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Little Life Update

We have been REAL busy over here friends!  My oldest kiddo, Evan, is going to 2nd grade and is currently loving summertime.  He’s also currently annoyed that everyday I tell him to pick up his math facts book and fill out pages and read his something treehouse books (I bought him a whole set 75 bucks and the deal was he’d read one book a week we are currently lucky to get through a CHAPTER a week).  He definitely rather just hang outside, preferably in Grandma Debbie’s pool.  My other little dude, Michael, is gearing up to start school this fall too.  He knows nothing different than his current crazy routine. The hubby is keeping busy, and I’m doing my very best to not drive him totally crazy.


As for me, well, I’ve been busy doing the daily stuff and busy daydreaming about…


MAV becoming a big bro!  We are adding another little Villa to the family soon.  I’ve held out on this stuff for a while because being me and a weekend photographer I wanted the perfect shots.  I wanted the coolest announcement and lots of bells and whistles.  Well today I finally pulled out (what I think is) the first onsie my mom bought for little one and told my kids (both nice, dirty and picture perfect…) to go outside as the sun sorta set. Michael brought a transformer and I bribed him with waffles for dinner… You do what you have to.  I got [no] perfect shots but there it is – little Villa V3 coming soon.


Evan my perfect angel has been, well Evan.  Michael is also excited but also has no idea what he is in-store for.  Anywho, plan is to keep you all updated on my little blog.  I’d also like to try a little vlog, but alas big ideas over here and little execution.

Join us on our journey! Follow me at @Jen.Stays.Well on Insta for updates and blog posts ❤ Later, friends!




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SUMMER Vacation

Hey ya’ll.

How’s life treating everyone?  I hope fantastic.

We have just-ish returned from a fantastic vacation.  This is the first time in the LONGEST TIME – maybe ever? That Hector and I have been off for two weeks with both children – again maybe EVER (even when he babies were born I’m thinking Hector only had a week off… and just a day with MAV) in the course of our relationship together.  This time off has been so amazing, restful and just down-right good for the soul.


White sand, blue water, brown babies.  That’s what last week really consisted of.  We headed down to St. Pete’s area for a week of GLORIOUS HEAT and sunshine.  So many people gave opinions of, “YOU ARE GOING TO FLORIDA IN THE SUMMER?  It’s going to be HOT” – and well sure it was, but seems like Chicago was just as hot seeing the state of my outdoor plants and Chicago does not have ocean front property where dolphins literally frolic in the sunshine…  The Gulf gave us a beautiful breeze and with a pool and the ocean we were happy as clams.  It is summer, I’m here for the heat.  The sun, the sea.


Trying to get them to smile together for pictures is getting more and more difficult.  I suspect sand and sea callings were at odds most of the time.  You see, my Evan, he’s quite the fish.


He spent loads of time enjoying the sea and the rest of the time was spent in the pool.  MAV enjoyed the sand.  He took half of the beach up the pool shower each day.

My dear friend Katie has spent many a years at this beach.  She called it magical and seriously that’s just what it is.  Each morning dolphins would roam up and down the coast.  We’d sit with our coffee and a book (I have read two books TWO books so far on this vacation, more on that later) on the amazing porch and just listen to the waves crashing and our dear dolphin friends (almost like clockwork) would be slowly strolling near the shore. Heaven.


Katie and Evan ^ she’s the best, huh? I must say too I had amazing beach hair on this trip.  Head to my insta account to see (jen.stays.well).  Katie and her beautiful family were so much fun to hang with.  The kids got along great (duh, practically besties) and the adults played hours of rummy.

I have nothing more to say other than this trip was exactly what everyone needed.  What my soul needed.  What my family needed.  Even the drive (though long and likely our first and only one, ha) was stunningly beautiful (many pictures on my insta… jenlmvilla).

I’m working on me quite a bit these days.  With work and kids and life you just sorta lose too much.  I find myself longing to just immerse myself in my children and family and that’s what I have been doing… but it’s time to rebalance and find some ME time so I can continue to grow and thrive in my own right.

Sea is healing.  The beach is where the soles of my feet speak deeply to my soul and heart.  Feeling all the feels, bits of white sand, jagged sea shells and burrowing mussels.  No matter where you are make sure you make sure you are #livingthegoodlife we’ve only got one and it’s mostly about perspective.  ❤

xo friends,

until next time which I always hope is sooner rather than later… but you know, life.


