motherhood

7 Life-Changing Things I Learned From 30 Days of No Yelling

I'm a yeller. I started out my motherhood with the promise not to yell, but quickly broke that promise. To be clear, I'm not talking about verbal abuse here. I'm talking about raising my voice to make a point, reacting out of my anger or frustration. I came to the conclusion that yelling is a normal part of motherhood and a piece of who I am. Plus, when a Cuban girl and an Italian boy get married and have four kids in five years, it's a loud house, and yelling is essential to survival. 


That's what I told myself; that's what I believed, until a few months ago. 


You know how God slowly changes your heart without you really even noticing? Then all of a sudden a topic comes up one day and you notice you feel way differently about it than you did a year ago? God has done that to me multiple times with some pretty important issues, and that's what He did with yelling. 


I remember exactly where I was standing in our tiny two-bedroom condo that rainy day. We had just moved from sunny Southern California to beautiful, but very different Northwest Arkansas. We were living in this tiny place for six months to give us time to become familiar with the area and find a rental house. It was stressful, tense, and incredibly frustrating. I was adjusting to living with no familiar people around me, the kids missed their grandparents, and I was waiting for God to show me why He called us out here. I stood between the front door and the staircase and yelled at him. I yelled so loud and so hard that I felt it in my stomach. When I met his eyes, everything changed. 


My small, but strong-willed five year old looked back at me with a little bit of fear and a lot of desperation in his eyes. I could tell he wanted to say something, but knew he'd be met with more screaming from the tyrant who had taken over his mommy. Right there in that humbling moment of motherhood failure, God tapped on my heart and whispered, "this isn't what I want for you. Or them."


Over the next few days, God continued to draw my attention to my habit of yelling. I decided to do a thirty day challenge with myself and cut yelling out completely. When you have a blog and a following, you have automatic, heavy accountability, so I shared my challenge on social media, the blog, and started Periscoping my progress. (Note: I'm off Periscope now, but I do live stream in my Facebook group regularly. Request to join the party HERE)


I found myself quickly surrounded by other moms who struggled with yelling. Some were already working through books on the subject, some were in denial of how bad it was. I felt more determined than ever to complete the thirty days. If I could do this, maybe they would too. 


It's been one month since I completed the thirty day no yelling challenge. Here's what I learned from it. 


1. Yelling is my answer to almost every frustration in my life.

Once I made the decision not to yell, my eyes were opened to how often I turn to screams as a solution to problems during the day. It felt like I was sucking in a shout every five minutes at first. I was ashamed of how often I had to stop myself. For the first week, I messed up occasionally. Not because I just couldn't take it and had to yell at someone, but because yelling had become such a deep-seated habit for me, that it would just come out without a thought! 


2. Yelling doesn't accomplish anything good.

Since I was suddenly aware of how often I yelled, when I would start and then stop myself, I began to notice my kids' reactions. Sometimes it was fear, other times it was almost an annoyance. Their faces read "ohh great. Mom's freaking out again, how can I get through it this time..." The thing is, when I yell, I am trying to accomplish something. I want them to listen to me, respect me, and do what they need to do. Through this challenge I learned that none of that was being accomplished. In fact, just the opposite was. My kids respected me less, they shut down instead of listening to me, and if they did do whatever I was yelling about, it was done out of fear of me or out of just getting me to shut up. 


3. Yelling damages relationships.

This might seem obvious to you. When I type it it's obvious to me, yet I was yelling all the time so, apparently it's not obvious enough  and is worth saying. When I stopped yelling, my relationship with my kids got better incredibly quickly. I noticed my seven-year-old daughter asking to spend time with me, wanting to talk to me and tell me secrets. I noticed my boys wanting me to go outside with them and kick the soccer ball around. It was like they couldn't get enough of me. During the times when I would start to yell out of habit, it was almost like I could physically see my children pull away from me. Yelling severs closeness; I know that for a fact. 


4. Yelling makes my husband shut down.

I did this challenge with my kids in mind, but it impacted my marriage in a very deep way too. I found myself having to hold back the most around my husband. It hurts me to admit this, but I noticed how often I get irritated with him and push him away with my words. Far more often than I'd like to tell you, I found myself biting my tongue with words like "Just do something right!" or "Can you please just take care of one thing yourself?!" The weight of how painful these words are really hung from my heart over the first couple of weeks. Just like with the kids, I saw my husband's face change when I started to yell. It seemed as if he was a machine that was turned off, a robot who ran out of battery life. He just completely shuts down when I yell. I've always been thankful that Brian rarely even yells back at me when I get like that, but having noticed his face, I think this is worse. Over time, as I got better, I saw him moving closer to me in every way. He was happier, lighter, more loving toward me, and wanting to talk to me more. Alongside working on my yelling, I started being more physically affectionate with my husband throughout the day, because touch is his love language. Not yelling gave way to more improvements that didn't even seem hard to make because I was already conquering the hardest one for me. 


