This Beautiful Life

Practicing Gratitude

One habit I was hoping to develop in 2018 is practicing gratitude. I know that practicing gratitude daily is an important step in achieving happiness in our lives. And it seems really easy, right? Just take a moment to be grateful for the blessings in your life, every day. The thing is, it is not that easy. At least not after a while. Because it begins to feel repetitive, and it begins to feel inauthentic.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for my life, my husband, my son, our home, my parents, my job, etc. And I do recognize this, every day. But when each day you are grateful for the same things, you can begin to feel stagnant.

Changing Perspective

A few weeks ago I saw this quote, and something clicked.



That was it. Sometimes it is easy to take our lives and our blessings for granted, because we already have them. So I began to think about the Amy of ten years ago. Twenty-seven-year-old Amy. What did she wish for? What did she pray for? What did she want to change about her life?

Twenty-seven-year-old Amy wanted to meet her soulmate. She wanted to start a family. She wanted to get out of the classroom. She wanted to work from home. She wanted stability.

And when I began to think about life in this way, my experience of practicing gratitude has shifted drastically.

Putting It Into Practice

So, when I am exhausted because my 2 ½ year old son still doesn’t sleep through the night, I think back to when my husband and I were trying so hard to get pregnant. When I feel overwhelmed by my job, I think back to those final days in the classroom, when I just wanted to work from home. And when I don’t feel like unloading the dishwasher, again, I think back to those days when my husband and I would visit the model houses, praying that we could have a house like this.


And now, as I still work toward new goals, and pray for new changes, I know that I will be able to look back one day, and think about these times, these hopes, and these goals.

Give it a try. Imagine yourself five or ten years ago. What did you hope and pray for? What have you since accomplished? It may be just what you need to create a more effective way to practice gratitude.

This Beautiful Life

How Creating Healthy Habits Can Lead to a Healthier, Happier You

They say the greatest changes come through the formation of new habits. And this is true in our home. Over the past few months my husband and I have created new, healthier habits, and it is paying off. My husband’s cholesterol has dropped by 60 points without medication, and he has lost 20 pounds. I’ve lost six pounds, and am managing my stress and anxiety, naturally. So…how did we do it? Through the creation of new routines. Months later, these changes have simply become our lifestyle.

And you can do it too!

Five Habits That Can Lead to a Healthier, Happier You

1. Schedule It In.

If you are like me, there are a million and one reasons not to go to the gym. It’s cold out. You are tired. You have too much to do. But these excuses never got me anywhere, and they probably aren’t helping you. So, add time for fitness into schedule, and adhere to that plan. Whether you go to the gym, workout from home, or take walks around the neighborhood, treat it like an appointment you can’t cancel.

2. Plan ahead.

My husband and I often found ourselves drawn to fast food and restaurants on the weekends because we didn’t plan ahead. We had run out of groceries, or we didn’t have anything planned for dinner. By thinking ahead, and having our kitchen stocked, we avoid the temptation to eat out, and eat junk. Since have decided to eat a primarily vegetarian diet, and to limit processed foods, those are the things we buy, and those are the things we make.

3. Meal plan, and meal prep.

Sometimes, after working a long day, the last thing you want to do when you get home is cook. It’s so tempting to stop at a drive-thru, or order take out.  If you take a few hours on the weekend to both plan and prepare meals, then you will be more likely to adhere to your meal plan, and avoid unhealthy alternatives.

4. Stick to your plan, Seven days a week.

It is tempting to take the weekend days off. But these “off days” can really throw you into a tailspin. In the past, our weekends would be a bit “lazier.” We’d get up, and hang out in our pajamas, and by 8 am, we were starving. We’d end up going out to breakfast, and then out to lunch. We’d feel so discouraged, it would often throw us off for an entire week. Now, my husband gets up at 4am, seven days a week, to work out. Once he is done, I head to the gym. Once we start the day off like this, we are less likely to stray from our meal plan, because we are already doing so well!

5. Check yourself.

Sometimes I am so tempted to just eat that Big Mac meal, or to skip the gym. When I feel like this, I have gotten into the habit of being more mindful of these decisions, and the impact they will have. I love sweets. Love them. But they make me feel really horrible. When I think about how crummy I am going to feel after I eat a donut, chances are, I am not going to eat it. Or, if I don’t feel like going to the gym, I log into Instagram, and find my favorite fitness inspirations. It helps to motivate me, and gets me to the gym. 