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Photography Fun 101

Hey Friends!

Wanted to share with you some of the goodies I’ve used and am currently using on my photography journey.  I am going to share some of the super basics first and hope to make it a series!!! It’s Jen’s Dummy guide to taking pictures take 101.  Today I’m starting with the GEAR.  I’ll cover the cameras I’ve owned and the LENS YOU MUST BUY (and it’s only $125 dollars – fits full frame and crop sensor Canon cameras!).

Some time ago, my husband brought home a Nikon DSLR (similar to this one)  and I really fell in love with figuring out how to use it outside of some people’s beloved auto mode.  With mostly trial and error and not enough Youtube… I was starting to get the hang of all the gizmos and gadgets (really just buttons and dials) attached to the camera.  When my obsession really went insane was when I became pregnant and had my first son, Evan.  Nothing gets you in the mood to take pictures more than an itty bitty still little sleepy baby.  And so my love for photography… Exploded.

Evan’s first trip downtown labor day weekend – BOB pictured with the infant adapter and car seat attached.

BOB is the way to go!! 

After thousands of pictures, an many more blurry pictures after my lens stopped auto focusing… Hector gifted me a new camera.  This camera (Canon 60D, find it used and CHEAP here)  When I got this camera and THIS lens.  My world got flipped upside down in the best way.  This to me, is the best starter kit.  Nikon I’m sure has a similar set up but do yourself a favor if you are just starting out and get a 50mm 1.8f stop (or lower) and get ready to take some amazing pictures.  Another great starter is the Rebel Series by Canon.

My Canon 60D has taken pictures of couples, babies, families and trips. It’s literally been in a couple countries and has been a tremendous workhorse and been a tremendous teaching camera.

Having the ability to use my passion to make other people happy has also brought me tremendous joy.  Getting pictures of growing families and knowing people will have them for a lifetime, and hang them in their homes is the greatest feeling.  That said, I did want to upgrade my gear game.  So this year I’ve upgraded to the Canon Mark III, 5D.

I haven’t had Mark very long and I’m still getting used to the slightly different interface but I’m looking forward to elevating my pictures a bit with some of my new gear.

The other thing that’s used a TON in my life is: Adobe Lightroom.  This really helps edit pictures to give them an edge, fix under exposure, fix eyesores and stuff like that super easily!  HIGHLY recommend Lightroom.

I’ll be updating the blog with some BASICS and hope you will join me for the ride!

What gear do you have? Do you shoot in Manual?  Do you point and shoot? Or are you like “iPhones have wonderful cameras!” (they do!)

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram (#jenstayswell)





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Peloton – A Love Story

Oh hey, friends.  I’m sitting at my creative space with about ten thousand things to do but the one thing that is important to do right now?  Feed by writing passion.  I’m no grammar guru I’ll leave that to several of my other friends but there is something so cathartic about just getting stuff out of my head and onto my blog, or my ulysses app.

Let’s talk about  one of my favorite things.  A bit of a backstory.  On my birthday several months ago, Hector took me to Oak Brook Center and we walked into the Peloton Store.  He said it was mine if I wanted it (a stupid crazy expensive gift).  I clipped in, because that’s what they want you to do, get on the bike, get a feel for it.  Very much like buying a car “see the nice seat, see the beautiful touch screen, here take it for a spin.”


Now, I do fitness.  I love fitness but I’ve never tried spin.  I was definitely feeling self conscious in this store, on a bike SUN BEATING ON ME THROUGH THE WINDOW.  Sweating within seconds of me turning my feet. I was so overwhelmed by the experience and Hector saw it as a “Jen wants this, she needs this” – and in Hector style he’s like “let’s just get it!” so the sales girl started putting together the package: got the bike, got the shoes, got the warranty, paid for a year up front of subscriptions and went to check out… The price tag literally took the breath out of me.  I couldn’t even formulate sentences.  Let alone tell him no.

We walked around the mall and I was just like – we can’t do this, spend thousands of dollars.  So I made him cancel the purchase.  To see that money leave our bank account literally gave me chills.  I did have my eye on the Peloton and read the rave reviews but couldn’t pull the trigger.  I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW IF I LIKED TO SPIN!!!

Fast forward about a month, I’m literally daydreaming about my almost Peloton purchase and I just told Hector – let’s do it.  Order it online… and he did.  You see, Mom guilt is real.  I’d been going to the gym often but the time away from my kids had been killing me and I really needed to pickup my cardio game.  I was making every excuse not to get it in.  If I went to the gym I focused on weights and my drive to really push myself in the cardio section was just not there.  That plus winter knocking at our doorstep – I didn’t want another winter in hibernation (weather gets me down).  Anyway, the day the bike showed up I was so excited.  Like it’s Christmas and you are 5 years old excited. It’s a beautiful piece of equipment and I wanted it staring me in the face everyday telling me “GET ON ME” so into the family room it went. That day I did a live 45 minute ride it was hard, I was out of shape and just not too into it.  My butt was sore, I felt so pathetic.  A couple of days went by and I didn’t touch it again.  I’d see the way too expensive machine sitting in my family room and say “maybe tomorrow” – one day I got back on it and tried a scenic ride.  Not my thing either. I was really bummed we spent SO MUCH MONEY on something we weren’t using.  Hector said he’d use it… but he wasn’t using it either.

Then one day I went to the on-demand section and started shuffling through and found a ride by Ally Love.  That was it.  I was hooked. She just spoke to my soul and I’ve been hooked ever since.  People speak about tribes, and let me tell you I’m so on board for the Peloton tribe.  I’m so hooked and I can’t remember the last time I’ve been dedicated to my personal wellbeing more. [I’ll def blog about  my Ally and #Lovesquad obsession in another post]


This is not about me telling you to get a Peloton this is about me telling you to find what speaks to you and I’m so excited and happy that my daily fitness is in the comfort of my home with my children so close to me.  I’m so blessed to be able to have this and just want to remind everyone to find their passion and push toward it.  On the days you don’t want to, when you’d really rather netflix and chill… Get at it for at least 30 minutes.  You’ll never regret the time with yourself.

It’s so good to feel so much more alive and excited about my ever-changing fitness journey.

Love and Light.


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Twenty Eighteen – Day 1

Hello Everyone!

It’s like -1 degrees outside here in sunny Chicago.  Don’t let that bright light fool ya I basically need gloves as I type this in my 1950s home because my heater and insulation can’t keep up. ANYWHO. Happy New Year!!

Lots of people go huge on New Year resolutions, I’m sure I’ve said this before but I’m not huge on them.  I do welcome the opportunity for a natural fresh start, starting today just because it is the very beginning of the year.  You should always commit to change if that’s what you are looking to do basically the moment you want to do it.  “A year from now you’ll wish you started today” is the quote I always reference for this. or “Just Do It” who said that? Nike? lol 😉

“A year from now you’ll wish you started today”

— Said someone very smart…

But let’s talk about how to make 2018 fabulous anyway.  I want to share some things that are currently motivating me and that I’m going to lean on in this New Year!

The Purge.  Commit to getting rid of CRAP.  Stuff you do not need, let it go.  Physically as well as mentally/spiritually. We are talking EVERYTHING.  This past couple weeks I’ve been in full purge mode to prepare for today but this is an ongoing exercise.  As far as tangible things if I look at something for more than 2 seconds wondering if I need it or not? It goes.  If something looks unorganized, I think how much of it can go… and it does.  I’ll also be aware of shopping habits to not bring more in and if I do bring something in the house… Two TWO or more things need to go.  On the spiritual side, this comes with awareness.  Toxic people? Adios, it’s damn hard but they got to go.  Have clouds in your life, not anchors (thanks RC, this is a good one!).

Accomplishments. Find what motivates you.  You know what is doing this for me lately? Badges. Yes.  My apple watch, my peloton, my own self made ones… Give yourself a small daily goal, crush it, and let something tell you it’s awesome.  Don’t have an apple watch or peloton?  Fitbit has some too.  I highly recommend if you need someone telling you you are awesome, download an app, get a fitness tracker and allow that to push you.  It’s perfectly fine.  For people like me who actually love good competition it’s a super good way to push yourself to crush something (and track it!).  Since I have a subscription to audible I’m also getting my audible badges.  Connect those headphones (or wireless I love my BeatsX for working out) and get to listening – I have a solid 55 minutes of train time a day during the week.


Creating.  Remembering I’m creative is huge.  I like to write, I like to be creative (generally speaking!) and I obviously love taking pictures.  Making time for these things is what I need to continue to do.  Another article or something I read said

“spend more time creating, less consuming”

— Said some article I read sometime last year…

I swear these people are thinking of the obvious but giving you a WHOA moment – a WHOA you are totally right.  What simple POWERFUL piece of advice.  In a world so filled with social media, Netflix binge sessions and DVR it’s so much easier to consume over create.  But also think of it this way, what do you get from consuming? Yeah. Depressing right?  Sure everyone needs a good mindless Netflix sesh but it’s also hours of your life you won’t get back.  Yeah.  But when you create… if it’s writing if it’s taking pictures if it’s playing with photoshop, light room or creating a cave out of magnatiles with your 3 year old… You’ve just done so much more. Yes. yep and you have something to show for it.  Just a thought.

Being Thankful. Ok here comes the tough love.  We are all guilty of nit picking at life.  Where is the yellow iPhone girl raising her emogyi hand?  Insert her/him here.  “I want this, I want that, I wish I could do this, I wish I could do that, why do I have love handles, why? why why? Whoa is me?”  Yes shit happens.  I get it, but if you take moments out of your life to pull an Oprah and pull out your gratitude journal and write 5 things a day that you are grateful for – or a Sheryl (Sandburg) and write down 3 moments of joy a day.  You’ll find more positive in your life.  Another Nike shout out – JUST DO IT.  Be thankful for the parking spot close to the grocery store entrance in January in Chicago, be thankful for the parking spot far away from the grocery store entrance in Chicago because you’re getting a FREE cryogenic facelift while working towards your apple watch move goal LOL.  But seriously, if you look for MORE JOY. You’ll find it. If you look for the moments of gratitude, they are there. Amen?

Just commit to trying to be the best you can be all the time, if you get there 80% that’s still a win.  We are all working on something. I’m off to continue the Purge, got in some creative juices with this blog sesh, going to pick out a Ally Love ride to start my year off with Peloton and taking a Hot Power Fusion class at CPY tonight because I can and I’m a Boss.  <– That’s from my girl Ally.

Leaving you with something I’m grateful for on these cold dry Chicago days – or the warm fluffy ones everyone needs a good lip save kit you can find it here:



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NYE 2017

Wow.  Every year this whole new year thing creeps up faster than the last.  It’s like you blink and 6 months has gone by. Add kids and it’s like double speed.  This year has been – slightly above average. I mean that in a way where it’s like I feel like I survived it and it was good.  It surely wasn’t super crazy, in anyway shape or form – we just ended up here at the end of it.  Which is a problem 😉 means I wasn’t working hard enough or challenging myself enough.  I must say there were definitely highlights – namely:

My kids!  This is where I say every year is fantastic, these kids are EVERYTHING.  I really truly mean it.  They are the most fun, funny, sweet, loving kids ever.  Evan started SCHOOL – like real Kindergarten and Michael has just exploded even more in the personality department.  Michael is the most loving, manipulative, funny little kid.  Manipulative, yes I said it, BOTH of my kids have pieces of this.  They know EXACTLY what they are doing.  Extra kisses or an “momma, but I’d like to apologize” “I just want to apologize” “momma I really love you *kiss* I mean I REALLY LOVE YOU *kiss*” SWOON. Me. swoon.  I really need to train myself to write down more of some of the things that comes out of Michael’s mouth because you can’t make it up and I want to remember those things forever.  Evan has been wonderful, even, challenging in a different way.  He started Kindergarten and while he’s doing fine, I find it really hard not to be hard on him about school work and such but it’s amazing to watch his skills grow, no matter the speed.


My husband.  The year we need to take more family pictures.  I literally have none.  I have tons with everyone but me. So I need to make an effort to be in the pictures too.  My husband has been such a rock, per usual.  Thank you and I love you.

My family. My mom, Dad and sister are just the absolute best.  I’m blessed.

My friends. I love that my friends know how hard it is for me to work, spend quality time with my kids, try to give myself – self love and see them.  They all just allow us to pick up right where we left off.

The Trips!  We actually made time to go out several times this year!  Started with a trip to  Michigan – my heart is set on buying a lake house now.  This was A GLORIOUS kids free trip.  It was EVERYTHING. We took Evan AND Michael to the Dells for their birthday’s I still owe a MAV is 3 blog (I think?). We had a staycation in the city where I was spoiled rotten for my birthday and a week before our Dells trip with MAV Hector and I went to Mexico.  This is where I will say we’ve recognized the importance of travel – these are the most memorable parts of the year and just reminds me how important experiences are. I feel the most blessed because these memories are seared into my soul.