5. Yelling opens the door to anxiety in my home.

When I stopped yelling, I was suddenly very aware of all the effects yelling has on my family. I noticed my little girl twiddling her thumbs before she came up to me with a question. I noticed my husband feeling around for my mood before bringing up an idea. I felt like a monster. Even though I really just yelled out of what I felt was necessity and knee-jerk reactions to frustrating moments, it was enough to cause anxiety in the people I love dearly. That broke my heart. As time went on, their trust in my new-found calmness grew and the anxiety fled. I never want to go back to the way things were. I never want to be the cause of anything but love and peace in my home!

PIN THIS! Spread the love. 


6. When I yell, I am not a good steward.

My children were given to me by God to raise up to do great things for His kingdom! When I yell, I am not showing them His love, and I am not being a good steward of what He gave to me.


An overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

Titus 1:7-8


My husband is my partner in this life, and he's to be honored and respected by me as unto the Lord and as an example to my kids. Yelling at my family goes against the will of God for all of us. These are His children I'm treating this way. I know it hurts Him to watch, and I know that's why He lead me to change. 


7. Yelling makes me an unhappy person.

The biggest surprise I found in this challenge was how yelling affected me. I found that I felt lighter, happier, and just less cranky in general throughout the week. The times in the beginning when I would yell out of habit, I noticed it put me in a terrible mood and really darkened my day. I realized a lot of the time when I was in a bad mood was directly related to how I had treated my family that morning. 


I hope you take this honest post with a large scoop of grace for me, especially if yelling isn't something you struggle with. I hope you've poked around my blog before and know how much I adore my husband and my babies, and how much of my time is spent creating beautiful memories with them. I hope you don't judge my parenting solely on this incredibly honest piece of writing. It was meant to reach the mom who yells and thinks it's okay, and the mom who yells and doesn't think she can ever stop. I encourage you to take the challenge, and don't stop just because you slip up. Keep going, start new every time you need to, and watch things change. 

Why Mothers Need Minimalism

PIN THIS IMAGE.

When people think of minimalism, I think most of them picture one IKEA couch in the living room, cold white walls, no TV, no toys, and plants hanging by the kitchen sink. That's not the point at all. 

Three years ago, embracing minimalism changed my life and transformed my motherhood from angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed to happy, light, and free of stress. I fell in love with the way of less, and never looked back. My marriage improved drastically, my kids became less anxious around me because I wasn't a yelling basket case anymore, there was no longer clutter everywhere I looked, and I found myself doing things like sitting on the floor building train tracks with the boys, watching old James Bond movies with my husband, cooking more meals, and taking walks with my little girl. Suddenly, I was much less busy, and I was a better person in general. All because I got rid of the stuff I didn't need. 

I could go on and on about how minimalism has impacted my motherhood, but instead I'm gonna break it down into a few main points, because I truly believe in two things: Jesus and minimalism. I know it's the answer to the epidemic of overwhelmed, tired, frustrated mamas. 

WHY MOTHERS NEED MINIMALISM


Less cleaning.

Do I really need to go on here? LESS CLEANING! I have about two days a week where I do a couple loads of laundry, clean the bathrooms, run the vacuum and the Swiffer, and wipe down the walls and baseboards. That's it. I'm not pulling your leg, exaggerating, building up a false reality- this is my actual life. I have to do the dishes (much less than most people though), make the beds, and pick up shoes, coats, art supplies, and a few toys, but that's it day-to-day. 
 

I don't think cleaning up and being frustrated and overwhelmed is a very good way to spend these precious, short years of raising kids. Minimalism has created an escape from that for me. 


I don’t remember my mother ever playing with me. And she was a perfectly good mother. But she had to do the laundry and clean the house and do the grocery shopping.
— Patricia Heaton

I'm always ready to have someone over.

My house could be at it's very worst, and I would still feel okay having someone drop by. Why? Because there simply isn't enough stuff in our house to ever allow it to be that messy. It's so wonderfully liberating. 

