Slowing Down

So, to let y’all in on a little secret, this post was “supposed” to be published last Wednesday. I really hate being late and I hate turning things in past the deadline (#typeA), but I think it’s really fitting this time, considering what I’ve been wanting to share with you.

Here’s what’s been on my mind lately: slowing down.

I have been feeling so rushed and overwhelmed: constantly playing catch-up, multi-tasking (and not doing any of it well), never quite able to accomplish everything that needs to get done. If I hear myself say, “I just need more hours in the day” one more time…I don’t even know what I’ll do. And I probably wouldn’t have the time to do it anyway.

In our culture, we wear busyness as a badge of honor, as if it is our way of proving to each other how valuable we are. As if people who are not busy and harried and frazzled are not important. We rush from work to volunteering to lessons to practices, with barely enough time to talk to our family and spend time together before we’re hurry hurry hurrying the kids to get to bed and start it all over in the morning. We give each other sympathetic shrugs and eye rolls, “What are you going to do? That’s life.”

But here’s what I’m realizing: that is a lie.

Busyness is not just how life is. Busyness is a choice. Busyness is a lifestyle that we find ourselves unconsciously sucked into. We do not have to do all the things and the burden is on us to make a change.

So that’s where we’re at in my family. We are choosing to slow down. Especially knowing that the full-on holiday season is approaching, I am ready to fiercely guard my time with my family. 

Here are 3 ways that I’m starting the slowing down process:

 

  • Disconnecting. Technology. Man. I really feel like this is my biggest time thief. Even when I have a few moments of doing nothing, I pull out my phone to check e-mail, social media, weather, etc. Why? I have no idea! It just became a habit, so I deleted Facebook and Instagram off my phone, and chose a place to leave it on the kitchen counter as soon as I walk in the door. The first few weeks really showed me how addicted I had become to just ‘checking’ my phone, but the ‘itch’ has subsided and I’ve found a lot more time in my life.
  • Going outside. Being outside is so refreshing to me. In the past few weeks, we have made an extra effort to just be outside enjoying each other and hanging out with no agenda. The kids have been fishing with daddy, kayaking with me, having tea parties in their playhouse, chasing the dogs on their tricycle, playing in the sprinkler, and sometimes just laying on the hammock! This is the perfect place to slow down.
  • Saying no. I just want to give you permission here, right now, to say no. Say no to things that will take valuable time away from your family. There will always be things fighting for your family’s time, and if you don’t decide for yourselves what you prioritize, someone else is glad to do it for you. Your child does not have to be on every sports team, in every lesson, or volunteering at every event. All of these things are valuable, but not if they are at the cost of your family. I love this reminder: The rhythm of your week will shape the values in your home. Be intentional in creating that rhythm.

 

So anyways, that’s why this post was late. I’ve been working on slowing down and just couldn’t get it all done! We’ll be talking more about this here…especially what it looks like in the busyness of the holiday season. What are your thoughts? Anyone else feeling the need to slow down?

Monday Funday

Monday Funday

From the minute my oldest, Caden, was born, I desperately longed to stay home with him. However, for that time, my outside-the-home job was in the middle school classroom, and I just prayed that someday that would change for me. Almost 4 years later, I was able to stay home part time, still a teacher, a perfect blend for me, and I am abundantly thankful that that is still my current season of life.

So, imagine my dismay when my treasured boy, the one I’d always longed to stay home with, actually had to up and leave me… and go to Kindergarten! You genuinely would have thought the child was heading to college (and never coming home). I lamented for the ENTIRE YEAR leading up to it and, if we’re being honest, probably actually started the day he was born.

BUT I’D WAITED FOREVER TO STAY HOME WITH HIM AND I FINALLY HAD MY CHANCE AND THEN HE LEFT !!!(???)!!! I cried (obviously) his first day of school and, while my eyes eventually dried up, I’m pretty sure my soul never has. But I digress.

Yes, I do have other children at home. Yes, I do love them too. But, you know, it just wasn’t the same without big bro. Going fun places without him just wasn’t the same! We all were bummed about him not being with us all day.

Then one day I decided I was no longer going to allow a school schedule to dictate our fun. I was not going to just live for the weekends, because life is too short and has too much potential to wait for one day to enjoy! [Also, Caden entertains his little sister better than I can and sometimes that alone saves my sanity.] And so, Monday Funday was born.

