31 Days: The Reality of This Journey

Back in September, I shared with a good friend that I really wanted to participate in the Nester's 31 Day blogging challenge. I said to my friend, "Thirty one days of writing is a lot for me! I have never written that much on my blog. But I think I can do it."

Her response was, "I think you can, too! But what if you don't? Are you going to be ok with that?"

Six times this month, I chose to be ok. I really wanted to go straight through the thirty one days of writing. But if we're being honest, there was one day where I just had zero words. There was a couple other days where I was just too busy; other commitments won out. I'm sure on more than one day, I just chose to go to bed instead of writing. Whatever the reason, some days were just really hard and something had to give.

Isn't this so much like the journey of motherhood. We want to go all the way, be the best, give 100%. But we're going to miss the mark in our less-than-perfect words, in our distractions, in our tiredness. In all our weaknesses, we're not going to show up at our best every single day. Those days are hard and we need practical ways to make the load lighter, hence the title of my series being Making Motherhood Easier. However, I do not want easy to be my end goal. Am I right when I say there is something good in the hard?

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love."

My end goal is Jesus. And because that is completely true, the hard stuff has to be there. This is what brings me closer to Jesus and for that I'm so grateful. When I'm unable to make it 100%, it's Jesus that gets me rest of the way. Thinking back to newlywed Shelia makes me chuckle. I had no clue what life was about. Ok, I still don't. But five and a half years of marriage and two kids later, I understand a tiny bit more. I've grown up a smidge. My relationship with Christ is deeper. I'm different in a really good way. And guess what? It's because of finding Jesus in all the challenges and missed marks. I would never dream of giving any of it back because I see too much goodness in all that Christ did.

"So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up."
Galatians 6:9my motto of motherhood

If I could rename this series, I would call it Making Motherhood More About Jesus. Even today, as much as my flesh cries You're crazy!, my heart is at rest. I know how the story goes. Tomorrow might be different. I'll lose sight of the goal and then there will be Jesus. The reality of this journey is that it is hard and it is good. Some day I will reflect on these little years and remember how the Lord filled in my gaps and met with me in all the moments that I thought This is hard. This is too much. I think those will turn into the easy moments, the relief moments, the blessings of not giving up.

This is the last post of my 31 Days series.
Click through to check out other posts that I wrote for October 2013.
Thank you for reading along!


31 Days: On Days Like This

The whole day passed and there I sat with my husband, talking about how I need to write a blog post. There was no motivation whatsoever to get me out of that chair and in front of my computer. I explained to Danny that I just didn't know what to say.

Then Danny said, "Write about days like today."

It's not that I had a bad day. I think that overall, it was a good one. The day just started too early. The toddler was tired and had the grumpies off and on all day. At one point she bit Elsie. I just wanted a do-over. It didn't feel like our best. And the day wasn't even half over at this point.

So I chose to sit back in the recliner and snuggle a sleeping baby for her nap this afternoon. I just relaxed and regrouped. I was absolutely unproductive - depending on how you look at it. Sure, the laundry sat unfolded. I didn't eat lunch. I didn't write. Oh, but the time with my baby was such a gift. Eventually, the kiddos were awake and we were ready to continue our day. We had some fun. Then there were moments of hard. It was pretty average as far as days go.

And tomorrow is a new day, a new chance to make things better than average. Another day to lean into the Lord as life happens. Whatever tomorrow looks like, I'm just thankful for new days. They do make motherhood easier, I think. A second chance, a fresh start. We all need them from time to time.  

"The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning."


31 Days: Keep Calm, Jesus Loves You

A common phrase in our household is Calm down. We use it mostly with Amelia during her meltdowns. She knows that we will not talk to her about a situation until she is calm. This means she might need to spend some time in her room while she calms down. Sometimes it just means she needs to hold our hand, cry for fifteen seconds, and then state, "I'm calm." Nothing good ever comes from talking during the meltdown. So this phrase is a good placeholder until afterwards.

Of course, it's a known fact that kids pick up on your frequently used phrases. So one day this week, while I was really frustrated, Amelia decided to use it on me. We had been having a good day. But it was nearing bed time. You know, that time of night where anyone could just snap and go crazy. So not my favorite. Especially when that anyone is me. I had had enough of repeating myself. Amelia sensed this and said, "Mama. You need to calm down." At first, I wanted to get even more mad. I was prepared to spew out, "Yeah?! I just need you to listen and be a good girl! You're just disobeying so much and I'm mad." Instead, I told Amelia that she was right. I needed to breathe and ask Jesus for help. She kept a hand on my shoulder and all was well. We continued our evening and nobody snapped.

I was so thankful for that moment. Sometimes I'm so tempted to be angry but God provides encouragement just in time. Another similar situation happened just this last evening. We were eating dinner. Well, I was eating dinner and feeding Elsie some avocado. Amelia was not eating. Again, I was starting to get so frustrated. I kept telling her over and over that she needed to eat dinner. It was 6:30 pm. I just wanted to get dinner finished and get the girls to bed. I could feel the frustration building. And then Amelia quietly says, "1, 2, this is true. Jesus loves me and He loves you." complete with adorable hand motions. I could do nothing but smile and thank the Lord for such a sweet reminder. Her little song was exactly what I needed to finish the evening strong.

How has God used your children to remind you of the simple things? What are some ideas you have for making those last couple hours before bed time a better experience?