At the end of the day, progress is going to come from being mindful. Set those goals, create those routines and make them habits. I’m doing so, what seemed impossible, will become possible, enjoyable…your norm. The key is patience, and perseverance. You will have tough days. You will eat that donut. But as long as you can refocus, and get back on track, true, lifelong change is just around the corner. 

This Beautiful Life

Find Fitness Inspiration and Keep That Motivation!

It can be really challenging to stick with health and fitness goals. Really, really challenging. Most days, I secretly dream of a cheeseburger and fries from Five Guys, or a smoked butterscotch latte from Starbucks. There are mornings when I’ve had four hours of sleep, and can’t imagine dragging my tired butt to the gym. And those days when the scale doesn’t move or, worse, I’ve gained weight…it was so tempting to just give up.

Over the last few months, however, I have found a strategy that really helps to keep me motivated, and keep my eyes on the prize. Instagram.

I know, I have written blogs about avoiding social media, but Instagram can actually help you to stay motivated. It can provide fitness inspiration! All you have to do is find and follow people who inspire you to stay on track. I follow a variety of fitness models, and fitness junkies. I follow women who have lost a tremendous amount of weight, and those who have a positive attitude about health and fitness. Their enthusiasm is contagious. I also follow food bloggers who specialize in healthy eating! In the morning, as I drink my coffee, I watch their “Instastories,” or read their most recent posts.

Seeing these other women who are in great shape, or getting in great shape, is so inspiring each day. It makes me want to go to the gym. Seeing healthy recipes helps me to stay on track, and avoid the local Dunkin Donuts.

So how do you find inspiring people to follow?

  • Look for people who you aspire to be like.
    • If you are looking to lose weight, find someone who has lost a significant amount of weight, and has managed to keep it off.
    • If you want to lift weights and be strong, find someone who lifts heavy.
    • Want to build your ideal physique? Find someone who has a body type like yours, with the physique you want.
  • Look for food bloggers who will fill your Instafeed with yummy, healthy meals!
  • Avoid following people who create an unrealistic expectation. And avoid people who are just trying to sell you something (or lots of things). No tea is going to get you to where you want to be.
  • Don’t compare yourself! Just get inspired. I especially love following fitness folks who share before and after photos of their own transformation!

Who I am following:

  • FatGirlFedUp: This girl is so inspiring you guys. She has lost more than 300 lbs in two years, on her own. No surgery, no gimmicks, just hard work. And she has such a great attitude!
  • MomsCanBeFit: Another really inspiring woman, in her early 40s. She shares her transformation over the last few years as she’s struggled to manage Hashimoto’s Disease. Her abs are ah-ma-zing.
  • Michelle Lewin: She is a world renowned fitness professional, and her physique is my amazing. She is strong, and muscular, without being too skinny!
  • FaithLFit: Faith is a college student, and fitness inspiration. She is in great shape, but really focuses on body positivity! Check out the short film she created about this very topic.

Other favorites include:

  • Jaime Eason
  • Kathleen Tesori
  • Katy Hearn
  • SuzyKBFit
  • Linda Durbesson
  • Lais Deleon
  • FitGurlMel

Feeling brave, and want some help with accountability?

Start your own Instagram account to document your journey. Posting progress (or lack of progress) for others to see is a great way to help you stay on track, and find a community of others who will share your journey, and cheer you on! And, you can remain anonymous. I may or may not have one of these accounts, already.

Where do you find your fitness inspiration? Who helps you to stay on track? Share your thoughts below!

This Beautiful Life

And Bigger Changes

My weight has always been a struggle. Or maybe I should say I’ve always struggled with body image and weight. Finally, I have been able to make some changes that are working to help keep me positive and motivated as I pursue my health and fitness goals. This post may be a bit long, and I may ramble a bit, so I’ll apologize in advance. 

Forming a Negative Body Image

From a very early age I remember worrying that I was fat. My mom once took a Polaroid picture of me, as I sunbathed on our trampoline. Looking at the picture I could see fat-dimpled skin across my stomach. I was mortified. I remember being consumed with the fact that I looked like that.

Thinking back to high school, I realize now that I was pretty thin. Back then, I certainly didn’t feel thin. I wore baggy clothes, in an attempt to hide what I could. I remember standing in line at a fast food restaurant when a “friend” poked my stomach, giggling at how fat I was. I was 16 then, and maintained a healthy, normal weight. But I made an effort from that point to hide my stomach, and wear baggier clothes.

