't found another that's meant to be a meal replacement that has as much as these do. It might just be one of those you-get-what-you-pay-for situations.

Is it worth it? 
It's definitely an expensive program to get involved in (Coaches probably get more perks and discounts, but that's how it works with all MLM style companies, which is fine. I'm betting coaches and trainers who work at gyms get a heavy discount, if not a free membership for themselves). You're not 100% required to use the shakes, but they're HIGHLY encouraged (some coaches might not allow you in the challenge group without the shakes). The programs by themselves aren't too expensive given the amount of workouts you get for each one. A $10-15 DVD at Walmart might get you 3-4 on one disc, but with these (depending on the program) you're getting quite a bit more.

What I think really sets this program over the edge is the challenge groups. You're not leaving your house to go to the gym, but you're automatically connected with people all over the country who are working out with you, working on staying positive and striving to reach their own goals. I'm a big believer that surrounding yourself with positive people who want to be successful is key in becoming successful yourself. It's so much easier to quit anything when you feel like you're in it alone. I've loved being able to click the little checkmark button on my app whenever I finish a workout and when I'm in a rut, I know I've got a group of challenges and an awesome coach backing me up.

So, to answer more simply, yes, I do think it's worth it. If you're in a season of your life where long solo runs (if that's your thing) or visits to the gym aren't a possibility, this might be a great way to go. I've been pushing forward for over three months now, and I'll tell you the same thing I told my coach: I don't want this to be one of my fitness phases. I want this to be the time that I started taking care of myself.




If you're interested in checking it out yourself or if you have any questions, please hit up my sweet friend Rachel! She's been so great and she's honest about what you're going to get, which is always a perk. She's a work-from-home mama herself with the cutest little littles. :) She's on FB as The Athletic SAHM!

Monday, July 10, 2017

How I'm handing three under three


"You must be busy." -Some random person to me, almost every day.

Hello, all. Justine here. I realized I haven't shared much about how these first few months have gone with having three little loves so close together. I've stressed, prayed, and talked to no end before Clive was born, but I haven't shared any stories from the trenches really.

So here we go.

At first it wasn't as bad as I anticipated it would be. My two year old wasn't potty trained yet and had just made the adjustment to a toddler bed, so she wasn't needed as much immediate attention. I was recovering from a c-section, but the baby was still sleeping when he wasn't eating, so with lots of help from family and friends I was able to ease into the transition.




The first couple days home without Joel weren't so bad, but it didn't take long for us to prepare ourselves each morning for a few--we'll say "louder"--moments of the day. Usually when it rained, it hailed. When one kiddo was crying, there was usually at least one more joining in for whatever reason. We quickly fell into survival mode. I set the bar low and worked my way up from there. We're still getting used to it, but here are a few of the ways that we made it work.

1. Get out of the house. - With kids and without them. Mom needs time away from being needed. All moms do, but especially moms of toddlers and babies because they're so much more dependent and can't do as much for themselves (even though they say otherwise). I can think of more than a few occasions when everyone's cabin fever was getting out of hand, so we piled everyone in the car to go... well, anywhere.

2. Park next to a cart corral. - I learned this tip from reading about Grace's experience and I have never looked back. We're getting much faster at our little system and now the girls are used to it too. They get unbuckled and wait in the van. Clive's carrier goes in the big basket. Monica sits in the seat. Then Celine walks and holds on to the side of the cart. Items we're shopping for go... well, wherever they can fit. Big items go on the bottom shelf. We make it work.

3. Play to everyone's strengths (literally) in the parking lot. - I had to do a lot of asking around to figure this one out. When there isn't a cart corral around, there has to be some way to get from the car to inside the building without leaving anyone separated. So here's what we do. our 1 1/2 month old is a runner, so she has to be held. I use the other arm to carry the baby carrier low enough for our 2 1/2 year old to reach. She's big into helping and is pretty good about following directions, so I have her "help" me carry the baby. She holds on to the carrier handle, I hold the middle kid and the baby, and we walk as quickly as I can so I can get to a cart (or reinforcements) before my arms fall off. Bonus: I'm going to have sculpted arms at the end of all of this.




4. Order what you can. - Our local grocery store recently added a service to order our groceries and deliver them right to your door. Umm, yes please. I don't have to worry about how I'm going to fit the groceries, carrier, AND two toddlers in the cart without anything extra getting grabbed or anything we actually want getting smashed (or eaten). It's saved us a ton of money, too. There is a small delivery fee if you order less than $100 worth of groceries, but even if we don't need to order that much, we avoid the impulse buys we're used to just tossing in while we're in the aisles. Highly recommend.