31 Days: The Crock Pot is My BFF

I really wanted to write for the entire thirty one days. But this last week has been tough! I am aiming to finish strong though. After this post, there will be just four more left! If I can do that, I'm going to be very excited. I have a couple more serious posts coming up. Therefore, I'm keeping things light with this one. 

One of the most challenging parts of motherhood for me is cooking and feeding my family. This is a vital part of it so I just have to figure it out. But I struggle! I want to feed my family healthy dinners. We have a budget to stick to every month. Then there's the issue of time and feeling like I have none of it! Not to mention that we live in the basement of our friend's house. So cooking in the kitchen upstairs is tricky! What's a girl to do?

Enter Crock Pot. 

I love this handy kitchen appliance. Quite a lot actually. I shared back in April how I made some freezer meals before Elsie was born. Most of them were crock pot friendly. You can actually check out that experience here at this post. There are a couple other recipes I want to share because I love my crock pot and how easy it has made my life. I guarantee you will love your crock pot more after this. If you don't have a crock pot, get one yesterday. Listen, I don't cook fancy or anything. I go for simplicity. Change these recipes up to fit your needs. Do what you need to. Just make sure you try them! 

I don't follow this one to a T. You can visit the website for the exact recipe. If you keep reading, it's just my account of how I cook this up. Honest moment: I don't follow many recipes to a T. They're more like guidelines for me. Except for baking. Ok sorry, here's the recipe...

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 chopped bell pepper
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 skinless chicken breasts

For topping after cooked:
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • avocado
  • sour cream
Heat oil in a saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add the chicken broth and tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Pour into crock pot.

To the crock pot, add drained beans, diced tomatoes, chopped pepper, corn, cumin, and stir. Add the chicken breasts; cover and cook on low heat for 4-6 hours. {I usually do 4 hours on high and it's perfect-o}

Remove chicken and shred. Add chicken back into the soup. We serve it in bowls with lots of cheese on top. I love to add sour cream and avocado. Chips on the side is yummy, too. Sometimes I dip, sometimes I crunch them on top. 

At the very least, this feeds our eating family {2 adults and a toddler} two dinners and two lunches for Danny.

Creamy Crock Pot Chicken
You can Google this and find a million different variations. I have no idea where I saw it for the first time. Here's my awesome recipe! 

2 cans of Cream of Chicken soup
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts {I've used bone-in before and it worked just as well}
1 packet of Italian salad dressing mix
1 8 oz brick of cream cheese
Pasta or rice

Put chicken, cream of chicken soup, and Italian seasonings into crock pot. Cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low. 

Thirty minutes before you plan on serving dinner, shred the chicken breasts and put the brick of cream cheese into the crock pot. Let it soften. During the last thirty minutes of cooking, prepare pasta or rice. We also serve it with a veggie and some garlic bread. It goes really great with broccoli! After thirty minutes, mix the cream cheese in very well. 

Serve the creamy chicken over the pasta or rice. Dip your bread into the mixture. Eat half a loaf of bread. Or don't and just judge my massive carb obsession. And don't forget the broccoli. Duh.

At the very least, this also feeds us two dinners and two lunches for Danny. Or you can just invite people over! We do that sometimes and it's really fun. 

Mamas, we do have to feed our families. And we should probably feed them in a somewhat healthy manner. But it doesn't have to be hard. I hope these recipes are ones that you can use for your family and that they enjoy them! 

What are your favorite, easy meals to cook for your family? Do you enjoy cooking or not so much? What are some helpful tips that you have to make meal prep less stressful?


31 Days: Tend to Their Souls

These last few months in between Elsie being born and today have been quite the whirlwind as we figure out our new normal. Having two children is a lot different than just one! I know, what a Duh! statement. You can never really understand how different it is until you're in it. I think this is true for any life change. Naturally, we weren't prepared!

Taking care of Elsie has been really easy. A lot easier than what it was like caring for newborn Amelia. This makes sense. I've done baby before. There are some challenges here and there as we discover the differences in personality and preferences between our two children. But overall, it's been a breeze! Truly.

While we have done baby before... we have not done toddler. Each day is new with Amelia. I feel just as clueless today as I did when I first held her in the nursery when she was just six hours old. We're just baffled by all the newness of having a two year old who is almost three who wants to be sixteen.

One challenge was realizing that so much of Amelia's misbehavior was because of needing more of us. We are so thankful that Amelia has never been mean to or jealous of Elsie. She has done mean things to her. But never what we think was out of jealousy. Things like hitting and biting have been total curiosity and a test to see what we would do. Our pediatrician put it perfectly while I was still pregnant with Elsie, "Amelia will most likely not have an issue with her sister. It will be your relationships with her that she will put to the test." Amelia loves her little sister. However, I think while we were fumbling to figure out all these new challenges, Amelia did not love having to share Mama and Daddy with her little sister.

After realizing that Amelia just wanted more of us, Danny and I started being more intentional about our one-on-one time with her. It could be anything from reading together on the couch for an hour while Elsie would sleep or getting to hang out with Daddy while I went on an errand with Elsie. Our goal is to eventually do consistent dates with our children.