Later, in my early 20s, as a guy picked me up for a first date, he commented that I looked nice, but would be so much cuter if I lost some weight. I felt humiliated, and confused. I had thought my body was average. But that is obviously others did not. And I was being told that me being chubby meant I was unattractive. Needless to say, there wasn’t a second date. 

Later, as neared 30, I was in the best shape of my life. I was eating well, lifting weights regularly, and looking toned. I was starting feel strong, and I liked the way I looked. While visiting a family member, however, she poked my stomach and joked about how chubby I’d gotten. I felt defeated. I had been working so hard. I thought I had made progress, and that my body was finally ok. 

Soon after, as I stood in the hallway outside of my classroom, another teacher approached me, asking if I was pregnant, pointing at my stomach. I couldn’t even find the words to respond. After working out tirelessly, eating almost perfectly, avoiding weekly happy hours…my 128 pound body was still not okay.

At no point has my weight been outside of the “normal” range. At no point did I ask for input about my body. Yet, throughout life, people have felt the need to make comments that have broken my heart, and my spirit. Some of these interactions weren’t meant to be hurtful, but each moment has stayed with me. And each interaction made me question myself, and my body.

I don’t share these stories for sympathy. Instead, I’m sure that most of my readers can relate. I want you to know that you are not alone. Even when I’m feeling my best, doubt always creeps in, and I begin to feel like it’s not good enough. I’m not thin enough. I will simply never be okay. But those feelings are fleeting, and I pick myself back up and continue to work hard.

The Struggle Continues

I gave birth to my son in September of 2015. Now, 2 1/2 years later, I’m still working to lose weight, and get back in shape. For the last three months, I’ve been eating well and going to the gym consistently. While I’m seeing some progress in the mirror, how my clothes fit, and my performance at the gym, the scale is moving at a snail’s pace. I’ve lost a total of 7 pounds on a good day, 3 pounds on a bloated, swollen day.  It’s been so discouraging, and some days I just want to give up, and drown myself in French onion dip, and Ruffles, with a side of ice cream.

What is my point?

It’s taken a change in perspective to shift away from my obsession with the scale, and how my stomach looks, in particular. Instead, I have begun to focus on what’s best for me, and my body.

Instead of spending endless hours on the treadmill trying to (unsuccessfully) run off the fat, I’m focusing on what my body can do. I’m challenging myself to run farther, and lift heavier. I’m putting the scale away. Focusing on my growth means more gratification, and less disappointment. For the first time in my life, I can run for long periods of time. I can lift heavier dumbbells for more reps. I feel stronger.

Instead of obsessing over calories and macros, and a vegan diet, or a paleo diet, I’m eating what I know is good for my body, in moderation. And I eat food as fuel. So, instead of beating myself up over a high calorie donut, I avoid the donut, because it is sure to make me feel terrible. Instead of drinking a 400 calorie Starbucks Latte, I stick to coffee at home. I imagine how horribly swollen I’ll be after a meal at Taco Bell, and head home to eat healthy leftovers instead.


Shifting my attitude and frame of mind has had a tremendous impact on me:

  • I’m enjoying my time at the gym, challenging myself to see just what I can do
  • I’m not limiting my diet in an impossible way
  • I’m not obsessing over the number on the scale
  • I’m creating habits that are sustainable and realistic
  • I’m getting healthy physically, and mentally

What obstacles have you faced in your fitness journey? What changes and strategies have helped you to overcome these obstacles?

This Beautiful Life

Small Changes

It is crazy, and wonderful, how small changes can have a major impact on our lives.

At the start 2018, I swore off resolutions. I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. Instead, I just wanted to have a better year, and hoped to do so through sustainable changes in habits and attitude.

Last year, I had this grand plan to complete my own “Happiness Project” a la Gretchin Rubin. And I failed. Even worse, I had set out to blog about it, so others could see my failure in action (and inaction…ha ha).


This year, I just wanted to find ways to enjoy life more. The first thing I did was remove Facebook from my phone.  I found that I was spending ridiculous amounts of time staring absentmindedly at my screen. Such a waste of time. I decided I would remove Facebook, and spend that time reading, instead.