I have more time.

We create the life we want, time is in our hands, and I decided to create more time for myself by eliminating the excess. I have so much more free time these days versus my pre-minimalism life. And I have two more kids since then and I work from home now, so really I should have much less time. Minimalism, you win again. 
 

from  my instagram feed

 

STOP SETTLING FOR OVERWHELMED. 

LET’S UPROOT WHAT’S WEIGHING YOU DOWN AND UNCOVER YOUR ABUNDANT MOTHERHOOD.

 

I enjoy my home more

I don't like to cook, but I like being in my kitchen. I love putting on some music or a podcast and creating a delicious, simple meal for my family. I don't like doing laundry, but I love sitting in my living room while my kids play Legos on the coffee table and I fold their clothes. Minimalism has allowed me to actually love my home and love spending time in it without having to spend hours or days getting it perfectly clean (then having it last all of three seconds). 

A better marriage. 

Maybe you don't see the connection between minimalism and marriage, and I never would have either, but it's there and it's really strong. Since becoming a minimalist, my brain is so uncluttered and clear, which made me a happier person, which has made me a more available wife. Brian can't believe how much more I laugh, how much kinder I am in general, how much more available I am to listen to him, be intimate with him, spend quality time with him. Our bond is stronger and our relationship has improved by leaps and bounds since we purged our stuff. 

Brian_Allie_Cheek_Kiss.jpg

I'm able to be a mom who plays. 

I've already harped enough on how my mind is clearer and I am a happier, freer person, but it fits in again here. Because of minimalism I'm free to be the mom who plays with her kids instead of saying "go play". I spend a lot of my time in the yard kicking the soccer ball around, dancing to Taylor Swift in the living room, and playing with tiny toy unicorns. I run a business from home and it doesn't put a dent in the quality of my motherhood because I spend no extra time managing stuff. 

I'm a happier person. 

I just have a lot of joy these days. I don't really know what else to say on this point, except, life is simple and sweet and good, even when we're going through something hard. Because it's intentionally focused on what matters most. 

WANT A LITTLE EXTRA MOTIVATION?

HERE ARE SOME EPISODES OF THE PURPOSE SHOW THAT ARE RELATED TO THIS TOPIC!

 
 

Why I Let My Kids Feel the Weight of the World

Written by Allie Casazza

Written by Allie Casazza

We were driving to the store listening to the music of his request, indie rock, as usual. Cage the Elephant played their modern rock ballad about cloudy days and fixing your eyes on the sun, and in the rear-view mirror I saw his face distort to the shape of a true rock star in his element as he bounced his head back and forth. I have always known his love of music was different, and I remembered him in my womb, kicking rhythmically to anything we played loud enough for him to hear.

He interrupted my memories by asking me to turn it down and asked, “Can you be a guitar player when you grow up?” When I answered yes I watched his eyes light up and gaze out the window.

“You can be whatever you want when you grow up, and you should do what makes you feel the most alive, but find a way to change the world with it, because that is your responsibility.”

We pulled into the parking lot as he unbuckled and climbed to the front seat to look at me.

“It’s my responsibility?”

“Yes, bud. The world is your responsibility, and it needs help. It needs someone to change it, and make it kinder and more like Jesus.”

He stared out the window behind me as it sunk it, or at least I was hoping it was.

from my personal  instagram

from my personal instagram

 

“Actually Mom, I would like to be a train track builder. Can I change the world with that?”

“You can change the world with anything you do. It’s about the person you are and the attitude you have. You can find a way to change the world with anything.”

“What about a motorcycle rider?”

“Yup. A motorcycle rider can change the world too.”

He thought some more as he watched people walk by and I got his brothers out of their car seats, then I took his hand and we walked in to buy diapers and new shoes. I knew I was holding the hand of a world-shaper. I was pushing a couple of them in the cart, too.

 

As I ran my errand I thought about a Jonathan Edwards quote I had read once.

“Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs.”

Eternity. What we do on this earth should last for eternity, otherwise, it’s pointless. I take that seriously; it’s why purpose is my favorite word. I want my kids to know that they have a purpose and what they do will last for eternity. They have a legacy to leave behind and I expect them to rise to that occasion.

from my personal  instagram

from my personal instagram

Some might say they’re just children, let them be little, or that I’m being too hard on them. I disagree. I am letting them be little, I’m pretty big on that, but letting them in on their purpose doesn’t make them grow up, it sets the stage for a small person to grow into a big person who knows exactly why they’re here. And that’s what I want for them- to know exactly why they’re here, that they matter, and that they play a crucial role in changing the world, in the Kingdom of God.