Elsie asleep meant big group hugs with Mama and Daddy. ♥

A couple months ago, I asked Amelia what she would like to do for the day. She answered, "Mama date!" We had done a couple date-like things previously so she was starting to understand what a date was! I had not planned on doing much that day. But thankfully, Danny was home from work so Amelia and I ventured out. I took her to the library and from there, we walked to a coffee shop. We each got a treat and then snuggled up for a solid forty-five minutes, just reading and being together. Her and I both enjoyed it so much!

books, coffee, and lemon loaf. a perfect date.

This isn't consistent for me but in moments of Amelia's misbehavior, I really try to stop and ask myself, "How much of this is straight up defiance? And how much of this is her trying to tell me, 'I need you, Mama!'" Often times, I get irritated, discipline her, and move on. Discipline is important and necessary! But maybe I just need to put aside my agenda and tend to her soul more often.

Do your children act out more often when you've had less focused time with them? If that's the case, how do they act that let's you know to slow down? What are some fun things you've done to re-connect with your kiddos?


31 Days: Perspective

I saw a video today and knew right away that I needed to share it.

As a mother, I always focus on
what I need to do better...
what I should do more of.
what I should stop doing.

Most thoughts about myself are negative.

What if we saw ourselves more like our children see us?

I think it would stir my heart and self-perception in a huge way.

Click here to see the video. Seriously. Just watch it.

So... describe yourself as a mother. 


31 Days: On Hearts & Walls, Part 2

About a month ago, I began attending a bible study at a nearby church with a few other women from my home church. There are hundreds of women that go every week. We are broken up into small groups of about ten people. The study is in the book of Matthew and the materials are from Bible Study Fellowship {BSF}. They have a children's program that Amelia is participating in as well. The children's time is a simplified version of what the adults are learning, complete with a Bible story and a memory verse. I keep Elsie with me during the lesson and small group time.

I was very hesitant to go because it is not a group associated with my church. While I do know a handful of women that go as well, we are not in the same small group. I'm in a group with a bunch of women I don't know. Along with that, the thought of letting Amelia go into a classroom full of people that I've never spoken to before was unsettling. Lastly, it's at 9:15 am. Um, we are not morning people. Therefore, waking up and getting ready to go to something that early is harrrrrrd.

But we did it! We're attending. And I'm SO GLAD we are.

I have been a Christian for nearly twelve years. Yet I have never studied the Bible like I am now. I'm not perfect at the daily keep up of it. I'm still figuring out that balance. The study is difficult and in depth. We have six days worth of homework. It's work! But it's so good, so refining. I never walk away from my study notes without feeling like God is speaking to me through it.

I must admit that there have been moments where the homework was so hard that I got frustrated and had to walk away from the study. Hard as in, I didn't know what the answers were to certain questions. I've even been tempted to throw in the towel due to how close to home the stuff is hitting. This is no accident, I realize. 

One part that I really, really enjoy is getting to talk to Amelia about the study. I usually sit at the dining table to work on my homework, with a cup of coffee to sip on. Amelia will plop herself across from me, ask for hot chocolate and want to work on a puzzle while we "do Bible study". I love asking her questions about her class and what she's learning. She's asked me questions like What is sin? and Who were the wise men visiting? and How did the wise men know where baby Jesus was? We just talk and learn together!

the first time she joined me for Bible study.
"I can play wif Minne and do Bible study wif you, Mama!"

This last week we learned about the Beatitudes. My goal is to slowly introduce each one so that we can focus on how we can build them in our life. This has been somewhat easy to do because BSF provides paper handouts on how to incorporate all of this into our family. Along with talking about the study's main points, we're also memorizing scripture together! I mentioned in my last post that I'm not great at scripture memorization, so I've posted it all over the walls in our home. As I lead Amelia in memorization, I've learned, too. This is exciting to me! And such a gift as we recall scripture together in the hard moments.

One of those moments happened this last week when Amelia decided to spit at me because she was frustrated. We have decided that when Amelia uses her mouth in a disrespectful way - spitting, biting, or yelling - we will have her bite a bar of soap. Just enough to be really gross and get her attention. We gently remind her that she can always talk to us about her frustrations but she must do so in a proper, respectful way. On this particular evening, after her offensive spitting, Amelia bit the soap. Of course, she didn't like it. We had a conversation while she was getting rid of the soap into a napkin. I threw the napkin away and put the soap away. I came back to the dining table and Amelia immediately said, "Mama, I'm so sorry I spit at you!"

We had just been talking earlier in the day about the first two Beatitudes: being poor in spirit and mourning. Amelia knows sin as the bad things we do that hurt God's heart. I responded to her apology this way, "I forgive you, Amelia. I'm so proud of you for realizing that you needed God to help you and for apologizing. That's a really great way to use your mouth. But it's hard, isn't it? Sometimes we need God to help us with hard things like being kind and respectful. And He will always help us! Remember the verses in Matthew that we learned earlier? Thank you for letting God help and comfort you! Next time you're frustrated, you can choose to use your words rather than spitting." We went on to talk about the Beatitudes some more and that was that.

Whew!! I never thought I would be able to connect scripture into our life so that I could actually teach it to our children. I'm SO thankful for the resources that BSF offeres because teaching our children about Jesus and His love for us is very important to Danny and I. However, I feel so clueless on where to begin. God is using BSF as a big time help for me in this journey. Believe me, I fail more often than I succeed. Then there's grace. God always gives me just what I need, even when I don't deserve it.

How do you incorporate scripture into your hard moments? Do you feel like doing this makes those moments easier to work through with your children? Do you attend a Bible study of some kind? If not and you would like to, can I pray that God would open some doors so you can?! 