I have always been a reader. When I was younger, I spent a great deal of free time with my nose in a novel. Since I had my son, I have written off reading. It seemed impossible. I don’t have much free time, and when I do, I am generally nursing or rocking my munchkin, unable to hold a book with two hands. My solution? eBooks.

Since the beginning of the year, I have read three books. That’s about one book a week. And three books is more than I have read in the past two years, combined. It feels amazing to be able to read for enjoyment again, and has been so good for my soul. I have replaced the barrage of political talk and Facebook drama with stories.

So, by simply deleting an app from my phone, I have been able to remove one stressor from my life, and spend more time doing something I love…reading. The lesson here? Changes don’t have to be major, or dramatic. Small changes have the potential to have a huge impact on our lives!


This Beautiful Life

Hello 2018

If you have been following my blog for a while now, you know that I start 2017 with the intention of completing a Happiness Project of my own. And, you also know that I didn’t get very far. Like everything else, life happened and I got a bit sidetracked.

While I would love to do something similar this year, I don’t want to set myself up for failure, either.

Let’s be honest…2016 and 2017 have been challenging years. Oftentimes I have felt the sting of failure, or the fear of drowning in stress and anxiety. These aren’t things I talk about often, because, you know what they say: fake it till you make it.

As I sit here and reflect on the last few years, I am tired, but I am grateful. I have my perfect husband, my amazing son, and a wonderful, supportive family. And, for the first time in a long time, I feel like change is coming. 2018 is going to be the beginning of the life my husband and I have been working so hard to achieve. It just feels different this time around.

So, today, I will not be setting resolutions that will inevitably be broken. I will not be creating a list of things I need to change. Instead, I am spending today working on a new vision board in which I simply highlight my goals, and create affirmations for growth and progress for the next 365 days.

I highly recommend vision boards. The process of creating them is cathartic in itself. For me, creating a vision board allows me to find some clarity in what it is that I really want.  Once I have my vision board all created, I will be happy to share my final product, my process, and my intention with you all.

In the meantime, I want to wish all of my subscribers, readers, friends and family a very Happy New Year! Take some time to set your own intentions for 2018. Let’s make this our best year yet!a

Baby, Raising A Toddler

Yes! Take Your Babies and Toddlers to the Library!

Taking babies and toddlers to the library may seem a bit counterintuitive. This is especially true if you cannot shake the stereotypical image of the silent, serious library.

You may also be interested in my article How to Create a Story Time Routine with your Baby

Libraries are no longer silent and unwelcoming. Instead, they have become proponents and advocates for literacy for children of all ages. Yes! They want you to bring your babies and toddlers to the library. In fact, most library systems have created special programming for young children, to begin introducing language at an early age.

How Babies and Toddlers Can Benefit From the Library

Story Times

Our local library has story times for children of all ages. There is class for babies, one for toddlers and another for preschool aged children. Each class is designed to provide early literacy and language exposure, but it also allows children time for movement and music! This is something we look forward to every week!


Many library districts schedule special programs just for young children. These events sometimes involve literacy, but in most cases they are simply fun! In the summer, our library holds a huge carnival, with games and activities for kids of all ages.They even had fire trucks, tractors and a helicopter for the children to see. For Halloween, they had a costume dance party! And it is all free!



You will find that most libraries have created a section of the library just for children’s books. The environment is very child-friendly, and toddlers are able to do a bit of (supervised) exploration. I also really love checking out books from the library because a) when it comes to books, our little guy is ravenous, and we tend to go through them quickly and b) we can figure out which books we really love, before purchasing them. Believe me when I say, many children’s books are duds.




Yes! The library is a great place for kids to play! Our library has a train table, a puppet theater, and some Legos. These items are all set out for young children to play and explore.

I highly encourage you to check out the programming at your local libraries! There are so many great programs and resources, not to mention all of the free books, for your babies and toddlers to enjoy. What a great way to introduce literacy in a fun way, early on! You can visit the library’s website, or give them a call to learn more about what is offered near you!


Raising A Toddler

Doing Chores With A Toddler

Being a parent is hard. This is not new information, especially not if you have children of your own. And, when you have small children, it can seem virtually impossible to keep up with day to day chores and responsibilities. Doing chores with a toddler, however, isn’t impossible!