I want to put the weight of the world on their shoulders, because that’s where it is whether they know it or not. The future generation is the shape the world will take when we are no longer here. I'd be doing them as well as society a huge disservice to shield them from their responsibility. 

I don’t want my children to be selfish adults. I don’t want them thinking that life is about them or even that it’s about their happiness. I believe that’s a big misunderstanding in this world.

The responsibility of changing the world gives kids an automatic purpose, and young adults need purpose. When they have been infused with it from a young age, they are less likely to doubt it or be unsure of themselves. They will have been taught that life isn’t about them, it’s about using your passion and your talents to make the world kinder, better, brighter.

Life is about being Jesus to people. Jesus sat with the lepers when no one else wanted to go near them and caged them off. Jesus dined with the hated, the despised. Jesus held the faces of prostitutes and dined with the poor.

So instead of saying things like, “You can do anything you put your mind to! The sky’s the limit!” I want to pour purpose and intentionality into my children.

Your passion is music. How can you use that to change the world? What words can you pair with your music to shape the minds of those listening? How can you love on people with your music?

Your passion is riding motorcycles. Instead of only riding and seeking out sponsorships, fame, and money, how can you use those things to change the world? Maybe you can start a program for troubled boys- a camp where they can come and be boys and ride motorcycles and learn about the God who loves them wildly, just as they are. 

How can you use what you’re made to do to be like Jesus to the world? It is your responsibility to change the world. It’s on you, love. And you’ve got this. 

Find what sets you on fire inside, and go change the world with it. 

from my personal  instagram

from my personal instagram

How to Overcome Depression Naturally

Depression is something I have struggled with since I had my first-born in 2007. I used to be embarrassed about it and wonder if there was something wrong with me; now I know it's just a part of my structure, personality type, and how my brain responds to stressful or mundane times. That doesn't mean I have to be the victim, allowing it to take over stretches of my life. It used to, but I know now that I have the power and the control to fight it, and end it. 

Fighting off depression is so difficult, I think especially because it requires energy and that is something a depressed person has none of. The fact is that there are hard things in life, and with depression it comes down to this:

Are you going to let this press the pause button on your life?

Or are you going to fight back and take control?

Depression isn't a choice, but what you do about it is.

Over the last nine years, I have discovered some things that can combat depression without medicine [although I did go down the medicinal path when I had post-partum]. With consistency, I ward off the blues every time now. 

Do something different.

I have found that my habits play a big role in how I'm doing as a person. When I do the same thing day in and day out for too long, I find myself in a slump. I start to lose excitement for my days, I feel tired and sluggish, I lose interest, I get lazy. I've had a new habit totally change my life. Little things like taking a walk once a day, listening to a podcast while I fold the laundry, or waking up earlier have impacted my spirit. Sometimes you just have to make a change and find something that adds joy to your days. 

Get outside.

Creation holds power, and I don't mean that in a strange way, I mean God created it and it reflects Him; it has the power to influence us and make us feel things. When you step outside of your bubble and get outside, scientifically, you feel better. Did you know that almost everyone walking around is low on vitamin D? A lack of vitamin D plays a big part in depression, and guess where we get it- sunlight. For me, getting outside once a day is probably the biggest cure for depression. I just let the kids dress themselves and wander to the park across the street with some water or coffee and my headphones. I walk slowly back and forth while I listen to an inspiring podcast or some good music and let the kids burn some energy. Get outside and make a very simple difference. 

Change your diet.

There are things we eat on a meal-to-meal basis that we were not designed to eat. Food is medicine, and "you are what you eat" is truer than most people would like to admit. Gluten is linked to depression, and gluten is in everything. Try eating paleo, as it is a clean diet that has a tremendous impact on how you feel.

Stop sitting and start moving.

Do you know about the effects sitting has on our bodies?

God designed us to be extremely active and almost constantly hard-working, and here we are sitting 10+ hours a day! It's not good for us, and standing up is a great, simple way to start fighting back against depression. Consider a standing desk and standing mat, start walking in the mornings, take a Zumba class, get up and lunge every hour if you work in an office, if you're a stay-at-home mom, make a rule that you won't sit down until dinnertime. Make the choice to educate yourself and work against the downward pull you're experiencing in your life right now. Say no to excuses.