5. Put them to work. - Toddlers love to have a task. Even if they're not great at it or it's not something that actually needs to be done, they love to help. When I'm changing diapers on the floor, I like to ask the other ones to put clothes in the hamper, hand me things from the diaper caddy (even if I don't need them), put them back again, and seek out random objects in other rooms. They feel good for being helpful, I feel good for teaching them selflessness and having them out of my face for a couple minutes. Everyone wins.

6. Plan ahead. - The mornings are usually the hardest for us. Not because any given task is especially difficult, but moreso because everything seems like it needs to be done simultaneously. All diapers changed, clothes on, breakfast served (with milk), cleanup, and then I get a chance to eat and go to the bathroom. However, when I take the time the night before to pre-pour milk into sips cups, lay out clothes for the next day, get the coffeepot ready to brew, and prep breakfast as much as I can, mornings run a little more smoothly.

7. Stay organized. - I love having my Lily Jade diaper bag handy. I've got a billion pockets and I need my hands for the kiddos, so the backpack option is perfect. However, it doesn't matter whether I have 2 or 200 pockets if I don't utilize them. Once every couple months, I empty the whole thing and reorganize so I know in the moment where each item is and I can get to whatever I need as quickly as possible. We have a new system in place for the kids' toys, shoes, and clothes (complete with labels), so cleanup is quick (and mostly painless) and everyone knows where everything is. Bonus: this also helps with giving toddler tasks and fostering their independence (or whatever), so... yay!

8. Keep it simple. - The peanut butter doesn't have to be perfectly spread on the sandwich and the cut doesn't have to be exactly down the middle, or even straight. Toddlers don't know that they're not getting an organic, nutritious lunch that's meticulously cut and laid out in the shape of a zoo scene. They just want to eat. Maybe someday I'll have the time and energy to make them beautiful meals like I see on pinterest, but not in this season of my life. Unless someone wants to come over and do it for me. For free. And have it all ready before it's time to eat. If you are that person, please email me. Until then, half a banana and ham wrapped around a cheese stick will do.





9. Roll with it. - There will be public tantrums. There will be times everyone is crying, even Mommy. All you can do in the moment is just to acknowledge what it is and keep moving forward. Maybe you need to hide in the kitchen with a pudding cup, maybe you need to shut yourself in the room and cry to your husband, or maybe its sending a long text to another mom in the trenches. Take a minute, catch your breath, and then pull up your bootstraps and keep going. It could always be worse (but it's not) and it always gets better. This is life with toddlers and babies. They struggle communicating, finding independence, and everyone is as stubborn as hell. But it's time to shrug and move forward. If you have to help one at a time and someone has to cry for a while until you get to them, that's just the way it is. You're all going to be ok.

10. Pray, hope, and don't worry. - I definitely feel like I'm losing my marbles more days than not. I joke that we're a traveling circus or that I'm drowning in little people. However, I know this is a beautiful season of life, growth, and wonder. I know that it's tough, and I'm sure glad I didn't just jump into life with three under three. God knew that I needed to be eased into this, and he also knew that I'd be able to handle this crazy, even when I don't think I can. I don't always get the floor swept or the dishes washed, but I know its all going to work out in the end. Our home is absolutely bananas, but it's filled with love.


If there's anything I'm missing from this list, let me know! I'm all ears and I love when other experienced mommas (no matter how many kiddos or their ages) share their survival tips and tricks. ;)

Have a great week everyone!!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Kitchen Command Center Reveal!

Hey, so remember that time I begged for help for my desk slash kitchen command center? Just to refresh your memory, it looked a little something like this:

HOT. MESS.
I finally decided it was time to take some action. Joel was home, the kiddos were occupied, my label maker had a fresh roll of paper and I was ready to roll.

So that was the before...

And here is the after!



I started by just clearing out the clutter, layer by layer. The desk wasn't usable in the current condition, so I made it all the way down to the bottom of the pile by filling up my trash and recycling bins. I love to be organized, so finding ways to do that on the cheap is pretty thrilling. Most of my fixes were simple and free... extra awesome :)



I traded out the horizontal paper tray on the left side of my desk to an upright sorter, which I labeled (of course). I thought about pinning a pretty picture or inspirational words to the front of it, but if I wanted to keep the visual clutter to a minimum, I needed to stick to the clean lines. Also, it feel pretty good when I get that whole thing emptied with everything in its place.



I was losing useable bulletin board space with a printable calendar. Once I moved my white board to-do list to the pantry door (which made it much easier to write on anyways, I could focus on making the wall space useable.