On Mondays, I pick Caden up from school, we forego (until the evening) the after school homework/reading log/iReady routine and we head out somewhere “fun!” Perhaps, we’ll do some bouncing at Monkey Joes, some competing at Chuck E Cheese, or even an afternoon at the beach. We spend a few hours of good, quality, memory-making time and then head home to meet Daddy for dinner and get back to reality. One of the perks? Everywhere is DEAD on Monday afternoons and we’re pretty much guaranteed VIPs with a private place all to ourselves 😉

Not sure where or how to start? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered…

  • This can be any day of the week! Whatever works best for you and your family schedule, BUT it must have a “name.” Just to help you out, I’ve got some ideas for you already. You’re welcome…
    • Monday FunDay (yes, you can steal it from us)
    • Tuesday WooHoosDay (Do things that make you shout WOO HOO!)
    • Wednesday YesDay (Pick some things you normally say no to and say YES!)
    • Thursday SuresDay (Same as above but say Sure, instead of yes :-P)
    • Friday FriYay (It’s Friday, ‘nuff said)
    • Saturday HaveItYourWay (Let them make up the ideas, throw them in a jar and pick one!)
    • Sunday FunDay (sorry! I couldn’t come up with anything creative! Just don’t do a Sunday FunDay AND a Monday FunDay and no one will know!)
  • Don’t have the time or the funds in this current season to stop everything and go somewhere? You don’t have to! In reality, our kiddos just crave quality time with US. Our Mondays haven’t always allowed for a trip out for (many!) various reasons, so sometimes our Monday Fundays have consisted of a “picnic” dinner on the living room floor, an hour of family board game time, a swim in the pool ending with popsicles, a movie night on a school night, or even just allowing them to sleep in their sleeping bags on our bedroom floor. All of these things are THE BEST according to our kids because they’re not common for them. That’s all they care about!

 

  • Are you a full time working-outside-the-home mom? No problem! Your “guaranteed” fun day can be a weekend day/night, OR pick a weeknight and just implement some of the non-outing activities I listed above. As I mentioned, all they need to make something fun is YOU! Don’t have a pool? Or it’s winter outside? Put on your bathing suits and play in the bathtub! Don’t forget the beach ball!

 

  • You still need to eat, as the children will so quickly remind you– so leave out a meal that will cook up quickly! Or intentionally make double of last week’s dinner and freeze it, so it’s a quick defrost and reheat meal, especially if your week’s activity involves being out and about.

 

  • DON’T let it overwhelm you! Lord knows something else on our plates is the LAST thing we need! Monday Funday isn’t going to work this week? Tell them! My kids know that we try for it, but it doesn’t always happen. Life isn’t fair, kid! Or pick a different day for that week (remember to name it!)! OR, keep the day and do something super low key like 6 books before bed instead of 2, or dessert before dinner day!

Remember, our God-given responsibility to these children is to LOVE them and care for them, not to entertain them every second of every day. This is not a call to make every day of the week extra “fun” for them, or over stimulate their every sense. This is just a way to pick a day and go out of your way to make memories with the little humans that make us the craziest. For me, it helped me beat the “my oldest started Kindergarten and tomorrow he’ll be off to college” blues. It also helped me be more intentional in my parenting, as having fun with my children is not always (or ever) number 1 on my weekly to do list.

So set out the calendar, jot down some days of extra fun, and pull out the can of fake snow, Florida! WOO HOO! This is about them, not you 😉

Cardio is Hardio

Finding the time, and energy, to make exercise a part of our daily schedule can be tough. But if it was ever part of your everyday regime, you know it’s worth it. And if it hasn’t been your cup of tea, consider no time like the present to jump into a healthy habit.

Make a Date with Your Heart rate

It can be daunting to get started, but begin with what is convenient for you (and you can’t say ‘nothing’!). Morning person? Set your alarm that much earlier to be done before the kiddos are up, or their school schedule has kicked in. Night owl? Eat a lighter dinner and work it after bedtime. I still have one napper, so sometimes, I use her morning nap as my scheduled session.

Set a Plan

This is two-fold. I am old-school, and maintain a paper and pencil planner. A while back Declan asked me why there was a ‘heart’ on each day. I told him it was part of my schedule to exercise each morning. Now, I have my planner and my little man to remind me. Also, I keep a photo album on my phone labeled ‘workout.’ There are 168 pictures (at the moment) that I gradually add to – all workouts. Some are from Pinterest, others are ones that my workout guru friends have texted me, and many are from previous workouts designed in my “freerer,” kidless years. I try and decide the night before what my general plan is for the next day, allowing for flexibility of course. But it’s super helpful to not have to sit down and create a plan from scratch. No excuses – ready to go!

Don’t Hesitate!

There will always be a thousand other things to get done. Just do it.

Be Flexible…

…And I don’t just mean with your yoga moves. Don’t worry about your outfit, the technicalities of the workout, or if the timing is perfect. Be willing to get your sweat on in your jammies! Or lay your clothes out prior to the workout to eliminate decision making procrastination.

Train up a child in the way he should go…

~Proverbs 22:6. My son doesn’t know a time when he wasn’t lifting weights with me while we listened to Disney music and chatted about our day! We love training outside, in the garage, by the pool… you name it. Of course, there are the days that I covet some me time to pound the pavement in the precious hours before sunrise, but it was a proud moment when Declan asked for “Bring Sally Up” so he could do the push up challenge with me. “To get stronger than Gram,” he said.