31 Days: On Hearts & Walls, Part 1

I shared a few days ago that prayer is hard for me sometimes. It's often sporadic and shallow as I go through my day. On days where my words fail me but I still desperately need to connect with Jesus, there is scripture. I have purposefully put God's Word all around me because I know I will need it.

If you walk into my bathroom, I have the Fruit of the Spirit written out on a sticky pad. It's the first room I go into after waking up. And by time I get there, I'm already failing at a lot of these characteristics. Yesterday for instance, I walked into the bathroom and said to Danny, "I'm just so annoyed with Amelia!" And then BAM!

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Below the Galatians excerpt is The Armor of God. If I'm going to go forth in my day with any of the above fruit in my life, the Lord has got to protect me and go before me. I don't care how super spiritual this sounds but I know that Satan is out to get my family. We love Jesus a lot. Danny and I are raising our children to know God. We're doing things different with this generation! And so yeah, my days are stinkin' hard.

There are also a few sticky notes on the mirror. We all see them, every day. Amelia is always curious about what they say so she has me read them to her.

Philippians 4:4 // Proverbs 4:20-23

And last for the bathroom* is a list of scripture that Kara Kae from The Mom Diggity shared back when I was pregnant: 10 Scriptures for the Weary Pregnant Mom. I was super pregnant, like ready-to-birth-any-minute-and-super-impatient pregnant. I was four days late with Elsie. Naturally, with a baby's head so far into *that* area, going to the bathroom happened a lot in those last few days of my pregnancy. So I pinned the list to the wall directly in front of the toilet. Seriously. Also, Elsie is six months old and that list is still pinned there. I may not be pregnant anymore. But the Lord knows I'm weary. So the list will stay.

Moving out of the bathroom, down the hall and into our living room, I have this gem. Along with the scripture, mine and Danny's wedding date is included. It's one of my very favorite home decor items. 

Joshua 24:15 **

To the left of our living room is our "kitchen". It's not really a kitchen but it's our kitchen. The space has a dorm room size fridge, an equally tiny sink, counters, and a make shift pantry under the stairs. It's not pretty but it sure does function well. I spend time in this area preparing coffee and lunch on a daily basis. And sometimes I might wash a few dishes. When I do, this cute trio stares me in the face. This is a good thing, mostly because of the whisk one. You'll read the scripture and see why.

Matthew 5:6 // Psalm 34:8 // Proverbs 15:1 **

Over in the dining room/computer area, I have this fancy schmancy chalkboard hanging up. Ok, it's not that fancy. I got the frame from Goodwill and spray painted the glass with chalkboard paint. This verse breathes life into my stony heart... this heart that complains a lot and is ungrateful most days.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Lastly, there's a decree mixed in with family photos. A reminder to keep the Word alive in our home, to pass it down through the generations, written on our walls and spoken into our hearts.

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 **

I know I don't sit down enough to intentionally read my Bible. I know that my prayer life could be more vibrant. Also, scripture memorization is not something I'm great at. There's always more. But I can be sure that no matter where I am in my home, God's Word is present. Even though these verses are in their same spots day in and day out, each new day presents its own challenges. And so each verse speaks to me in a new way each time I see it. 

God wants to help me in this journey of motherhood. It's no secret that this is really challenging! Even in that, I have found so much comfort in the Lord's promises as I see them on my walls and/or remember them in my heart. 

* Is it weird that most of my scripture is in the bathroom? What does that even mean?
** All scripture prints are from Naptime Diaries. This shop is seriously my favorite. As is Jessi.

How do you get God's Word into your home? Do you memorize scripture with your children? If so, what are some fun ways that help? What are your favorite verses to have around your home and in your heart?


31 Days: Say "Yes" More

I'm not sure if every kid is this way, but Amelia loves to just sprawl out and be all over the floor. We have big butcher paper that she loves to color on. One of Amelia's favorite activities is to build with Legos. She also loves her wooden blocks. Of course, as Elsie is now crawling, she loves to be on the floor as well.

Can I be honest here for a moment? I dislike the floor. Every time I sit on the floor, I'm reminded that I need to vacuum and/or sweep. A child is usually climbing on me and I'm just touched-out.

If I'm sitting on the floor with my kids, it means that I've said, "Yes." to a request to be there with them. Amelia will ask, "Mama, can you build with me?"

Do I want to? A lot of times, no. Can I? Absolutely.

a day that I didn't want to get on the floor.
but when I did, I didn't regret it for a second.

What keeps me saying, "Yes." are the moments on the floor.

The reminder that vacuuming and sweeping can always wait. It will just be dirty again tomorrow.

The snuggles, kisses, and/or tickle fights after a child has climbed on me. The closeness and forgetting about the fact that someone is touching me and I'm touched-out.

The reminder that I GET to be in this moment. Not that I HAVE to be. Remembering that these kiddos will only be little for a short time and I know I will miss this.

And... I have nothing about the bony bottom. That part still sucks. So I usually just end up sprawling on the floor like Amelia, belly on the ground. Face to face with my girls.

The moments on the floor are what rejuvenate my heart and make my days easier.

All because I said, "Yes."

Is it hard for you to say, "Yes." to playing on the floor? What are your hesitations? 
I'm not the only one, right?


