guest blog: heather nelsen [[embracing the days with your littles]]

Happy Wednesday, friends!

I literally couldn’t be more excited to introduce you to Heather Nelsen. I met Heather years ago through one of my favorite high school teachers, whose son was dating Heather (and is now married to her 🙂 ). My teacher would rave about Heather and her sweetness – and show our class slideshows of her engagement pictures (which were completely every high school girl’s DREAM) – and so of course I thought Heather was the COOLEST.

And, turns out, she is! She totally is.

All my mama friends, Heather is right there with you! She has some sweet words of encouragement for you, and an awesome blog to check out.

Hop on over to her blog and read about my Top 5 Favorite Books, too!


Hey there! I’m Heather Nelsen and I write over at Notes from the Nelsens. A big thanks to Robyn for letting me share her space today!

In the picture above you’ll see my husband, Matt, who I swooped up in high school, our two kids, Ryan (2) and Natalie (8 months), who have made our lives so much richer, and our dog, Tally, who we refer to as the first born because we made the mistake of treating him like a child before we had real children. 😉

Travel, food, family, and faith are just a few of the things you’ll find me writing about over at my blog, so feel free to stop by, and say hello when you do!



I don’t know how many of you read the post that went viral on Facebook a few months ago called How a Stranger’s Comment Changed the Way I Parent (you can read the entire post here), but just in case you missed it, I’ll give you a brief synopsis:


A younger couple with two small kids was spending the day at the beach when a storm started to roll in, so they quickly started gathering their things to head home for the day. 


If you are a parent with small kids and have ever attempted a trip to the beach, you know there are a LOT of things. And because there are a lot of things, gathering those things plus the kids makes for an interesting/challenging game of how much can you juggle before everyone/everything falls over. 😉 


So as they started the walk from their spot in the sand to head home for the day, the mom overhead an older man turn to his wife and fondly say, “Those were the days, weren’t they?”


Gah, it made me choke up the first time I read it and still makes me choke up as I type it out today.


We are living “the days.” Right here and now. We are smack dab in the middle of them.


Matt and I like to say that these days are a good kind of crazy. Because they are definitely crazy! But they are OH SO GOOD too.


In fact, we moved into a new house just a few weeks ago, so our crazy got REAL crazy for a stretch and is just now starting to settle back into our new normal


For various reasons, since moving into the new house, nap times have been a little off and haven’t been coordinating well (as in they haven’t been asleep at the same time for long), so I haven’t felt like I’ve had much time to get things done around the house during they day, let alone have any down time.


So early last week, Matt surprised me with text about mid-afternoon saying that he was going to come home early and wanted to give me some time while he took the kids to the park. GLORY!!


Let me be clear… I love, love, love getting to be home with my kiddos and would not trade it for anything in the world, but I also recognize that during this stage of life, time alone during waking hours is a rare and beautiful and sometimes needed thing, so I excitedly accepted his offer and started thinking about what I would do with this whole hour of time. 


After much thought, I decided that a bath with a glass of wine and a food magazine was exactly what this mama was in the mood for that day. And for the next few hours, that was what I envisioned come 5 o’clock.


Matt is honestly great about being home when he says, but on this particular day, he got a phone call from a client that had to handled immediately and texted to say he was so sorry but that he would be home later than he originally planned.


So at 5:45 when he got home, he swooped up Ryan, Natalie, and Tally and set off for a little neighborhood walk/bike ride for Ryan.


As soon as everyone was out of the house, I raced up the stairs (totally skipping the wine- no time to waste!), filled up the bath, and got my magazine and favorite candle ready for my relaxation time. Ahhhhh.


Literally, as I was stepping into the tub, I heard crying from downstairs. Matt, Ryan, Natalie, and Tally soon appeared in the bathroom with a tearful little Ryan asking for mama and saying he took a little fall on his bike (before they even made it off the driveway, poor guy!). I asked him what would make it better, and he excitedly said getting in the bath with mommy would make it better.


Matt looked at me with a sweet look like, “I’m sorry!” And I looked back with a look that said, “You tried!”


As much as I was looking forward to that little stretch of time, I knew that the window of my little buddy wanting his mama when he’s hurt and being able to crawl in the tub with me is such a short one.


There will be many days in my future (okay, maybe far away future, but still) 😉 where I’ll be able to sit in the tub and peacefully read an entire magazine… and in those moments, I may even think back to the years when our kids were little and would ask to crawl in with me. And I’ll probably miss them a lot.


So I will keep perspective during these crazy, good days, and remember what that sweet man said to his wife when he was watching the young couple with their small kids on the beach,


“Those were the days, weren’t they?”





Thanks again, Robyn, for having me today!





Recovery Diary: my knee is the size of my head, but at least I’ve watched 37 episodes of Saved by the Bell

It’s two weeks post-op! Whoop, whoop!