You may also enjoy my article Stuff my Toddler Would Rather Play With

For many stay-at-home parents, nap time is a time to knock out some of those pesky items on your to-do list. As a work-from-home parent, however, naptime is worktime. This means that any of our chores must be done during the hours when our two year old is awake. While it would be easiest to plop him down in front of the iPad while I get stuff done, I try to save screen time for my morning shower, and for when I cook dinner. Instead, I have found ways to involve him in the daily housework. Doing chores with a toddler can be quite fun…for everyone!


My little guy is, well, little. But, he can still help with the laundry. He loves to hand me clothes from the hamper to throw in the washing machine. And, when it is time, I hand him clothes to throw into the dryer. He then closes the door, and I lift him up to hit the start button. He loves helping with the laundry, and he knows the drill by now.

Sweeping, vacuuming and mopping

When I have to clean the floors, I load our little guy in my Ergo 360 baby carrier, and get to work. I make sure to play some fun music while we work, too. And I always make sure to wear my Apple Watch to track the calories I burn in the process.  He has fun, and I get an extra workout as I tote an extra 25 lbs. around.


While I dust, I give the munchkin a dust rag of his own! He follows me, and helps me wipe down the furniture too!


Believe it or not, he helps us bake, too! Here is the key: measure your ingredients into smaller bowls first. Then, your toddler can help by pouring ingredients into a stand mixer or mixing bowl, and by stirring. Baking cookies? Let your toddler help with cookie cutters, or with decorations. Having ownership over the process is fun and exciting for little ones.


This was a surprise to me, but our little dude loves to help organize! I recently organized our bathroom drawer that holds my hair supplies. He had fun sorting hair ties, bobby pins and barrettes. Plus, it teaches him organization and classification!

Cooking and food preparation

We have big counters, with enough room for our toddler to sit. As I prepare dinner, especially while I cut veggies, I set some aside for him to sample. Needless to say, he loves to watch, and patiently waits for his next tasty sample.


You can do it too!

Let your kids help you clean…but be PATIENT. The key to success is in repetition. At first, toddler help means that chores will take longer, or they will be messier. In time, however, they will master their role. And, as they get older, this role can evolve. Allowing your toddler to help with chores and household duties teaches them cleanliness and organization, and it gives them some ownership over their home.

What about you? How do you keep your children involved in your household chores? Or do you, at all? Comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Mommy, Raising A Toddler

Getting Work Done as a Work From Home Mom

If you follow my blog, you know that I have been a stay at home mommy with a full-time work from home job for a little over two years now. I can honestly tell you, it isn’t easy, and it really doesn’t seem to be getting any easier as our son gets older. What I am learning, however, is how to be a bit more flexible, and creative, in when and how I tackle my work.  Getting work done as a work from home mom is tough. Butit is so worth being able to be home with our little guy.

Ideally our day would look like this:


In reality, our day often looks like this:

The point is, my day rarely goes as planned. And honestly, it is okay. We take it day by day, and we deal with hiccups and obstacles as they arise. There are days when I feel like a terrible, inattentive mom, and days when I feel like I have it all figured out. It is stressful, but I am grateful for the opportunity to stay home, continue the career I love, and take care of our son.

Keeping a Toddler Entertained

There are some great activities that can help keep a toddler or preschooler busy while you work:

  • Sensory bins filled with rice or beans, and fun kitchen tools.
  • Clay or Playdoh
  • Crayons and paper or coloring books
  • Vinyl, reusable sticker pads like these ones from Melissa and Doug
  • Blocks
  • Wooden puzzles


Are you a work from home parent? What strategies do you have for managing it all? Share your tips and tricks in the comments section below!

Other posts you might enjoy:

Working From Home With A Toddler

Working From Home With An Infant


Blogger’s Block

Guys! I have writer’s block. Or maybe it is “blogger’s” block. I haven’t forgotten about Runaway Teacher. I am just so hesitant to write about my ideas. I have even written a few blogs about life lately, and about our holiday activities, but I just couldn’t bring myself to post them. This year has been a bit of a bust in the blogging department. Remember my “Happiness Project” plan? That lasted about five months and then, splat. I dropped that ball.

This blogging thing is hard. It has been especially hard as I try to overcome feeling self-conscious about my posts and ideas—even after years of writing. But hang in there. In the coming year I plan to return to blogging with a vengeance.  I have some fun new ideas for posts, and projects.

Thank you for being loyal readers. Here is to a new year. 2018, I am coming for ya! In the meantime, here is some gratuitous toddler spam: