Sunday, October 23, 2016

Recent Inspirations

It’s a crazy world out there. Amongst the materialism and the temptations of the flesh, these things have been the more recent fuel that kept alive my passions for God, marriage, motherhood and philanthropy…

This sweet idea, having my boy draw a picture of his prayer request! 

I really, really love it when things are tied up perfectly. I feel like God leads me to just the right words ALL THE TIME. Lately I’ve been very acutely aware of how every mother’s perspective is so different on the “hard” and “easy” parts of motherhood. I’ve heard women say the newborn stage is the hardest. I’ve heard them say pre-teens are sooooo hard. I’ve heard about terrible twos. I’ve heard Terrible TWOS? More like Terrible Threes!” I’ve heard the hardest part is letting your children go, seeing them grow up and not “need” you anymore. Every stage is the hardest to someone; every stage is the easiest to someone. Most days I love motherhood and can easily find the beauty in all this chaos. But on hard days, on days where no one is listening to me and my heart feels a little broken, it’s easy to think to myself that this is SO HARD! Because it is! Even when it’s beautiful, it’s hard. My back hurts like 100% of the time and I haven’t slept in like three solid years. It’s hard. But. It’s also precious. Any ways, I was feeling nervous the other day and thinking, what if this is the EASIEST part for me?! How am I ever going to make it?? Then I read an awesome letter in The Mother Letters about certain things being easier when they get a little older, and then I read this blog post: and now I feel like, Okay. Deep Breath. I can do this. So can you. <3

Toddler devotionals! My mom sent the kids a little money and their current favorite place to spend it is our Christian bookstore, which is of course fine with me. Last time my boy convinced his sister to pool their money together for this toddler boys’ devotional, so this time we pooled it together for the toddlergirls’ devotional. Really, both are gender neutral. The devotionals are quick and simple stories about making good choices, obeying, trusting God, etc. which end with a Bible verse and a prayer. They’ve been perfect for our three-year-old and actually remind me a little of the way his Awana lessons go.
We used baby sister’s money for a Christian book with her name in it and I’d of course be crazy not to use this time to remind you about our website, Name in a Book, which allows you find a book featuring a character with any child’s name. ;]

“Recently, we came up with an idea for an activity that has had such a positive impact on our family. We give everyone a chance to draw a word out of a hat. Every word in the hat comes from Galatians 5:22-23, a scripture passage that refers to “the fruit of the Spirit,” meaning the qualities of a person whose life is filled with and led by God’s Holy Spirit. It says: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” We have nine words in the hat, and we draw one each week. I post the word on the refrigerator, and it becomes the character quality we all work on for the next seven days.” –Jessica Robertson, The Women of Duck Commander
My kids already know Galatians 5:22 by heart. I learned a song about it as a little kid so I have always sung it to my boy, even as a tiny baby. When we started memorizing scripture, this was the second one I shared. He had it down within a few days, at two years old! I think singing it so much is why. Any ways, we all know the scripture and I also pray for myself to develop each of the fruits in the mornings so they are very aware of the words, but this sounded like such a great way to put meaning behind it! I thought a great way to do it would be to have a little lesson about each word before starting it. So I made a cheesy craft for our refrigerator and each week we pull out a new fruit and talk about it.

We were packing up Operation Christmas Child boxes last week and my three-year-old understands that these are gifts for children who don’t have much. We explained to him that the toys we send might be the only toys these children have and that we are giving them a Christmas since they probably wouldn’t get one otherwise. He has grasped that concept pretty well and has been really enjoying picking out gifts and packing the boxes up together. Last week he was playing Legos and suddenly looked up and said “Mom, our Opp-en-ation Christmas Choxes need Legos! They don’t have any Legos to play with. Let’s give them mine.”
Legos are one of his very favorite toys and he was happily willing to give them away to children he’s never met. When I grow up, I hope to be more like my children.

“As mothers, we naturally bend over backwards for our children, but sometimes we bend too far. Sometimes, no matter how good our intentions, help can actually be a hindrance. When my daughter was in the fifth grade, her teacher advised us parents to stop jumping in to save our children. If they forget their bag lunch, let them mooch off their friends. If they forget a homework assignment, let them take the demerit. “Better to let the fall now,” Mirs. Wiss said, “when the landing is soft.” Five grades later and I am still trying to cushion their falls. My children are old enough now to land on their own two feet. And I am getting too old to do backflips anymore.” –WritingMotherhood by Lisa Garrigues
I definitely agree with this statement but I still find it difficult in the long run. Our job is to protect our babies, but sometimes protecting them now is the opposite of protecting them in the future. Such a strange and interesting concept.

This statement about church “I am a firm believer in church — the Sunday kind — of gathering with people and drinking coffee and telling one another about your week, and in the quiet, tender moments of worship, while holding your hands out and giving your whole self away.” from this (in)Courage post.
This makes me want to attend a home church. I picture us curled up on couches, sipping tea and holding our babies, talking about God and life and the ways we can make a difference in this big ol’ world.

“So often the expectations we put on each other are the downfall of our relationships.” –Women are Scary by Melanie Dale

The book my moms’ group is studying together right now is Beautiful Mess and so far I highly recommend it, even if you just read it on your own or do it with a friend or family member and chat about it once a week. It’s set up to be read on your own each day with a different section to read together as a group, but we’re just reading one day each week. All of the discussion so far has been really great. Our group is pretty big so we break off into smaller groups, like 3-5 of us, and the discussion that ensues has been sticking with me all week.  

This blog post full of spiritual Christmas gift ideas for kids. I really love this idea and am now committed to making one of my children’s gifts each Christmas a spiritual one. My mom did a really awesome job with this when I was a kid. I remember a poster in my room with my favorite verse at the time, a WWJD bracelet, the junior Left Behind books, and a necklace with a verse in it that always smelled like Ramen noodles to me. I don’t know, I was a weird kid.

 Right now I know I’d like to get VeggieTales: The Penniless Princess for Baby B’s stocking but I’m still thinking about my other two. Maybe something Awana-focused for A? I’m not sure yet. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fun Fact...

I used to be so skinny that this picture embarrassed me. I was worried people would look at it and assume I was pregnant so I hid it away in our computer files.
My new goal is so be so skinny that eating a cheeseburger makes me mistakenly think people will think I look pregnant.
Also, yes, Dad. I know. I don’t really shoot like that, okay? Usually. I don’t usually really shoot like that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Book Review: Starry Eyed by Mandy Arioto

I was very much intrigued by the description of Starry Eyed and it didn’t disappoint.

Mandy Arioto is a complex woman (as we all are) and it really shows in her writing. I loved reading about her childhood, marriage, friendships, faith, and deepest thoughts… often all in one essay.

She weaved her stories together clearly and thoughtfully, and then asked important questions at the end of each essay which made me do a bit of reflecting on my own. I don’t want to share the personal details but one of her essays actually spurred me to change the way I was thinking about a sensitive issue and come to a place of peace and joy where there had previously been a lot of negative feelings for me.

This was one of those books that had me repeatedly telling myself, “Just one more chapter…” until I inevitably fell into bed hoping to still get enough sleep to feel rested in the morning. I most definitely recommend it to moms of all ages.

This is I think the third MOPS book I’ve read and I’ve enjoyed all three of them. I will be looking into other MOPS books and I’m also going to look into my local chapter. Even though I’m a lone wolf and probably won’t go.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, October 15, 2016

I Thought You'd Be Taller.

Dear Me,
I thought you’d be taller.
I thought you’d be thinner, and maybe have figured out how to style your hair.

I thought you’d be a detective, a pediatric dentist or a wedding photographer.

I thought you’d never settle down into a stationary home again. I thought you were going to live the rest of your life traveling the world, quickly blowing through the US and moving on to explore all of Europe. I thought you’d be kind of a bum, working when you were able to and giving most of that money away. I thought you’d like that.

I thought you might join a women’s dance troupe.

I thought you were going to join the seminary and lead all-girl youth groups to Calvary.