So I was thinking…what can I write my diary about this week? I haven’t done anything but watch Kelly and Zack go to prom and then break up and then go to prom again. (Not that I’m complaining about this.)

So…here it is!

Recovery Diary of my Saturday (a.k.a – confirmation that your weekend WAS way cooler than somebody’s 😉 )

9:00 a.m. Yay! Time to get out of bed! I love Saturdays!

9:15 a.m. But I don’t want to move. Moving is hard. Plus, I can totally watch Zack and Kelly from this very spot…

9:16 a.m. …But I can’t watch the Pioneer Woman from this spot. Darn it. Okay. I’ll move.

10:00 a.m. I’m on the couch!! I’m on the couch!! Whoop, whoop!


turns out, classic mixed veggies are the best ice pack. who knew?

1:00 p.m. I just watched three straight hours of TV! I’m winning!

1:01 p.m. No, that’s totally not true. I am literally going crazy. If I do not get out of this house right now I will never watch Saved by the Bell ever again. And I mean it!

Just kidding. Yes I will. I will always watch Saved by the Bell.

1:15 p.m. Hubby and I go on what we call “a crutch.” This is like a walk, but it’s more of a…crutch-type hobble to a pair of trees and back. It’s a grand, epic adventure, I tell you.

1:20 p.m. The trees! They’re so beautiful and red and totally worth getting off the couch for! And the air is crisp and I love the wreath on that person’s door and as annoying as recovery is…I can’t think of a better time to recover than in October. It’s the most beautiful recovery time I can imagine.

1:25 p.m. Time for physical therapy exercises. I love these. And today I’m extra excited because I bent my knee farther than 90 degrees while sitting!!! I’M WINNING! I pat myself on the back. Literally.

1:45-6:00 p.m. Couch time. Thankfully, I love Narnia. C.S. Lewis, you are brilliant and I thank you for the world you created in these books.


6:30 p.m. Extroverted me is going crazy. “I need people,” I tell Hubby.

Hubby loads me in the car to see the people.

Hubby also calls one of his people to ride with us. This person is also on crutches! We load 4 crutches in the car to go see our people. I like having another crutch buddy!


9:30 p.m. We can’t stay long with the people, because my leg still needs to be elevated at pretty much…well, all the time…until the swelling goes down. But at least I saw my people. And a crackling fire pit. And sugary treats.

Recovery in October. It really is the best. You know. Instead of like, January.


the “crutch mobile”

10:00 p.m. Time for Zack and Kelly. This is the episode where Jesse and Slater get stuck in the boiler room while everybody else is at prom. But it’s okay! Because this is also where they realize they actually love each other. (But duh. I could have told them this fact about 15 episodes ago.)

Jesse and Slater. Gosh. You guys.

You’re the best.

Now I just need Kelly and Zack to get back together.

I wonder if Saved by the Bell “College Years” is on Netflix, too…

…hmm…that will be my project for tomorrow!


*Side note: all my people who have brought me food, visited with me, driven me places, and sent me funny cat pictures…YOU ARE LITERALLY THE BEST. Love you guys!!

Surgery Diary: give me a penguin and some food, please

It’s admittedly been a loooooooooooong year with my hurt knee.

(I want to say, too, that I am so thankful for my health. I know an injured knee is way on the bottom of a list of serious problems, and I’m truly so grateful that on the whole my body and mind are healthy. I’m so thankful for that.)

But I do also love to play. I really do. When I was nannying, my favorite games with my littles were playing tag, hopscotch, hide-and-go-seek, races, running with my littles while they rode their bikes, chasing them all over the playground being the lava monster…all the games. I love them.


Basically, being active is a huge part of my heart. I love to play. And frolic. Pretty sure that’s one of God’s plans for me to enjoy in heaven: “She will frolic! I’ve made her to play and frolic and she will do this without abandon!

I miss it here, too, though. I miss running and hopping and being my fully goofy and playful self in this beautiful land of the living.

It’s time to frolic again. I pray that it is.

I’d never had surgery before yesterday, and disclaimer: when I step foot into ANY doctor’s office (even the dentist) I tend to freak out. Doctors and their weird tools and that sterile smell – so thankful for all they do!! – absolutely freak me out.

So…to process the gamut of my emotions yesterday…a Diary Entry is CLEARLY in order!

My Surgery Diary

Thursday: I’m told I will not be able to eat or drink until surgery. “Okay!” I said. “Totes fine. I’ve heard of that. When’s the surgery? 9 a.m.?”

“Nope! 2:30 p.m.”

Meh. Okay. Glad to have the surgery, regardless of the time. I want my knee back!

Saturday: Wake up at 4 a.m convinced it’s the day of my surgery. It’s not…so I read Chronicles of Narnia until I fall asleep. Because, Aslan.