31 Days: Flexibility

Yesterday, I shared about the importance of knowing your kiddos limits when deciding how to go about your day. If you're on board with whole "making motherhood easier" deal, of course, then this is important stuff to know. It has been for me at least! I've had experiences from terrible tantrums at Wal*Mart to bullets dodged at my husbands work. Clearly, I'm not always excellent at knowing the limits of my children {mainly Amelia... Elsie is still super easy, comparatively}. Something else that goes hand-in-hand with knowing limits is flexibility.

We have to be willing to bend without compromising our role as parent if we want our days to go well. Or just a tad smoother, at the very least. I don't know about you. But this is challenging for me. When I plan my day, it's my plan and I can't stand change. Heh. Funny, I know. 

If you didn't read my Wal*Mart story from yesterday, basically I ignored nap time and decided that I needed to get grocery shopping done. We didn't even get into the actual store before we were out the door and on our way home again.

In that moment of dealing with a screaming toddler, I could have chosen to be super angry and frustrated that she was ruining my plans. Let's be honest, a small part of me was. However, I knew that it would be best for all parties involved if we just didn't do the grocery trip at that time. After lots of tears and kicking, I got Amelia buckled in her car seat. Not even five minutes into our trek home, she was fast asleep. I knew in that moment I had made the right choice to bend and change my plans for the sake of my child. If only I had chosen to do that before we even went to the store. 

We got home and Amelia napped for a solid three hours. I really did need to go grocery shopping so when Amelia woke up, we tried the trip again. I seriously thought I was going insane. But there was something that made me feel like I needed to use this as a teaching moment and just go. I was so nervous about having to deal with the same scene as earlier that day. Even in that, to the store we drove.

As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, Amelia said, "I'm gonna walk, Mama. Not ride in the cart." I couldn't believe this stinker.

I parked our van and calmly turned around in my seat. I responded with, "Amelia, do you remember what happened earlier today? We had to leave because you were so upset. So before we go in, let's figure out what we will do."

Amelia said, "Ok, Mama. I walk." She had just turned two, by the way... juuuuust turned two.

So then I told her, "I think it would be really fun and safe if you rode in the cart. Walking is not an option at this point. We can go into the store or we can go home. If you choose to go inside, you are choosing to ride in the cart."

She thought for a moment and decided to go inside. We walked hand-in-hand into the store for the second time that day. I got our cart and reminded Amelia that she would be riding in it. She began to get upset and I calmly told her that going home was still an option. She immediately let me put her in the cart. We walked past the bench where I had put her in time-out earlier that day and Amelia said, "That's my time-out spot! But I don't need it. I'm riding in the cart, Mama!"

I was SO proud of this girl. We ended up having a fun shopping trip! And out of all the two and a half years of being a mom, that was a day I will not forget easily. If I had not chosen to be flexible after the initial meltdown, I would have never had the chance to help Amelia understand that I mean what I say when I am disciplining.

We strive to be consistent, honest parents. We want our children to know what they can expect from us. Not because we want to control them. But because they need that safety net. And Amelia was not the only one to learn a thing or two that day. I'm super impatient and get angry quickly. It sucks. But I saw how well I can handle a situation if I just press hard into the Lord and breathe. Lots of deep breaths. And tons of flexibility.

What are some scenarios where you've had to practice flexibility? Do you feel like you are an overall flexible person? If not, how can you improve? 


31 Days: Knowing Limits

When I was seven months pregnant with Elsie, Amelia and I ventured to Wal*Mart for a grocery trip. Good 'ol Wal*Mart. I knew I was pushing my luck because we left the house thirty minutes before Amelia should have been going down for her nap. But I just really needed to get this trip over with. So there we were.

We walked into the store, hand in hand. All was going well until I told Amelia it was time to get in the cart. She thought that because she had walked into the store that she was going to get to walk through the store. And that definitely was not happening. I lifted Amelia up to put her in the cart and helicopter legs started going. If you're a parent, you know what I mean. This wasn't safe for me and the baby belly so I put Amelia down. I tried a couple more times.

Finally, I sat her down on a bench and told her she was in time-out. She sat there for a minute, crying and making a scene. I was so flushed and frustrated at this point. After her time-out, I said to Amelia, "You can choose to sit in the cart or you can choose to leave with me." She chose the cart but still wouldn't get in. So I scooped her mess of a self up in my arms, next to my rather large belly and we walked briskly to the car. All through the parking lot, she was screaming, "But I wannaaaaa siiiiiit in the CARRRRRT!!!"

But then there was the time more recently when we visited Danny at work. Amelia loves to play on the demo iPads that they have around. So that's just what she did. A few minutes had gone by and I let Amelia know that in two minutes, we would need to go. I set a timer and waited. The timer went off and I reminded Amelia. I knew she was getting hungry because it was close to dinner time. So when she started winding up for a colossal meltdown over leaving the iPad, I reminded myself that she was nearing some limits. This helped me have patience with her. I gently told her that it was time to go. And the winding up continued. 

I started to panic inside of myself because my husband was just five feet away, working with a customer. It's one thing for your toddler to have a meltdown in a public place. It's a whole other ball game when that meltdown happens in your husband's work place. I was not about to endure that kind of embarrassment. So I quickly said, "Amelia! Are you going to race me to the door or am I going to carry you?" The meltdown wind up stopped immediately. She looked at me, smiled, and took off running for the door. I've never felt so much relief in my life. 