I thought you’d have more friends.

I thought you weren’t going to have children.
I thought you were going to have three children, all epidural-free.
I thought you were done after one child.
I thought you were going to have four children.
I thought you said you were done. I thought you brought home pamphlets on tubal ligations and vasectomies.  

I thought you were going to open up a portrait studio in your backyard. I thought you were going to start a t-shirt line. I thought you were planning to run a Jeep merchandise store.

I thought you were going to plan a “Healthy Halloween Bash” to host in your backyard. I’m pretty sure you declared it was “really important” to you and would be an annual thing.

I thought you were going to get back into running 5ks. I thought you said women who claimed running after having children made them pee were just making excuses not to exercise. I thought you said you were going to start jogging when your third baby hit the eight week mark.

Don’t you know by now that life isn’t meant to be plotted out so carefully? It’s meant to be lived. I thought you would know that by now.

And I thought you’d be taller.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Solo Dates

I read an article a few weeks ago about the damaging effects of being a middle child. It was peppered with statistics on how many middle children battle depression, how many choose to sever ties with their parents and siblings, all kinds of dreadful pieces of information.
I sank into the article and felt a pit in my stomach.
My sweet girl, my middle-born, might be at risk for these things?!
My sensitive mama heart broke and I sent text messages to two middle children I know well, my friend Steffani and my cousin Max. Both of them essentially said the same thing, that they don’t recall feeling particularly left out or unloved as children and that my sweet girl probably won’t either.
They used much better verbage than that and my feelings were almost instantly relieved.
One thing Steffani suggested, just to really make sure none of my children grow up feeling less important, was solo dates. I loved the idea so we’ve already been employing it. The baby mostly just hangs out right now, though we do try to enjoy a little one-on-one time with her as well. We trade off on special dates with the older two each weekend. One weekend he takes A and I take B, then the next weekend I take A and he takes B. Simple.

There was a father-son dirt bike date while Baby C slept and I took Baby B out to the backyard for bubbles, basketball, and rides around the backyard in their little blue truck. She giggled and smiled and shrieked. She asked me to lift her up to shoot the ball into the hoop, asked me to read to her, asked for more bubbles… and I obliged. The girls were both in bed when the guys got home so I got to see, with no distractions, just how brightly our boy’s eyes shined while he told me about their evening.
Then there was a daddy-daughter date to play with the trains at a nearby bookstore. It again worked out that Baby C was napping when they left, so Baby A and I took that time to hang out in the kitchen together and bake up garlic breadsticks to eat all week long. Every time we had salad and breadsticks, we were both reminded of our special time spent baking together in the kitchen. Daddy and daughter came home with a bright light shining behind both of their big smiles.
I took A out for a mommy-son swim date and he melted my heart with his tenderness and his excitement. He asked me to hold him tight, told me he loves me like crazy, and laughed hysterically while I swam us away from pretend sharks and whales.
I took B out to explore the pet store and she cackled maniacally about getting to wear her brother’s hat. She was enamored by the fish and fell in love with the bunnies. She pet an orange cat and watched the mice with rapt attention. She was fascinated by the birds and shy about the bearded dragon, but she just kept going back to those bunnies.
There was the daddy-daughter park date where she refused to do anything but swing and swing. There was the mother-son date scooping sand into castles and splashing around in the lake.

I would have missed a lot of that if I had had all three children at once. You don’t get to sit and watch one child’s facial expressions when you’re chasing his or her sibling and changing another’s diaper. You don’t often get to slow down and savor the look of magic and wonder on their faces when you are just trying to keep track of them and keep up. Things are different when there’s only one. Slower. Calmer. It’s easier to focus, to be present.

I would not trade this family for anything. I love to watch them be siblings. I love the way they say each other’s names, the way they laugh together, the way they look holding hands on a hiking trail. I love the way Baby C smiles so brightly at her big brother and sister, the way they rush to her when she’s awake from a nap.

Adding solo dates to the equation just adds one more dimension to these young people we are blessed enough to parent. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it.