Create Your Space

I loved being a gym member, but there came a time when the price tag, and schedule, didn’t fit our family’s agenda. So we created my home gym. We invested in weights, a bench, an exercise ball, and even a TRX (a suspension trainer that uses your own body weight to build strength – a great Christmas gift!). Kinley especially loves our exercise bands for her squats (see above). At our house, we are all about making it possible, and rolling out of bed WORKS OUT well for us!

Time to Run

Running has always been my sanctuary. With little ones, we have loved the Bob single stroller, and now, the Bob double stroller. We pack our snacks, a book, and a toy, and we hit the road! If you have older kids, run together, or utilize tracks or outdoor trails at your child’s own sports practices. Plan fun holiday races, or family mud runs, and train together. Being social can help keep running fresh and fun. Find a friend who loves to run with you – and let them help push that stroller!

Plan Some “You” Time

Working out with our dearests is wonderful, but be sure to carve out a few times a week where you can be on your own. Exercising not only builds up our strength, but it can help give our minds and bodies energy while decreasing our fatigue. If we know that we will be spending time working out otherwise spent sleeping, decluttering, or hanging with our kiddos, make it worth it. Create a running playlist, or lift weights to a motivating soundtrack. If silence is what you need, use the time to clear your head while you do The 100 (a pilates move I had to google). Check out some beginner pilates moves here! 

 

Have any suggestions or tips for how to include exercise in our lives? Please share! Because we all know, if Mom is healthy and happy, so is our household!

 

Motherhood: Burden or Blessing? (Part 2 – The Practical Steps)

A few weeks ago I shared a question I’ve been wrestling with over the past several months — Do I see motherhood as a burden or a blessing? — and ended that post with a challenge-of-sorts to myself:

Like the Lord who loves me (and is, in all things, a perfect parent), I am trying to take great delight in my children, and to rejoice over them. More than anything, I’m writing to remind myself to daily choose to put on tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, and to hopefully, one choice at a time, transform my wearing of motherhood from a burden to a blessing.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the original post yet, do that first, because this is the follow-up. It’s easy to say that I’m trying to do things differently, make better choices, and live in a new way, but we all know that if there are no practical steps in place, nothing will change. So here are a few things I’m *trying* to implement in my life, to help me transform the burden to a blessing:

 

  • Make time for myself. 

This is obviously not an original thought. Even though I’ve seen many inspirational images with this sentiment lately, I’ve found that it is much easier said than done. I have learned that if I take the time to do something for myself, by myself, I am much more patient and ready to meet my kids’ needs. For me, this looks like setting my alarm for 5:15 am, so that I can get up and have time to read my Bible and journal before my littles get up at 6. (This doesn’t always happen, and boy can I tell the difference in myself when I choose to sleep in instead!)  In some seasons, it has meant running or taking a bike ride in the afternoon. Sometimes, it means reading in my pool on the big flamingo float while the kids nap. Whatever and whenever it is, take the time to remember who you are outside of being a snack-providing, shoe-tying, problem-solving, carpool-coordinating mom.

 

  • Use my words. 

How many times have I said this to my kids? It applies to us mamas, too. I have scripture art in most rooms of my home so that on those days, I am reminded of who I am and whose I am. I also have a few key phrases that help me shift my thinking and allow me to respond to my kids with mercy and kindness, instead of frustration:

  • My child is not giving me a hard time, she is having a hard time.
  • Little people have big emotions.
  • Connection over correction. (Sometimes all it takes is a hug to set me and my kid(s) back on track).

 

  • Play more.

I have realized over the past few months how often my kids ask me to play with them, and how often I tell them “in just a minute,” “when I’m done with dinner,” “after I put the dishes away,” etc. etc. Play time with our kids is so important for so many reasons, but in our hectic lives, it often gets pushed to the back burner. Now, I’m trying to set aside time as soon as we get home in the afternoon/evening, just to play. I’m leaving the backpacks that need to be gone through and the lunchboxes that need to be washed on the counter, and going straight to play time. This is fully-engaged, phones down, lots of eye contact play time. Believe me, this is a struggle for my type-A personality when all I can think of is what needs to get done. But taking great delight in my children starts here, witnessing their delight as we play together. Mamas with older kids, your play might look different, but your kids still want you to engage with them in their interests!

 

  • Practice gratitude.

In the moments when I am most frustrated, feeling burdened and weary, I am choosing to name what I am grateful for instead of muttering things under my breath. It feels silly at first — when the kids are engaged in a screaming tug-of-war match over who knows what now, and I say, “Thank you, Lord, for children who are healthy enough to fight with each other.” It may seem contrived, but it helps me to exhale just a little, and find a way to help them through their craziness, instead of joining in.