My mental health.  Maybe it’s being in my 30s, but this year I’ve really tried to focus on what makes me so full of anxiety – I still do not exactly know but I’ve also started to get a lot of what makes me, me back.  When you spread yourself thin, you really can’t be good at anything, you just make it and this is what really causes me stress.  My mom will always say to me about  my house “Jen you have kids, it can’t always be clean” while sure that is true, not sure people understand the physical/emotional response I have to clutter/messes/dirt, etc. I’m the typical Type A int his sense, I like to know what is going on, I want it organized and I don’t want a mess.  So I just make the time everyday to tidy what I need to tidy to keep my headspace right.

I also NEED endorphins.  I actually need them, I’m my most miserable without them.  My current workout love is my Peloton and Ally Love.  I’m literally obsessed. Peloton has given me no excuses about missing the gym for 30-45 minutes I kill myself on the bike and get off of it a better person.  I think more clearly, I feel better about myself and I’m being good to my body.  Yesterday during my workout I literally was like emotional killing myself to get to another PR listening to a song by Creed.  So 2018 I need to keep making the time and not just the small minutes here and there but a daily ride and trips to my happy space (the gym) AND to yoga.

Work.  Let’s just say I’ve worked my behind off and it will pay off.

Looking to the future I am excited to just challenge myself a bit more.  Be aware of the fact to be successful in anything you have to take risks, go to uncomfortable places and be prepared you may fail and that’s OK.  I’d like to take more pictures, read a bit more, write a bit more and consume less that doesn’t help me reach my goals.  So no crazy New Year goals other than to make it more memorable than this year so I change the adjective next year to “amazing”  or “best” 😉 when describing the year.

I’ll leave you with a picture of MAV – first snow of the winter on X-MAS eve. Also a note that I’m going finish of the year with one of my favorite people and YOGA.  Thank you Jesus. ❤ xoxo Jen




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Today has been an awesome day already.

I slept in. I got up, enjoyed a great cup of coffee, made sure Elves had moved.  I sat on the couch to watch my youngest stumble down the stairs, into my arms. *swoon*


We snuggled, he touched my face and told me he loved me.

I told myself don’t be lazy today, lots to do.  So I got on my Peloton. I did a 30 minute HITT workout with my girl Ally Love. I LOVE Ally Love.  She’s a boss, she tells me I’m a boss even when I’m like negative cadence. She said something today, “be grateful you are here, blessed you are on this bike” and I thought to myself, “holy $hit” how right is she.  For the obvious reasons, I’m sitting on this bike, watching her virtually (it was a replay from earlier in the week I believe) but in order to enjoy this I need the bike, I need the internet I need a wifi router… but I also need my body, my wonderful, beautiful body who has gotten me to 31 thriving years and the health to be on it!  Blessed. yes. I enjoyed the ride, it was tough.  I hopped into the shower, hugged my husband before he left for work (yep #retaillife) and told my kids I need to take their pictures.

Of course I need to take their pictures, BECAUSE IT’S SNOWING on CHRISTMAS EVE.  This is EPIC but they don’t really want to, so we’ll see.  Evan wants to bake cookies, so we will.


I made myself eggs over easy with avocado and hot sauce.  Sat down with my BB Dakota poncho and leggings and turned not he TV.  It’s OWN network, not sure who was watching TV before, but this isn’t normal.  It’s Sheryl Sandburg and it’s Super Soul Sunday.  I’m in tears.  I’ve heard of Sheryl for obvious reasons, facebook, I’ve read Lean In but didn’t know she lost her husband before he turned 48 years old. Bring on the tears.  In the midst of one of the most glorious days I’m watching this but there is a lesson.  Live for moments & write them down.  A gratitude journal. I’m big on moments.  Honestly. My kids have taught met his.  I’ve taken many moments of snuggles, of stopping to just watch life though them.  Sitting with Evan through an art project, instead of washing dishes… I’ve lived for these but I’m terrible at writing them down.  Today I start.  Write down 3 moments of Joy. Doesn’t matter the medium my “be the change” journal or my “show my mini followers” blog.

  1. Michael in my arms, snuggling
  2. Peloton time with Ally Love
  3. Sheryl Sandburg on OWN

I’m being present and I’m being gratuitous.  I’m feeling super blessed today for so many reasons.  Happy Christmas Eve.


Oh and my Canon. Love my canon, what I love more? Capturing those smiles.