Sunday: I have the best friends and church in the world. I get prayed over literally three times. My choir stops everything and prays over my knee. My small group meets early and prays over my knee. My couple’s bible study ends the night by praying for my knee. My best friends from all stages of life text and call and hug me and tell me they’re praying for me. My family is praying for me. Literally, God provides.

Monday: I wake up to a million texts from the best friends and family in the world. They’re still praying for me. God provides, friends!

-I get ready to go to the hospital, but I can’t wear makeup or drink any water or eat any food. Totes not ideal. But again, I’m thankful I could even get into surgery this week!

-Michael gulps lots of water on the way to the hospital. I go a little crazy. I am very thirsty and nervous and so hubby kindly stops gulping.

-I play candy crush. Lots of candy crush.

12:30: I go back into pre-op. I have the whole place to myself and also have a very nice nurse named Elaine. I tell her I hate needles. She essentially says, “We’ve got stuff for that. It’s called happy juice. It’s good stuff.”

I have no idea what happy juice is, but the name sounds nice so I’m on board. Totes on board.

12:45: I’m wearing a super comfy HEATED purple hospital gown with hand warmers and fuzzy socks. This is seriously not as bad as I was expecting!

12:50: Time for the IV. She has numbing spray!!! Hallelujah!! God provides, friends. Where would I be without numbing spray. I don’t know.

She gets the IV in on the first try!!! Woohoo!!! Y’all. I can do this. This is great. I’m totes great. I got this. Gosh, I’m so brave.

12:51: There is a needle in my hand. There is a needle in my hand. There is a needle in my hand. THERE IS A NEEDLE IN. MY. HAND. Why is there a needle in my hand? It looks gross. There is a needle in my hand. What if the doctor forgets to check my whole knee? I NEED TO MAKE SURE THIS GOES WELL.

Elaine listens to me. Then she says it’s probably time for the happy juice.

12:52: Hubby comes back to say hello. I get the happy juice in my IV. All of a sudden I do feel very happy and like I would really like to go on a safari.

“How big are elephants’ brains?” I ask. This is a very logical and important question right now.

Hubby doesn’t know. Why is he laughing? I like elephants. I insist he google the answer.

Turns out, elephants are very smart animals and have normal sized brains. I learn that elephants also have more muscles in their trunks than we have in our human bodies.

Huh, I think. God is very creative. I think I would like a pet penguin. Penguins are very cute animals. Tucker would like a penguin.


me on happy juice. apparently this was right after I asked for a penguin.

1:00: The doctor comes in and talks to me about the surgery. I have trouble forming a coherent sentence but I insist that he mark all over my knee the places I want to make sure he looks.

He obliges and ends up drawing a big frowny face on my knee for me. I am satisfied with this.

Sometime later: Hubby kisses me and they wheel me back to surgery. The anesthesiologist is very kind. “Time to party,” he says with a smile.

4:00: I wake up somewhere else. Mylanta. Where on earth am I? What happened to my knee? Is everything okay? My eyes focus in on a nurse.

“Am I okay?” I ask.

“Yes. You were very insistent that we give you penguins and food. But you’re okay.”

Penguins? I feel like I remember penguins. But what about my knee?

“But what about my knee?” I ask.

“The doctor took great care of you. He discovered that you had some extra tissue in your knee that had flared up and set your kneecap out of its correct position. He cleaned up the tissue and loosened it so that your kneecap will go back to its correct position. It’s all taken care of.”

I start to bawl. “But I thought it was going to be something major!” I sputter in between sobs.

The nurse goes to get hubby. He comes in and pets my head.

“This is very common,” the nurse says to my confused hubby. “When patients wake up, they usually react 1 of 2 ways. They either cry or want to punch me in the face.”

I am very confused. “But can I run again?” I ask in between tears.

“Not today. But yes. The doctor told you this, too, but you don’t remember.”

I cry harder. “But it wasn’t a torn meniscus! I thought it would be something like that! I just wanted to run again!”

“Sweetie, you will run again. It’s good that it’s not a torn meniscus. That’s why you’ll have a fast recovery time and so you can run again sooner!”

I let this sink in. It still doesn’t make sense to me, but I decide to process it later. Nothing is making sense to me right now except for the apple juice and peanut butter crackers they gave me. I like food. I want more food, I decide.

4:30: They wheel me out to the car. The nurses are very nice and make me laugh while they wheel me out. Probably to stop the tears. It works.

Hubby offers to make me chocolate chip waffles and scrambled eggs when we get home. The world starts to make a little more sense.

I still think I would like a penguin stuffed animal, though.

5:00: I’m all tucked in on the couch, responding to the sweetest friends and family in the world, and thanking God for fixing my knee.