 

These practical steps are helpful, but I have realized that they mean absolutely nothing if I am not first resting in the love of our Heavenly Father. He is the one who gives me strength when I am at the end of my human abilities. When I allow His love — His never-ending, reckless love — to fill me, then I can parent out of the overflow. So on days when you have no time for yourself, no words to use, no time or capacity to play and are struggling to find something to be grateful for, here is the promise that we can all rest in:

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

Keep on mamas. Bring those burdens to Jesus and find rest. And tomorrow, with His help and in His love, try again.

 

InstaLife vs. RealLife

It is 2018, and social media has been around for a solid 15 years. We all know what we see on the computer isn’t always the reality, but we still fall for it.

We fall for it. For the gorgeous family photos, the happy husband and wife, the spotless home, the fancy “stuff”, the glorious vacations, the always smiling children, the perfection. We KNOW in our heart of hearts that no one’s life could really be that flawless, but we still fall for the idea that everyone has a perfect life, and ours could never measure up. It’s tempting… oohh so very tempting to live our lives like the world is watching, because, well, it is.

We post our best. From 1,000 unruly, implicating photos, we pick the 1 that shows the world what our life is like… well, what our life WOULD be like — IF it was not messy, vulnerable, raw, and real. Real? What a novel idea…

So here’s me. Being real. With you. My last family vacation. InstaLife vs. RealLife.

I spent months planning the perfect family vacation. #Weiler5FamilyVacay2018

I couldn’t wait to spend time the 5 of us, our first weeklong family vacation EVER! #CampABCbeachedition Lots of beach fun, lots of great memories, lots of relaxation, lots of LOTS! Except it wasn’t. OOOHHH how it wasn’t!

InstaLife Post #1

InstaLife: Beachin with my babes

RealLife: We got to Sanibel Island just in time for the worst Red Tide crisis on the west coast of Florida in over a decade. And quite honestly, by now, it could very well be the worst in history. Last I checked, the current Red Tide has produced 2,000 tons of dead marine life and, the week prior to us being there, a WHALE SHARK washed up dead about a half mile down the beach from where we were staying. Siiggghhh. So, what this photo DOESN’T show is that this is the one and ONLY time we got to “beach it” that entire week. Between dead fish in small mountains on the shore, the smell of rotting sea life, and the allergy attacks of non-stop coughing and sneezing (it causes respiratory issues) in all of us, my “beach fun” turned into “sit in the condo and look at the beach because even sitting on the balcony made us sick.” #beachplease

InstaLife Post #2

InstaLife: Rainy beach days call for rainy pool days!

RealLife: You don’t see me in this photo because I am sitting on the side, in extraordinary pain from a boil (sorry, but this is real life!) underneath my arm. I have a condition called Hidradenitis Suppurativa that causes painful bumps, and in the days leading up to vacation I started the worst one I’ve ever had in all my life. So bad, that by Tuesday morning my husband forced me, SOBBING, to a doctor’s office to get it “taken care of.” Two trips to the doctor later, I finally felt relief by Wednesday of our Sat – Sat vacation. However, I couldn’t go in the water. Not even, (our only option, thanks to red tide) in the pool. #shipwrecked

InstaLife Post #3

InstaLife: Cheers to our Family

RealLife: My youngest, 15 month old Bryce, is a psychopath and he is on the floor screaming while I drink my pain (^above post) and frustration away. We gave in to juice with dinner for the big kids so they would stop whining about the 2789894347th thing that day. Notice there are only three hands and drinks? Sean was in the kitchen annoyed with me for snapping at him for eating “too much salsa” because it’s supposed to be for taco night. (Yes, that’s the bowl of Salsa in front me now.) Enough said. #cheerstotears

InstaLife Post #4

InstaLife: Tonight was dinner at Cheeburger Cheeburger!

RealLife: We were so excited for our first vacation dinner out! Long story short? Bryce ate a whole cup of ice cream for dinner because it kept him quiet. The BUS BOY kindly brought it without us even asking for it… because he could hear him screaming across the restaurant… That was a fun night. #not

InstaLife Post #5

InstaLife: Yep, we’re “those” people! Took a surrey ride around Sanibel today!

RealLife: We HAD to take a surrey ride to find things to fill our days with since we couldn’t go on the beach. Do you know how much fun it is to PEDAL 3 whiny children around in 97 degree heat? We’d paid for 4 hours… we made it less than 2, with a stop at the playground. If you continued to scroll through our photos you would notice that the kids are sitting in a different spot for everyone. That’s because they complained the whole time and we had to constantly move them around to keep the peace. When I saw the sign of the bike place come back into vision, I literally screamed HALLELUJAH JESUS at the top of my lungs. I’m pretty sure I also shed a tear. #andapieceofmysoul

 

The moral of the story, friends? InstaLife and RealLife are two very different things, aren’t they? Don’t get caught up in the lives of others– wishing you could have more, do more,  BE more.