The entire top shelf had been wasted space (who fills a shelf with just-ok looking empty canisters and some old instant coffee? Me, apparently). These shelves are now my place for resources I need handy, like for meal planning and working on activities for the family.



The desk and legs are from IKEA. This is actually the chair that Joel bought in Denver after his chair broke while we were Skyping for the first time. He had to lug the box 10 blocks through downtown Denver back to his apartment.



The inbox/mail tray is actually a holder/carrier for a baking dish my grandmother bought me. It's holding me over until I find something more permanent. With the rest of my desk cleared, you can finally see the drawers I spray painted silver ages ago for my little catchalls like stamps, chap stick, and chalk for the chalkboard.



You might have noticed my affinity for labeling things. I've said it before and I'll say it again: labeling has changed my life for the better. It's so much easier to keep things organized, especially in a hurry, when I can see where it goes at a glance without having to remember how I sorted things the last time I reorganized.


I'd love to get a cage-looking gold file folder, but this one is working well for the time being.


Thank you for all of your help on clearing the clutter... I'll share more room reveals soon!! 

Friday, June 16, 2017

SQT: Self-care, books, and date nights

Hello all! I realized I haven't posted much for life updates in a while (with the exception of our summer kickoff) so I'm linking up with Kelly this week to share a few quick takes of what's been going on around here:

1. I just had my last serving team meeting for the year in our local MOPS chapter. I have loved being a part of this group and connecting in my community, but as I mentioned before, I'm needing to take a step back in a few places to catch up on life. I'm hoping to join in a serving role again down the line, but I'll just be an attendee for a while.

2. Along the same lines of taking a step back, I've reluctantly decided not to continue to breastfeed Clive. Something had to give, and after making the switch I feel so much peace that it was the right call for our family (and our functionality and sanity) in this season. Consequently, this is the first time my body hasn't been supporting another human being through pregnancy and/or nursing in about 4 years, so my hormones are everywhere. Gah!





3. You know what I have had time to do though? Read! Finally! (well, when I'm not binge watching TV shows... more on that soon). Right now I'm chipping away at New Testament Bible Basics for Catholics (still), Getting Past Perfect (this was basically written for me with my littler perfectionist heart), Wild Montana Skies, and Anne of Avonlea (the audiobook). If you're wondering how I'm reading all of these without getting confused, I'm not.

4. I'm also making self-care a priority... I wasn't great about it before kids, but especially now I need to make sure it happens. I've been working out, taking naps, and working on some exciting blog projects (you'll see soon!). If you're wondering how I'm balancing it all and still managing self-care guilt-free, I'm not.




5. Joel and I managed to sneak out of the house to watch Wonder Woman, which made my week and then some. I'm not going to go on about how much I loved it (at least not in this post), but I will say that when I grow up I want to be Wonder Woman. Just kidding. But seriously.

6. Speaking of dates, we're trying to get in 1-2 date nights in a week, just to make sure we're staying on track as a husband and wife unit and it has been so much fun. Last week, Joel found this sweet game that's like an at home Escape The Room (and by "like" I mean it actually is). We had a blast solving the puzzle and I can't wait to try another one. 100% worth it! It was a great communication/team-building game too... for our team of two. But still a team!




7. Clive is old enough now that he's not content to hang out on the floor or in a swing and watch the activity around him. He wants to be up and more involved, which means I'm getting significantly less done around the house. However, we finally got ourselves a Baby K'Tan and Clive loves it. He's so happy to be a part of whatever is going on or watch me do chores. Joel even takes him around in it too. It's da bomb.



I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend! What are you up to?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Clive Anthony: 4 Months

Dear Clive,

My sweet, sweet baby boy. You get cuter every day. I know every parent says that about their children, and I'm biased because I'm your mother, but I really do mean it. You're a good-looking kid with the most contagious smile I have ever seen. You always seem to be smiling and you LOVE when anyone is making eye contact with you. You're turning into quite the socialite. I'm glad, too... when you get older, I don't ever have to worry about running out of things to say.



You hair has been thinning for a while, but it was getting harder to disguise, so Daddy and I gave you your very first haircut. I wasn't sure what you'd think of the whole experience, but you didn't seem to mind it at all. You look a little less like a baby grown man (in a good way) when you have short hair, but you're still a fine gentleman to us.


You're hitting all of your marks developmentally and I can't believe how strong you are already. You feel like you're all muscle! Maybe you and I can work out together before too long.

You are VERY ticklish. It's not hard to find a new spot to get you giggling. 


You still seem to favor me over everyone else so far... which is awesome. Your sisters are great entertainment for you; your eyes follow them all over the room. They love to love on you, giving you all the toys and pillows and blankets you could ever hope for. They're a little overwhelming for you sometimes, but just remember that they're just showing you in their own way how much they care.

You're fascinated by books, which is pretty typical for a Rauch kid at this point. You follow along with the pictures when we read to you, with your eyes open wide as you take it all in. I want so badly to know what you're thinking about all the time, but I know that at the rate you chatter away, it won't be long before you can tell me yourself. 



We get lots of comments on how you seldom cry, which is pretty accurate. You only really get upset when you want to be held, when you're hungry, or when you're tired and trying to fall asleep but we just won't leave you alone... and that's pretty much it. You love to be held and cuddled and be a part of the action. I'm doing my best to make sure you're included, but things are a little bananas around here most of the time, so I'm sorry if you have to entertain yourself for a while. Just let me know when you're lonely, and remember that I'm doing my best.

Clive Anthony, you're my best boy. I love you with my whole heart and I am so proud to be your mom. Every time you smile at me, I feel like my heart is going to burst. As I say all the time, God knew my heart needed you. You are the best surprise we've ever received. I love you.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Summer '17 kickoff!

Summer is [unofficially} upon us!! Yes, I know that technically the first day of summer isn't until later in June, but we're kicking off the season with our annual family camp out. The five of us technically didn't camp in the sleeping outdoors sense of the word, but we spent a good chunk of the weekend enjoying the outdoor festivities.



The girls were unbelievably stoked to pet a dog. And that's when I realized they hardly ever see them because we don't have any pets. Easy entertainment. This could have made their day in itself.


This is the sixth (I think?) year the family has been getting together for a camping weekend. The first two years I stayed in a tent with the whole gang, but after we got rained out year two (also being the only ones that year NOT in a camper), and then having littles since, the Rauches stayed inside the house. This year we were blessed with beautiful weather pretty much the whole weekend, so we spent almost all of our time outside. 



A few of my extended family members own horses, so they bring them out to the camp site to offer rides to the kiddos. Celine is usually afraid of, well, most things, so when she asked for a ride I was pretty taken aback. We started slow and worked out away in... petting his neck, petting his nose, and given she was still interested, we got her onto the saddle.


Aaaaaaand that's as far as we got. This is way more than she was willing to do last year though, so here's to 2018! I'm still so proud she made it that far. She might be held back sometimes by her nerves, but she is becoming braver and braver every day.

Monica seemed ready to give it a shot, with her fearlessness causing me a little worry... I didn't totally trust her to sit still. She pet the horse, and we set her on the saddle long enough to snap this sweet picture:


...but as soon as she realized I was holding her stuffed animals for her, she was ready to be done. I wouldn't be surprised if she's ready for a ride next year too.


Clive was mostly held the whole weekend and he was loving playing the role of baby hot potato. He was pretty quiet most of the time and seemed to just be taking everything in,, but every time I put him down to change him he started chatting away, as if to tell me everything he saw. I can't get enough of our little dude.


That wasn't the end of the milestones for our big girl... Celine got her very own bicycle. We only took her around on the grass for now, but she absolutely loves that thing. And I'm all googley-eyed over her on it, especially with the basket. I want one in my size. She's hell bent on pedaling backwards, but we'll get there.



And of course, if big sister gets a turn, little sister must too. Oddly enough, Monica also kept her feet pushing back on the brakes. Maybe it's a Rauch kid thing? I'll look into it. In the meantime, I need to find bikes/trikes/trailers for the rest of us.


The weekend wrapped up with A Lazy Stroll, a fundraiser to find a cure for ALS. My uncle was diagnosed a few years ago, so this cause has a very particular importance to my family. 
To hear his story, watch this.

The walk was around the same time as naps and the girls were pretty tapped out from the weekend, so this is the only picture I managed to take.
All in all we had a wonderful weekend and we're ready to make the most of our summer. We've got a whole lot of fun to come, so thanks for following along!

What are your plans for the summer? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How we met: part 3

If you're jumping in now, you can read part 1 and part 2 by clicking the links. If you want to skip ahead to the end, read on. For the short version, read this. ;)


FALL 2012

That September was one of the longest months of my life.

Joel and I had a blast chatting as much as we could on and off throughout the day. We'd break for driving home and dinner, then jump on the phone and talk for another few hours. I was completely smitten. I wanted to know anything and everything about this dear friend who was rapidly making himself a permanent placeholder in my heart.

But it was still a tad embarrassing that we'd still never seen each other's faces outside of pictures posted online.