Go the homeopathic way.

There are some excellent sources for curing our ailments- physical, mental, and emotional- with what God put in the soil of our planet. I always tell people to research for themselves, because something might jump out at you that you feel will work best. However, things like St. John's Wart, essential oils, increasing the healthy fats in my diet, and drinking a gallon of water a day for a month have helped me so much in the past. 

Get more sleep at night.

I know that pull to take naps during the day when you're depressed, and I'm not talking about that. You need to go to bed earlier at night. I also know that sometimes depression comes with insomnia, but just take that first step of getting into bed early. Say no to Netflix, pull out a book, turn off the super bright lighting, and breathe. Don't stress about falling asleep or getting 8+ hours; just relax and fall asleep when you fall asleep, and get into this habit every night. I have found that eventually, especially when coupled with rising early, I start to actually fall asleep soon after I climb into bed. Sleep cures a multitude of issues, and depression is high on that list. 

Get really busy.

This isn't for you if you're one of those people whose calendars are full to the brim almost daily. Your schedule might be the reason you're feeling down [in fact, if you are too busy you might need to clear your schedule for a bit and take this advice in the opposite direction]. But, if you're like me- a stay-at-home mom with my own schedule, you might be struggling with depression because you've got too much time serving your family at home and not enough time getting out and doing things with other people. I know getting out of the house with little kids is exhausting, but it can help. Join a Bible study, moms group or book club, sign up for a gym class, get involved in your church, get yourself in some sort of school organization for parents or join a homeschool co-op, plan some play dates, get on MeetUp and make some new friends or take up a new hobby like hiking, sign up for a 5k and start training. Just get some things on your calendar and make a rule- no canceling. 

Talk to someone. 

Walking depression alone seems logical to avoid judgement, but it's the worst thing you can do. Telling someone keeps you from staying isolated, and sometimes talking it out even helps you see something that's causing your struggle that you hadn't realized before. Choose a trustworthy friend, or your husband, and tell them what's up. Ask them to check in on you once a day. 

Pick up your Bible.

I think when you're depressed it's easy to feel guilty for it, and when we feel guilty or shameful we tend to stray from the Lord. This isn't the time to skip your quiet time, in fact you need it now more than ever. God can handle your emotions, He can handle your heart, He can handle your struggles. He wants them! So go sit with some coffee and your Bible and just start reading. Download a She Reads Truth plan. 

if you feel like you need to, but don't let all those excuses get in the way of the one true Cure for our desperation. Remember Peter trying to walk on the water? Once he took his eyes off Jesus, he went under. 

Depression is not a small struggle, it's a serious and crippling sickness, and my heart goes out to you if you're reading this and relating.

I am always available to talk and pray, and if nothing else, take comfort in knowing that someone else gets it, and has been there but overcome. 

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, "Do not fear I will help you". 

Isaiah 41:13

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5 Reasons Men Are Better Parents

Dads are awesome. Not every dad, but generally men bring a different vibe to a kid's childhood that I sometimes really envy. There are aspects of my husband's parenting that I just can't mimic; it's his, he's the dad, and he rocks. 

I stay home with our four young kids and Brian works the 8-5. Our separate lives make for some interesting discussions at the end of the day- we always have such different stories to tell as he's all

out there

 and I'm all at home in sweat pants wiping butts. Our traditional set up also brings a certain dynamic to our parenthood, and every once in awhile I'm floored by what an awesome dad Brian is. I see these things in other dads a lot of the time too, and hey, if we can sing the praises of our men, we should!

I know that my husband is a certain personality type, he has a certain love language, he's his own person, plus he's a total gem, so I can't generalize too much, but just roll with my points. My purpose in this post is to inspire you to see the positives about your hubby and switch into gratitude mode for the different dynamic he brings into your family. A thankful heart is everything. 

5 Reasons Men Are Better Parents

1) They know how to get down and have fun with the kids.

More often than not, Brian's after-dinner time is spent on the ground with four tiny humans crawling all over him, accidentally kicking him in the junk. He just takes the hit, breathes deep and keeps on playing. He'll get a big blanket over him and crawl around growling. The kids call this "the rock monster game", and they never laugh harder than when they're playing this with their dad. He's the one who does all the funny talk about poop and butt cracks and silly things that little kids find absolutely hilarious. Brian knows how to make them laugh and his to do list rarely gets in the way of sitting on the floor and engaging in his kids' happiness. 