Our children are learning from us the art of setting boundaries and knowing our limits. It's hard when I have to say no to things because it might be too much for the kids. But it's worth it to avoid them getting over tired, over stimulated, hungry, or bored! Thankfully, part of being a mom is understanding their warning signs. It's an amazing privilege to help them in that journey.

What are some "limits" of your children that are hard to keep? Do your kids have the tell tale signs that meltdown is about to happen? What are some practical ways we can set and keep limits?


31 Days: Spousal Communication

Over six years ago, Danny and I went through pre-marital counseling. Our pastor told us that one of our strengths was communication. We were pleased to hear that but it didn't mean we had it perfected. So of course, we've struggled here and there over the years. One of the main reasons we're good at communication is because I'm easy to read. Danny knows by my quiet and avoiding eye contact that something is wrong. I love to talk. It's when I'm not willing to talk that he knows we need to have a sit down. And so we do!

However, communication isn't just talking about issues after they've come up and made a mess. Communication is also talking about the daily ins and outs of our life together, especially now that children are part of that life. This is hard to do sometimes! Danny works retail hours. Often times, he will work nearly 50 hours in a week. We have to be so stinking intentional in our communication.

There have been some major hurdles to jump in Amelia's behavior recently. We have encountered way too much yelling, biting, ineffective time-outs, even spankings. A couple months ago, I had had enough and knew that we needed to do something different. I had been spending lots of time pouring over scripture, blogs, and books, grasping at any kind of help we could get with all this toddler craziness. Danny and I would agree on some new tactics in our discipline strategy. But then he would dive into his work week, falling out of practice in playing out these new ways of helping Amelia. I, on the other hand, would spend the whole week refining discipline and really making a connection with Amelia as we worked on this hard stuff. Danny's weekend would come and all hell would break loose. I'm not even kidding. There would be tantrums, meltdowns, and general awfulness constantly. From all of us, not just the toddler.

I observed this happen over the course of a few weeks and finally one particular day, Amelia was super upset and inconsolable about something that I thought could have been prevented. I was not intentional in my communication with Danny about the situation. Instead, I lashed out and said, "She does not act like this when you are at work! We have been making progress. Then your weekend comes and it's all terrible because you're not on the same page as me! She needs consistency."

Oh hey, heads up. As if it needs to said, do not speak this way to your husband. Just don't. I crushed my poor husband. And I knew it as soon as the words started spewing out. What I said to him communicated that I thought he was a poor father. I never, ever want him to feel that way again.


All of what I said might have been true. As we talked later, we agreed that yes, Amelia's behavior was worse when Danny was home. However, the way I delivered this news was straight up sinful. And clearly not helpful at all. We came to the conclusion that our communication as husband and wife was lacking on his days off. And that's why Amelia would have her moments more often.

He knows I'm sharing this by the way. And we talked extensively about how we can do this better. While it was sucky on the day I freaked out, I'm glad it happened because we had a great conversation later. We decided that it was completely ok to intercede quietly if one of us felt like the other wasn't handling a situation correctly, instead of watching a train wreck happen and blaming later. For instance, he has a hard time coming up with choices quickly for Amelia. So I might help him with that. Or when I have a hard time keeping a level voice, he might remind me to keep calm. Previously, we had both assumed that it wasn't ok to do that for each other. Because we had never communicated about it!

april 2013 // photos by anthem photography

We have so much more to learn together. And there are still hard days. But we just remind each other that we are on the same team. He might be at work for the majority of the week but Danny is just as vital to the correct disciplining of our children as I am. I'm so blessed that he listens and trusts my judgement on the way our girls need to be guided. And I'm so thankful that he looks past my faults and holds my hand as we parent together. Our girls need that consistency and they need that example of love.

How do you feel like you and your spouse could improve on communication? Does it feel like you guys are on the same team? How do your children behave when this is or isn't the case?


31 Days: Prayer

Can I just be super honest here? I hope so. This challenge is getting hard. Not just the writing-every-day part of it. But the fact that a month ago, I wrote down a list of thirty one post titles that would fall under the idea of making motherhood easier without any idea of what my life would be like now.

God knew. 

He knew that tonight, I would be struggling with prayer. And so here I sit trying to write down some words about how prayer makes motherhood easier. There's not a ton coming out. Just some rambling words that are a bit more saturated in emotion. I'm just putting it out there, people. 

Sometimes, throughout my days, my prayers are often pleas of rescue. In those moments, it's either I'm shouting, "Help me, Lord!" or I'm shouting at my family. When I get the girls down for their naps, we thank God for our blessings and His provision. We pray for Daddy's safety at work. I want to be intentional with these prayers as the Lord is using them to model the way we pray to Amelia and Elsie. Honestly though, most of the time, my prayers are a way for me to realign my heart and mind to His. When I thank Him through prayer, I'm able to see blessings easier. When I pray for my girls to continue growing in a certain way, I see those fruits in their lives more clearly. When I plea for help, I'm able to be more calm. None of this is because of my power, but the power of God working through me.

What I'm struggling with tonight is the fact that my heart needs an adjustment. There's unbelief and doubt. Pray against it!, I tell myself. Pray your heart into belief and knowledge that God will do what He says! It's so easy to just say some words that you say so routinely, like saying grace or begging for help. At the end of the day, how much room am I making in my life so that I can be in community with my Father? Yes it's true that He wants to help me, guide me, bless me. But mostly, He just wants me. And trust me, I need Him to take all of me and work through that in huge ways as I raise these tiny humans. 