Tuck sniffed and hugged my knee all night 🙂

I play more candy crush, drink gallons of water, and watch 8 episodes of Saved by the Bell on Netflix.

Today: I wake up so thankful for the skill of my doctors and nurses. Thankful for the hubby God gave me to stay home with me today, take care of me, and comfort me always. Thankful to God for being my Healer.

I’m thankful for the phone call from my doctor to check on me. “My goal – my expectation – is that you will have a knee you won’t even have to think about anymore. My expectation is that we will get you back to doing whatever you want without having to think about it,” he says.

(My doctor is literally amazing. If anyone needs a knee or shoulder doctor, I’ve got your guy!)

Hubby lights the first fire in our fireplace of the season. I’m excited about physical therapy tomorrow, and I’m excited for the first cup of coffee I’ve had in what feels like forever. (24 hours without coffee? What?!)

Thank You God, for caring for even our smallest needs. Thank You for caring about my knee even more than I do.

Blessings and comfort to you all (and someone let me know where I can find a penguin, please 😉 ),


S’mores Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes

Y’all. Y’ALL. I did it.

I took my original chocolate chip cookie recipe and TURNED IT INTO SOMETHING EVEN BETTER.

“What?!” you say. “But your cookie was already doughy! And too chocolately to eat in a dignified manner! And too soft to stay in one piece whilst cramming it into one’s mouth!! What could be better?!”

Adding s’mores, my fellow dough lovers. Adding s’mores makes. EVERYTHING. better, it turns out.




I am only sorry it took me this long to realize.

Here’s how my jubilant discovery was made:

It all started when the Dawgs lost on Saturday…and it was heartbreaking. (I typically spend just as much time in my coloring book as I do watching the game on TV, but this match-up was SO NAIL-BITING I couldn’t even color.)

And that’s saying something, my friends.

There were 10 seconds left in the game – the Dawgs scored – the Dawgs rejoiced – too much, apparently – 4 seconds left – the Vols scored – we lost.

I almost cried. Seriously. Embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. Fellow extremely emotive people – I got you.

Hubby looked over at me, saw the totally rational pathetic look on my face and said, “Come on! Let’s go to Publix. Nothing cheers my wifey up like going to Publix.”

(What? You don’t cheer up at the grocery store, too? Weird.)

So there we were. The only people strolling through Publix at 9 p.m. on a Saturday. (#sorrynotsorry, amiright?!)

What will cheer me up? I wondered. I stared at the baking aisle. And then boxes of graham cracker crumbs spoke to me. No they didn’t. But as soon as my eyes landed on those boxes of grahamy goodness I thought, S’MORES. I WILL EAT DOUGHY S’MORE COOKIES TONIGHT. AND I WILL USE SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK BECAUSE THIS NIGHT CALLS FOR THAT LEVEL OF DOUGHY-NESS.


I grabbed the ingredients and put them in hubby’s basket and felt the corners of my mouth curve upward in victory. Because the Dawgs might have lost. But when you decide to make s’mores cookies, you’re actually a winner.

So, without further ado, here is my original recipe for S’more Cookie Cupcakes (they’re cookies – but must be made in cupcake tins – because they’re THAT DOUGHY. You’re welcome.)


1 cup (2 sticks) of butter

2 cups of white sugar

¼ cup of sweetened condensed milk

1 tbsp of vanilla

1 egg

2 cups of flour

2/3 cup of graham cracker crumbs (plus some extra for garnish)

1 tsp baking soda

A pinch of salt

Mini chocolate chips (I never use a number on chocolate. Eyeball it. Use a logical amount the whole bag, probably.)

2 break-apart Hershey’s bars

Marshmallow fluff (usually found on the baking aisle)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cream together the sugar, egg, vanilla, and sweetened condensed milk.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, and graham cracker crumbs.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing on a low speed.

  • I add a little bit of dry ingredients, and then some chocolate chips, mix them in, and repeat both steps until all the ingredients are mixed together.img_6582

Spray a cupcake tin with non-stick spray or wipe the tin with vegetable oil.

Drop heaping spoonfuls of the dough into each cup. (I used an ice cream scoop to do this. The cookie dough scoop is a bit small for this particular endeavor).

Bake the cookies for 8-12 minutes. (Eyeball it. The edges should be brown and raised when they’re done.)

When done, take the cookies out and place one square of Hershey’s chocolate into each cookie.

Give each cookie a dollop of marshmallow fluff on top of the chocolate, and garnish with graham cracker crumbs as desired.

Lets the cookies cool for at least 10-15 minutes in the pan (or else they w
ill fall apart!)
These cookies are for the “doughy-ness” lovers among us. Tread carefully. They WILL fall apart if you take them out too early! (But does that really stop us anyway, fellow cookie lovers?)



And, as always, GO DAWGS!