2) They have aerial vision and logic in a crisis.

A few weeks ago I had a meltdown. It seemed there was always a big mess to clean up somewhere in the house and nothing was flowing. I felt like I had no help at all, and I couldn't keep up with anything,

plus

 I had just added in working several hours a day on growing my blog into a second income, and had no balance. My meltdown occurred near the end of the day right when Brian walked through the door. He stood in the living room just listening to my rant, and after it was done, he was quiet. A few minutes later he called the kids downstairs and gave them a talk about chores. 

After about ten minutes he had them cleaning the whole upstairs

and

 he'd set up a daily list for them to accomplish before they even come down for breakfast in the mornings. They have actually done what he said most mornings since that day. Why? Because when Brian speaks to the kids about something, it's serious and he means business; they know that. Also because I am always talking to them and I admit, lecturing them, so when Dad says something it sounds new, and tends to stick. 

Brian comes into a crisis like a helicopter, with a bird's eye view, scans the situation with his logic and can come up with a practical and effective solution, all while remaining totally calm while I'm a tired basket case. I need that, because sometimes I'm so caught up in the chaos that I can't see the obvious solution. 

3) They don't "lose it" like we do.

This one sort of goes with number two, and it's probably specific to men like my husband rather than all men, but so worth mentioning. I am temperamental and that is my biggest issue- anger. I can take so much and then I fly off the handle and just lose it. Brian really doesn't do this. He is calm, collected, and reasonable basically all the time. He's my Mr. Steady and I am

so thankful

my kids have him as the other parent for some balance to my crazy. 

4) They let the kids use them as jungle gyms, and aren't sick of being touched at the end of the day.

I don't know why but kids always want to get physical energy out between the hours of 5 & 7 PM, even if we spent the whole day at the park. The problem is by this time of day, I am done. I have been pulled on, tapped a thousand times, my ears are talked off, my patience is worn thin, and everybody better back off. Brian walks in the door and is usually still fresh, at least when it comes to the kids. He hasn't been dealing with them all day, and he missed them, so he's ready to wrestle and play and let them be loud. This is my favorite hubby feature because it allows me to pour a glass of wine and cook in peace, usually with headphones in.

Heaven. 

5) They show their kids that they love their mom.

Again, I know not all husbands are like mine, but this is a big one. Brian loves physical touch and he's very affectionate; I am naturally the opposite in both ways. At the end of the day, the last thing I'm thinking about is showing our kids how much we love each other [something that kids desperately need to see], but Brian takes care of that for me. He is always running his fingers through my hair, looking into my eyes, rubbing my back, reaching for my hand, kissing me, or gesturing for me to snuggle into him on the couch. The kids see that, and I love it. They are seeing what a good man looks like. 

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How to Find Joy in Your Last Baby When You Weren't Ready to Call it Quits

"Peace is joy at rest. Joy is peace on its feet."

Anne Lamott

My last baby turned one year old on Halloween. I thought I would feel a heavy sadness, and I thought it would be a very tearful day. I made a big breakfast, cooked

everyone's favorite cold weather meal

, and comforted my boy crying in confusion as we sang the birthday song, then Brian and I got all the kids into their costumes and we drove to a farm that was stocked up on pumpkins.

I watched my baby laugh in his daddy's arms as he looked at a bunch of playful baby goats. I kept waiting for the pain to rise up, but it just wasn't there. We went trick or treating; I nursed my baby and tucked him into my coat while I walked. All I felt was gratitude, and I think maybe there was even some joy in there.

Why am I not a wreck? Aren't I supposed to be a wreck?

That night, after I nursed him to sleep and tucked him in for bed, I planted a soft kiss on his little head and thanked God for the joy Emmett had brought to our last three-hundred and sixty-five days.

I sat on the couch with Brian and we reminisced. We started talking about how heartbroken I was after Hudson was born, and the doctor told me I could not have anymore babies. There were so many nights spent choking on sobs and feeling like my world was crushed. Obviously, God moved in a big way and healed me, then gave us one last baby, Emmett Finn.

I got to thinking...

why was I so heartbroken that time I thought I'd have no more, but not this time when I

know

 I won't?

During my final pregnancy, God had given us peace about having my tubes tied. There were issues in me that proved risky and unhealthy. It was time to let my body heal and rest for good- no more 'self-made' babies for our family.