Do you have specific points in your day where you pray? What does your prayer conversation feel like? Two sided? One sided? Complaining? Thankful? What are some practical ways that we could incorporate more prayer into our daily life?

31 Days: Helping Hands

Well, if you notice the time stamp, this is late. But that's ok. I'm so stinking excited that I've kept up with the Nester's blogging challenge this far. However, since I ran out of pre-written posts I knew that this twelfth day was going to be a doozy. Not because I don't have anything to say. Really, there's too much to say.

If you know me in real life and you know me well, you know that I am stubborn and independent. Most of the time, I will insist on doing things without help. If I have to ask for and/or receive help of any kind, I feel frustrated with myself. Ridiculous, right? 

There's no way I could do any of this motherhood gig without help from those dear to me. My heart was so full as I looked through old photos for this post. I couldn't find a photo for every single person that's ever helped me in this journey. I just don't have photos of each person with my girls! So please don't feel left out if that's you. I guess this is more of a reminder for me... I absolutely cannot do this on my own. God has placed me in a community where I can get help on the hard days. I need to lean into that more often and with more humility.

If you have ever come into my chaos to love on me and my family...
thank you so much. 

I know it's part of being a daddy that he helps.
But truly, this man rocks my world.

Grandma Sheryl.
Lengthy book-reading sessions. Chicken nugget lunches.
Date night babysitting. Random check-ins.

Grandma Val.
Yummy lunches and play time.
Pampering me.

Auntie Liz.
The random dates so mama could rest.
A full weekend of loving Amelia while we welcomed Elsie.

Kayla Joy. And so many other of my youth group "kids".
You know who you are. 
The sporadic visits. Coffee and candles.
Folding laundry and matching socks. Playing on the floor.

Snuggling my baby at a wedding. Coloring with Amelia.
Story time and bed time help. 

The prayers. My first grocery shopping trip with two kids.
A listening ear. 

So many days of playing with Amelia while I did chores.
Watching Amelia while I did youth group.
A weekend of loving her while we took a babymoon!

Starla. Oh our Starla.
Fishy crackers and iPad games. Many nights dedicated to
Amelia while I did youth group. The last minute drop-ins
when I was desperate. 

Auntie Jo.
Honestly, trying to say anything would be ridiculous.
Just thinking of my best friend's helping hands makes me cry.
So there you go. 
Scooting with Amelia four days after Elsie was born. The chores.
The laundry. Such a servant's heart.

What does it do to your heart when you realize you need to ask for help? 
Who do you go to in those times? Is it hard for you to ask for help?


31 Days: TV is OK

I remember the first time Amelia watched a television show. It was Sesame Street. And she sat for the whole thing. You guys, I showered and got dressed and did my hair! It was amazing. She was pretty young still so I only let this happen every few days. Then we discovered Dora the Explorer. Oh Dora. I have a love-hate relationship with Dora. I liked that these shows were 25 minutes long as opposed to the 45 minute Sesame Street. So Amelia was able to watch one Dora a day.

As she has gotten older, we have experienced a whole array of events that have ended in Amelia getting screen time. TV and handheld devices alike. And guess what? I'm guilt free. If you let your kids watch TV, that's awesome. If you don't, that's great. If your kiddo can work your iDevice better than you, that's hilarious. And ok

For a long time, I felt like I was doing something wrong by letting Amelia watch TV. Eventually when she started playing games on my phone, I felt guilty about that, too. The thing is that every home is different. Each mom has her own limits based on what works for her family. We have actually come to enjoy the screen time Amelia gets for a number of reasons.

snuggles with daddy // christmas 2012

When I was pregnant with Elsie, I was really sick for the first 16 weeks. There were days that I couldn't get out of bed. So Amelia and I would snuggle in together, watching Dora on my phone. Later that year, Amelia came down with several colds and Hand Foot and Mouth. We were housebound for a solid week during that time with a toddler that was tired and sick. So Micky Mouse Clubhouse cheered us up! More recently, there are some days that I just need a break. Sometimes when life happens and days get crazy, we just sit together and enjoy a silly show. 

Another reason we're ok with Amelia watching TV or playing on our phones is because she learns! She can count to ten and say five different colors in Spanish. Her vocabulary is hilarious as she experiments with words that characters such as Doc McStuffins will use in their show. The imagination on this kid is amazing. She will tell us the most elaborate stories, based off some of her favorite shows. Along with learning from her shows I have several educational apps that she has enjoyed. I will list those at the bottom of this post, in case you're curious. We always make a point to talk about the shows with Amelia. We find this helps keep it from being a mindless brainwash. Same with the games. I really do try to sit with her while she plays.

a laundry basket bed.
the only way to watch a movie. // 18 month old Amelia

One of the newer shows we've started watching is Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. If you haven't seen this, it's adorable. The show is a tribute to the late Mr. Rogers. They talk about basic social skills like sharing and dealing with emotions, like anger or disappointment. The songs are so fun and easy to learn! I find shows like this to be great little tools for applying what Amelia is learning on any given day. 

People claim that you're doing your child a disservice by allowing television and electronics into their daily life. Like anything in life, it's all about balance. We are intentional about how much Amelia engages in screen time each day. Of course, there is too much on some days. But that's life. I'm not going to beat myself up about it and you shouldn't either! I will do what works best for us. Period. 