Within a week of becoming official, we scheduled our first Skype call. It was all I could think about all day. I did my hair, kept my makeup minimal, and wore a loose pink pinstripe button up. About an hour before Joel was scheduled to call, my nerves began to get the best of me. What are we doing? What am I doing? What if he is nothing like I picture? What if his voice doesn't match his face? What if he doesn't like me anymore? I started sweating, and up went the curled hair. I needed to relax. I poured myself a glass of White Zinfandel in my favorite glass (and oversized stem wine glass that I still have in the cupboard) and tried to act casual.

Here's the thing though: when I'm nervous, I mess with whatever is in my hands, in this case, the wine glass. The giant wine glass, That I overfilled. And all of a sudden there was only a sip left. And we're about a minute and a half out from the call. And I'm all loosey goosey. And blushing... from the wine and the nerves. Great idea, Justine.

I answered the call and we talked for a good 3 1/2 ish minutes without a hitch.

I looked away from the screen for a few seconds and heard a sudden noise come from the other end and all of a sudden, Joel was gone. I heard movement, I could still see his apartment, but no Joel. Then his head popped up from behind the desk. The folding chair he was using spontaneously fell to pieces. He only had a desktop computer and no back up chairs in his little studio apartment. So, this is it, I thought. That was fun while it lasted. But Joel, just as excited about this opportunity as me, made the chivalrous sacrifice and offered to kneel in front of his computer long enough for us to finish the conversation. I couldn't believe he would offer to do that for me, instead of just easily ending the call and using the phone.

We talked for four more hours before I remembered he was KNEELING. He made no complaint, was still fully invested in our talk, told stories, asked questions, and was the same incredible man I was falling for over the phone. And then I saw him shift his weight a little and subtly rub his knee. I had totally forgotten and he finally agreed to switch to the phone because OF COURSE we weren't done talking yet. We talked for another hour or so before finally calling it a night.




Skype calls became our new regular. We had them on constantly, sometimes even when we were working on other things. I vividly remember drinking champagne after a work success of mine and Joel wanted some too... so he stretched the camera as far as it could reach (to the floor) and left me to hang out with his "free range" rabbit while he went down the block on a champagne run.

It wasn't long before he bought his ticket to visit me.

We still had a couple of weeks to wait, so I spent my free time planning our itinerary and freaking out. It was a risk, inviting this man to come for the weekend, especially if it didn't go well. But how could it not go well? I still couldn't shake the feeling that he had a big role to play in my life, whether it be for this season or for the long term.

I'll never forget the night we first exchanged "I love you"'s, but I'll save just that little bit for just the two of us.

I'm not sure at what point exactly we knew, but it was definitely before Joel arrived. We hadn't talked at length about the long term, but I had an unmistakable peace in my prayer and in my heart that this was the man I was made to spend the rest of my life with. I was almost  too good to be true... but not quite. ;)

On September 21st, I packed up my mix tape (well CD, but it was a thing) and some Kung Pao beef for Joel's dinner and drove an hour to the airport to meet Joel, officially, in person, for the very first time.




I was going to wait in the parking lot, but I was too excited and looked for him at the outside pickup. He called me, and I saw a tall dark blonde man with a suitcase on the phone near me. I was about to go up to him when Joel said he was walking and looking for me... so clearly not that guy. I panicked. How do I greet him? Do I hug him? Reach out for a handshake? A handshake? Why would I do that? To be funny maybe? Not funny. Don't do that. What if he's far away? Do I run to him? Walk? Wait for him to come to me? I'd better play it safe. Thinking on my feet, I played the super cool move of staying on the phone with him to lead him to me, at the same time ducking behind a pillar at the end of the pickup line to wait for him.

Just before I could hear his voice in person, I stepped out from behind the pillar and there he was, only a few yards away, walking towards me. Joel dropped his bags, enveloped me in a hug, and all I could think was, This is the first time I am hugging the man who will be my husband.

I never wanted that weekend to end. We toured my work, sipped pumpkin spice lattes and strolled around my neighborhood, built a blanket fort, watched HGTV, ate at my favorite Mexican restaurant. On his last day with me, we stopped at the mall (90's style) and took photo booth pictures. That was the first of what would unintentionally become one of our date traditions. 




Before Joel made it back home I bought my ticket to go out and visit him... and the rest is history.


So there you have it: the long story of how we met on Twitter. We're almost 5 years together, 3 kids later, and I could not be happier. I'm so thankful you made it through reading this far... if you're interested in hearing more of our love story, let me know!


And to Joel:

Falling in love with you has been the greatest adventure of my life and it continues to be every day. Thank you for everything. I love you.