Instead, live in abundance of the life God has given YOU, not the life he has given someone else. Don’t compare your life to someone else’s highlight reel. Cultivate your reality– your family, your marriage, your friendships. Live intentionally. In a world that beckons you to create a facade, create a LIFE.

#livealifeyoulove  

#reallifeismorefunanyway  

#oratleastfunnier  

#tootherpeople

Each Day is a Gift

My sister has a tattoo on her wrist; it reads “each day is a gift.” I love it. It’s a good reminder. Especially when some days do NOT feel like a gift but rather like trying to canoe up a waterfall.

My son Declan will be four in two weeks. He is our first kid, our pride and joy, our cautious explorer. He loves to read, fish, build, and swim. Declan made parenting look easy, until more recently as we have approached the world of “time out” in the red chair. But from the start, we gave ourselves a little pat on the back with pep in our step: we got this.

Then along came Kinley. Our sweet little angel arrived almost three weeks early. We should have known then. Her first word was ‘hiyah,’ she walked at nine months, and ate ice cream on her tippy toes well before her first b-day party. Declan affectionately refers to her as baby Godzilla as she terrorizes our house. We were effectively put in our places and my mother doesn’t have to say it: serves me right!

After I went back to work in the spring following my maternity leave, Ryan – the most capable, fabulous, wonderful father, leader, and husband – was left to watch both kids for the first time, all day. We had the following conversation via text message while I was at car duty:

So that’s why I’m staying home.

(Just kidding.)

But as you can see, we can barely keep up with her.

And yet, we wouldn’t have it any other way! We have developed a new mantra in our household that came after many years of teaching primary and only four years of raising littles: be present!

It began when I started teaching.

This pretty much sums up my first month of teaching kindergarten. But it wasn’t just with the kids; it was the stuff. It took me awhile to figure out how to align my Type A neat freak personality with the classroom in front of me. I love things just so. I love books in their baskets, supplies organized to perfection, and desks that support ‘cleanliness is next to godliness.’ But for those of us who have ever actually met a child, we understand that this expectation isn’t quite realistic.

So I came up with a new cool plan. My students learned with freedom and creativity throughout the day. I allowed for mess and movement, and even joined the flexible seating revolution of wobble stools, bean bag cushions and exercise balls as chairs. It wasn’t rocket science… we simply cleaned up at the end of our time together. Voila! We were able to be actively engaged with each other and I wasn’t having a mental breakdown looking at supplies everywhere!

The same goes for my household. Before I became a parent, I had this image of myself chasing my kids around the house with a vacuum. But when our kids entered our world, I realized that my years of classroom cleaning had taught me a valuable lesson. If my preoccupation was with putting things in their place, I would be constantly chasing my tail! If I am busy check-listing my day, I miss moments that are gone too quickly.

So the next time we find ourselves preoccupied with dirty dishes, concern over the current state of mess, or discouraged by an endless to-do list, take a breather and remember that it will all get done. Enlist help, encourage cooperation, whistle while you work… but don’t miss out on the kid right in front of you (or they might end up going after dog poop).

To be present is to be engaged with body and mind. If we hope to parent our kids with intentionality to raise children who will make a difference in the world, let’s jump in and be fully present to make a difference in their world!

Motherhood: Burden or Blessing?

This post has been a long time coming. The thought first came up while I was journaling at the end of last school year. Daily time in Scripture has a way of holding a mirror up to my face. Often, what is revealed is not what I want, or expect, to see, and that was certainly the case here. I needed time for this question to sink its way into my heart and start doing some work in my life before I was ready to share.

As I was journaling, I felt this question being asked: Do I see motherhood as a burden or blessing?

At first, I was a little offended that this would even be on my mind. Of course, motherhood is a blessing. I have wanted to be a mom since I was little. I prayed for babies, rejoiced over little pink lines, and love my girls more than I ever thought was humanly possible. I would do anything for them, give everything to ensure their happiness in this world, and single-handedly take down anyone who wished them harm.

But then, I really thought about what the question was asking. Do I live my everyday life like motherhood is a blessing? Or do I really live like it’s a burden?

Do my everyday actions, reactions and interactions, my daily words and attitudes, even my facial expressions show that I believe motherhood is a blessing? When my girls encounter me, are they met with joy, love and patience? The answer to this question was a little, okay, a lot, fuzzier.

Because some days. Oooohh, some days. The days when I wake up to a face in mine before 6 am whisper-shouting, “I need breakfast!” The days when there’s a child on each leg, tugging each hand, yelling, “My mommy! No, my mommy!” The days when dinner needs to be cooked, lunches need to be packed, clothes need to be put away, floors need to be mopped, e-mails need to be sent, deadlines need to be met, and also, “Look at me mama! Watch what I can do mama! Do you see me mommy? Come play with me mommy!”