Amelia's Favorite Apps: 
a screenshot of Amela's tracing
handiwork in the Letter Quiz app
Bob Books #1 ~ Amelia hears her letters and learnsabout letter order in words. She can sound some words out here and there. She will also spell out any word for you these days.
LunchBox ~ This is mainly for fun. But it has basic colors and counting. There's also little puzzles to put together. 
AlphaTots ~ Amelia loves the silly mini-games that help her learn about each letter of the alphabet. One of the games for instance is "stacking" rings largest to smallest. 
Gappy's First Words ~ Well, I accidentally bought this app not realizing it was rated for ages 4+. But Amelia loves it. The game is filled with three letter words that you have to spell in different levels. Your child will hear letters and their sounds as well as sounding out words after they have spelled them correctly. It also has a cute feature where they get a piece to a house with every level they complete. Then they can decorate Gappy's house (Gappy is bunny)! 
Letter Quiz & Number Quiz ~ These two apps are for learning letters and numbers. There are four mini-games within these apps. Amelia primarily uses them for the tracing function. 
Endless Alphabet ~ We just recently got this app and it is so stinkin' funny! It has really big words that the kids have to spell out, matching the mis-arranged letters to the word. They hear the letter sounds, too. Once the word is spelled, they see a silly animation and hear a definition of the word. 

What is your child's favorite TV show? Do you have any guilt associated with letting your child have screen time? Where do you think this comes from? Do you let your kiddos play with your phone or tablets?


31 Days: Toys

If you walked into our basement home, you might not know right away that I'm kind of a clean freak. Our space doesn't look that organized, at least by my standards. But let me just say that it's tricky to keep things clean and orderly when you live in a basement. Most things have a place. We have storage. But it's not your standard way of storing stuff (i.e. attic, under beds, hall closet/hot water heater closet, pantry under the stairs, linen rack for a coat closet... you get the idea). All that to say, I don't have the mental capacity to deal with toys taking over my home. Even though it feels like they do at times. But that might just be the clean freak in me.

I've only been a mom for two and a half years. One child of mine plays with toys, the other just drools and chews on them for now. So I think we're only at the very beginning when it comes to the toy battle. Mamas know what I mean. Everyone thinks your child needs a new toy whenever Christmas or birthdays roll around. What is that about? With Amelia turning three in February, I've been thinking about this a lot.

the aftermath of Amelia's 2nd birthday

Our girls don't have a ton of toys. Earlier this week, I shared about our fun shelf. In the same play area as this shelf, we have some wooden building blocks and a chalk board. On the other side of that area is this collection of goodies.

go play, little ones!

On the first two shelves, we have a container for all of the play food and dishes. There's also a tea set and picnic basket. Along with those items, there's an alphabet floor puzzle and baby doll stuff. Lastly, the girls have two little play buses (a Minnie pet shop and a Leap Frog alphabet bus). Obviously, there's bigger toys like the play kitchen, a baby stroller, and a car seat.

In our actual living room area, where we have the television, we have another small shelf that houses the last of the toys.

you bet I left the legos out instead of cleaning
up before the photo. keepin' it real, people.

Clearly, we have Legos. That's one of Amelia's new favorite toys. I mentioned in the fun shelf post that Amelia loves puzzle. And I mention it again. See what I mean? If you can see beyond the pile, there is a shelf that has more puzzles, some random fine motor skill projects for Amelia, Minnie dress up accessories, and a container of all the baby toys {rattles, rings, and small stuffed animals}. Besides those shelves, we have books. Lots of books. Because, if you read a couple days ago, I mentioned that Amelia is a book worm. But I don't think you could ever have too many books. We keep those in Amelia's bedroom and one basket in the living room. 

no worries, it only looks likes this once every two months.
no joke. amelia prefers her books all over the floor.
in fact, she yelled quite sadly, "mama!! you cleaned up ALL
my books!!" upon seeing her shelves full. :)

So back to this talk about excess toys. Those are the toys we have. All of them. There's no rotation schedule for toys. I might switch the shelves around here and there so they look different. I don't have more toys in another room that I pull out to make playing more fun and exciting for Amelia. Plus, we can't afford to buy her cool, new toys all the time. Way too often, all these facts weigh me down. I find myself getting worried that we don't have enough variety of toys and my children will suffer! Dramatic, I know. 

I'm here to tell myself, and you if this is your same struggle, to STOP IT! I've slowly come to the realization that Amelia is not bored with what we have. She has found new ways to play with many of these toys that she's had for a year or more. I love watching her imagination come to life in those moments! Now that Elsie is starting to play, Amelia will play with her and "show" her how to do things. It's wonderful and fun.

I like how fairly contained our toy collection is. Of course, relatives don't always remember that less is more. So for Amelia's second birthday, if family asked, "What would Amelia like for a gift?" I told them that puzzles and craft supplies were a great idea. Nearly eight months later, we are still pulling out craft supplies that I had put away while she got a little older. With Amelia's third birthday coming, I plan to do the same thing. For Elsie's first birthday, we're thinking we will ask for books instead of toy gifts if people ask. We thought that was a good alternative since Elsie won't need much more than that what we already have. 

What are ways you keep your toy collection in control? What are some of your child's favorite toys? If you do have a toy rotation, I'm curious about how that works for you!