These are the days when I sigh and grumble and roll my eyes. When I answer every “Mama?” with a frustrated, “What?!” When I find myself yelling to my five-year-old in her room that she needs to stop YELLING AT ME SO MUCH FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE! These are the days when I long to go to the bathroom by myself. Just. One. Time. These are the days when I feel weary and frustrated and burdened, and like maybe I’d like to run away to a tropical island where no one knows my name is “mom.” Just for a little bit.

At first, I felt shame that my kids get so much frustration from me instead of the joy, patience, gentleness, kindness etc. that they should feel from me. I’m not even home with them all day, so why would I be so frustrated in the few precious hours before bedtime? I know that there are women who long to be mothers, who miss these days, or who are dealing with circumstances far more difficult than mine. What is wrong with me that when I have so much to be thankful for, I still feel so burdened?

As thoughts of shame and less-than-ness floated through my mind, I was reminded of a verse from Romans 8:1-2 (NLT). (Emphasis added is mine).

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

None of this was brought to my attention because God wanted me to feel condemned. He wants to lead me to freedom, and part of that is through journeying to become a better version of myself. There’s a quote from Soren Kierkegaard that I wrote down in my journal around this time that speaks so clearly to this, “Now with God’s help, I shall become myself.”

So I looked squarely in the mirror, and admitted, first of all, that I do not actually have it all together. (Shocking, I know). And this area of my life, what my girls feel from me, how I act in my home, how I portray the amazing love of our Heavenly Father, is one that is very important for me to get right.

As I was praying and thinking about how to actually go about changing this, another verse came to mind.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12, NLT).

What I really love about this verse is the choice that is inherent in it. It does not say that once you start on this journey of following Christ you’ll immediately be filled with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, etc. Instead, it commands that we clothe ourselves with these things. I don’t know about you, but I don’t roll out of bed with my clothes already on (although, some days, wouldn’t that just be great?!) I go to the closet, step over all of the shoes that my two year old always pulls out, and choose an outfit.

Just like the choice I daily make of what I am going to wear, I need to choose to put on tenderhearted mercy, kindness, gentleness, patience, and all of the things that will help me wear motherhood as a blessing, and not as a burden.

Does this mean that every day now I am skipping through my home with a smile plastered on my face, an apron tied around my waist and answering my kids with a saccharine-loaded “Whatever you like my dearest child of mine!”? Of course not. There are still tough days. Still frustrated tones of voice. But I’m trying, each day, to choose to clothe myself with the qualities that will show my children how very deeply they are loved by me, because ultimately, I am called to portray the love of our Heavenly Father.

We don’t need to ever feel guilty or frustrated for not measuring up to this high standard either. We just take a deep breath, thank the Lord that His mercies are new every day, and try again tomorrow.

So one more verse, one that has been my favorite for years and is now what I am aspiring to in motherhood. Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT) says this —

For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Like the Lord who loves me (and is, in all things, a perfect parent), I am trying to take great delight in my children, and to rejoice over them. More than anything, I’m writing to remind myself to daily choose to put on tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, and to hopefully, one choice at a time, transform my wearing of motherhood from a burden to a blessing.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon of some tangible, practical ways I’ve been trying to do this in my family. And please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!

Pre-School Rebels

I love school. I loved it through elementary, into middle school, and all through high school. College was a blast, of course (!), and I’m thankful school was always something fun and special to me. Heck, I loved school so much, I grew up to be a teacher! #nerdalert  More than anyone, I know education is important and a great basis for a successful life! However, my kids (thus far) have not gone to pre-school. Free (VPK) preschool nonetheless. Insert gasps here. Now let them out.

Pre-school just didn’t work for us. I work part time as a middle school teacher which means that I work every Thursday, Friday and every other Wednesday (best. gig. ever.). Caden, my oldest, was almost 4 when I started this schedule and 1 year later he was ready for his pre-school year. Much to my teacher-minded-education-is-everything dismay, we couldn’t find anywhere that we could get aftercare for just the days that I had to work. Our only option would have been to pay full time even though he would’ve only needed it 2 or 3 days a week. Obbvvviiiouuussllly working as a part time teacher also means I make half my pay which equals NOTHING. We certainly could not afford half my pay AND full time childcare. It just wasn’t going to happen. It took some time for us (me) to fully accept that realization and come to terms with it.

Then the doubts set in: What would everyone think? We were cheap? Bad parents? Irresponsible? Would my kid always struggle? Never learn to read? Fail the SAT? Drop out of HS? (ridiculous, I know)

A lot of people were super kind and supportive! I remember specifically my cousin Diana, who’s also an elementary teacher, talking me off the ledge often. She’d remind me that it wasn’t a big deal, that he was smart and, HELLO, he has a teacher for a mom! She was always a bright light when others would lead me down dark alleys of uncertainty (Thanks, Diana!!!).

I’ll never forget some of the other comments… “Are you SURE this is really the best option?????” “Can’t you just make SOMETHING work???” “Oh goodness, I think you’re really putting him at a disadvantage.” “All the student’s I’ve ever had that have failed Kindergarten have all ALSO not attended VPK” Oof… you wanna talk about feeling like the WORST parent???

But, you guys, I just DIDN’T feel like we could make it work. And I just DIDN’T feel like we HAD to. Even amidst all the naysayers, pre-school just DIDN’T feel right for our family. In that moment. In that season. For that kid. Selfishly, I also just wasn’t ready to let him go. I didn’t want to put him in an all day VPK (voluntary pre-school, which is also free, for all of you who don’t know what VPK means!) when I had finally just gotten the chance to stay home with him part time. I craved that extra year with him. My momma soul needed it, after years of praying for extra time with my first born.

 An extra year at home also meant an extra year for this brother & sister to bond <3

So, I wiped my wounded, doubt-filled, uneasy, humbled tears away, and we started the school year alongside all of his VPK-attending friends at home. I had grand plans of a legit homeschool curriculum, but we traded workbooks for packing boxes and drs appointments as we moved homes and had a new baby all in that same year! It was a super busy, full season for us and I had my big buddy and his little sis right by my side for it.

And you know what? I wouldn’t change it for anything. He entered Kindergarten that fall and SOARED. He soared so high our hearts could hardly handle it. He achieved goals and met standards, and by the end of Kindergarten he was reading at a Second Grade level. Our little buddy conquered Kindergarten without the help of preschool, and I’m thankful that we followed our gut and didn’t kill ourselves over figuring something out that just didn’t feel right for us. Just because someone else said so. Especially just because someone else said so.

Caden won 1st Place in his Kindergarten class spelling bee this past Spring.

Our daughter will be 4 in a few weeks (insert mommy sobs here) and she technically could be/ should be starting VPK this school year. But she’s not. Because it still doesn’t work for us. Quite honestly, we’re not even sure she’ll be starting Kindergarten next fall. She’ll be making the age cut off by 3 days and we’re not ready to make that decision just yet. We haven’t figured out what will work for her, regardless of what her peers are doing or the state says. Aaaannnndddd my selfish mommy heart may just want that 1 extra year with her, but that’s a different story for a different day 😉

The point is, it’s not going to work for us this year. And guess how many opinions I asked for this time? Z_E_R_O. Is that to say we may not change our minds mid year when we start to assess where Adalyn is academically? Maybe she’ll be one who really DOES need a school setting, and we WILL need to make that financial sacrifice. Perhaps our youngest, Bryce, WILL go to pre-school because I’m back full time, or because we think he’ll benefit from it, or because we found a way to make it work. We will decide when we get to it. We will. Us. Our family. Because in our family, we make our own decisions with lots of prayer, based on what will work for us, and for our current life’s season.

Mommas & Daddys who work so hard to make every last best decision for your babies… you do YOU. You decide what’s going to work, what will benefit your family for that season in time, what your still, quiet Voice leads you to. Don’t let the naysayers make you doubt yourself, or feel less than. In YOUR family, you make hard choices, and then stand by them. We did, and we’re thankful for it.

Back to School Traditions

It’s back to school season and although this is the first time in thirty years that I don’t actually have a first day of school (after teaching for eight years, I’m trying the stay-at-home mom gig!), I can’t help but get caught up in the excitement and anticipation. But, I am new at this whole school traditions thing. And in the world of posing, posting, and Pinterest, I am way out of my league.

Picture me at the end of last school year. My 3-year-old son was concluding his time with Miss Ann, our dearest friend who had watched him since he was 12 weeks old. After I made the irreversible mistake of going onto Pinterest late one evening, I found myself digging through Declan’s bookshelves by the light of my phone. I was looking, of course, for none other than Oh, The Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss’ old classic that has more recently been propelled to the forefront of graduation gifts. As a teacher, I have signed countless copies for students that will then be passed on to future teachers and eventually gifted to the child when he or she graduates.

Why then had I not begun to prepare adequately for my own child??

When my husband found me frantically searching through my then six-month-old’s room for a book, I realized I had perhaps taken the tradition thing a bit too far. Now, traditions are great. They can actually really help our kids feel secure in their family identity, especially around holidays and yearly rituals like going back to school. But to risk waking a sleeping infant? Well, that might have been a bit much.

I decided several things that night that I hope will help me (and maybe you!) think through the tradition choosing more carefully this year. And remember, it’s never too late to start!

1- Start with what you know. I stressed myself out because I felt like if I couldn’t do it all, I shouldn’t do anything. But don’t get so overwhelmed that you miss the fun in commemorating a special day! Think about what you value in your family and what you’re good at. Then run with it!

2- Don’t be afraid to check out new ideas. Better yet, don’t get overwhelmed by different ideas. Pinterest has great ideas, ranging from adorable signs and backpack poses, to teacher gifts and happy back to school songs. What are you good at? If your love language is gifts, you and your child can prepare simple first day of school gifts for your teacher. Let me tell you from experience, you’re getting an ‘A.’ (Just kidding. We don’t even have grades any more!) If you’re a bookworm, choose a book that your child’s teacher can sign and pass on from year to year. Photography your cup of tea? Choose a fun pose for your child to start a tradition of growth each year.

Jessica’s family celebrates by making a cake with the new grade level on it. Jen rings in the new year by taking a picture with the class of 20- shirt on the first day of every year.

 

3 – Move forward with a plan. It’s not too late to start something new or change it up according to your kiddo’s interests. Nothing needs to be permanent, praise the Lord for that- as my 3 year old insists that his first tattoo will be Spider-Man. On my back, Mom. The key is to keep it fresh and interesting, so your child will enjoy this tradition, too! Because let’s face it- freshly sharpened pencils and new school clothes don’t exactly trump summer days in the sunshine. We want to be excited about the new season we are entering, not annoyed by one more item on the checklist.

We finally landed on having teachers sign You Are Special by Max Lucado for Declan, and are now ready and excited for this new year to start. And isn’t life just that? Just the right amount of excitement about what tomorrow might bring without flying through today! Whether you are the type to celebrate back to school with intricately created photo booth props, or the one who takes a pic two weeks late or not at all, think this year about what a meaningful tradition might be for your family to start. So strap on the backpacks, lace up your PF flyers, and say cheese… cuz FY 18-19 is going to be a great one!

Need some extra ideas? Check out a few cute traditions here.

 

Back to School – the Real New Year

Happy August! I can’t believe it’s already time to trade bathing suits for school uniforms, and movie nights for early bedtimes. As much as I dread the ending of summer, I’m also ready for school to begin. I confess — I love back to school time. I love new lunch boxes, sharpened pencils, and full crayon boxes. I love choosing colorful folders and deliberating over the perfect planner for the year. (I also admit that I will be doing this with a kid for the first time this year…so I’ll let you know in a few weeks how joyful the experience really was).

August always feels more like the “New Year” to me than January 1. Maybe it’s because, as kids, we spent so many years living by the school calendar. I continued that through college and then as a classroom teacher for six years. Every year as August approaches, even now that I’m out of the classroom, I find myself wanting to organize, set routines, and start new rhythms that will carry us throughout this school year.

So as we think about and move into this new school year, I wanted to share an exciting announcement with you!

Our team is expanding! (No, I’m not pregnant.)

We’ve added two new writers to our blog team! I wholly believe that it is not possible to parent without a community, and so I asked two members of my own “Keep me sane” team to begin contributing to this blog. Christine and Jen are both committed to raising their kids well and parenting with the end in mind.

Christine and I have been friends since the 7th grade when we bonded over an assigned group project in social studies. We’ve made it through the awkwardness of middle school, so you know we’ll be lifelong friends. Christine has taught first grade for the past 8 years, and has chosen this year to start a season of staying home with her kids. She is raising spunky Kinley, who is not quite 1 and is already running (literally), and Declan, almost 4, who knows everything about the Incredibles and loves to fish. Christine challenges me to play more with my kids, and to enter into the world around me looking for adventure. If you want to know anything about working out, raising little learners, or traveling the world, Christine’s your girl!

Couldn’t resist the middle school pic… Sorry Christine!!

Jen and I have been friends for several years now, although it feels like forever. We mother each other’s kids, eat each other’s food, and talk each other off of the parenting ledges we all find ourselves on. This will be Jen’s 10th year of teaching middle school. She works part time and spends the rest of her time with her littles – Bryce, a little over 1, who has the cutest two little teeth that have earned him the nickname “heepo!”, Adalyn, almost 4, the spiciest, sweetest little ballerina you’ll ever meet, and Caden, almost 7, who teaches me about animals and loves exploring in his own backyard. Jen helps me remember to let my kids be little, and to celebrate everything, every day. If you are looking for ways to make memories with your kids, for fun projects to make, or delicious meals to cook, you will love learning from Jen.

Here’s Jen and I with our hubbies!

To learn more about Jen and Christine, check out our new “About Us” page! I know you will enjoy the new perspectives that they bring to this blog as we all try to figure this parenting thing out together.

So let’s begin this school year together with renewed purpose. Let’s choose to do things differently in our families. Let’s make an August resolution to do our best to parent with intentionality and raise kids who will change this world for the better.  

Let’s be a community of parents…. Changing the way we raise our kids, so we can raise kids who change the world.

It’s not going to be easy, but nothing in parenting is. Who’s in?