God's peace is such an incredible thing, because the lack of it and the gain of it can give you two opposite reactions to the same news. 

It wasn't

just

 the peace of God that led to a joy-filled year with my last baby. Being human, I've had times when I knew which way the Lord's peace was leading me and I ignored it. You can, of course,

choose

 to be angry, sad, upset, and even bitter, no matter how much peace you have over a situation.

Knowing what God wants for you doesn't automatically make you happy about it. 

I wanted more kids. Brian and I both agreed we wanted a large family with five or six children, and then we talked about adopting even more! Clearly, having our fourth baby be our last wasn't the plan. I heard a lot of comments like, "you should be thankful. I know so and so and she can't have kids at all." Yes, I am extremely thankful, but I do not think ungratefulness is the root of heartache when a deep desire goes unfulfilled. Being told "you can't, you're done" against your will makes you feel inferior and powerless and deeply sad, no matter how many children you already have.

But you know what I realized? I had a choice to make. I could follow the peace and

choose joy

.

Or I could allow my

could have been

to steal the joy from my reality. 

After Hudson was born, I had no peace, and I knew my God didn't want this for me; that He was bigger than the words of that doctor. After Emmett was born,

total peace,

and then my choice to choose joy. It's the combination of both that gives you the ability to move forward and enjoy this life when it doesn't go as planned.

If you want joy in a situation, choose it. There's no secret formula or heart trick; it's a choice as clear as day.

Note: please understand that although I do not personally know the pain of infertility, I do know the pain of loss, and I can only imagine the heartache those who cannot have any babies endure. It breaks me to even think of it. This post is not at all meant for those of you who have longed for a child and have been robbed of that blessing, so please don't take it on yourselves. This is just my heart after a journey that God placed in my life and I had it on me to share. I believe God has a plan for every soul on this earth and in heaven- born and unborn- and I know His sovereign power will be made clear to you one day, sweet friend. My prayers go with you today. 

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Fitting In Quiet Time + Favorite Devotionals

I love my quiet time. In every form it comes in- alone time, time with Jesus, writing time, nighttime drives, headphones in while I workout- I just love being alone and tuning out the world for a bit. As an introvert, I really need that time, and I need it often.

I have so much on my plate, and so much to do with four kids. If I keep on hacking at my to do list, getting all the snacks, changing all the diapers, cleaning all the spills, folding all the clothes, I will exhaust myself. Exhaustion is not always physical; it can be more dangerous than that. I have had an exhausted spirit and it is awful, draining, and depressing. When I am empty, I have nothing to give my family.

Sally Clarkson said it perfectly when she compared it to breastfeeding a baby. The milk develops from what the mother is eating, so if she's not eating anything, her body will not produce milk, and the baby will starve. The same goes for our spirits as mothers. If we don't put any quality time in for ourselves, our well will dry up, and we won't have anything to give our family.

I have been getting lots of questions recently about what I do for quiet time and what devotionals I like for Jesus time. Sharing all of that with you today because this is one of my favorite topics to talk about!

Devotionals & Morning Quiet Time

Every morning I get the kids breakfast, pour myself a cup of coffee, and sit myself on the couch for at least ten minutes. I do my best to avoid interruptions for just those ten precious minutes. I ask Bella to help the baby if he needs anything in his highchair, I put quiet worship music on and headphones in, and I make it happen- sweet time with Jesus.

I take a breath and give the day to the Lord, asking Him to use me and energize me and help me. I read the short daily excerpt from my all-time favorite devotional

Springs in the Desert by L.B. Cowman. Then I read the daily word from

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. These two little books pack a punch and get my heart prepared for the day without making me feel like I have to set aside a ton of time in this chaotic season of my life.

I also love that each book offers Scripture for the day. Honestly, as much as I would love to dig deep into the Word every morning, my life at this point just doesn't allow that. Soaking in a few verses is just what I need to start my days. I can read those passages and meditate on one of them as I get going, letting God's Word reach my heart. Even if it's only one verse, it's enough and He honors my time spent seeking His face.

Podcasts & Midday Breaks

One of my favorite things in life right now is so simple- taking a midday break. Normally the baby is napping and the older kids are busy with something (coloring, homeschool busy work, a movie, playing with toys, doing a chore), and I will get out my trusty headphones and turn on a podcast. I can't even express the joy this simple practice has brought to my stay-at-home motherhood. I only wish I had thought of doing this for myself sooner! I get a dose of inspiration right in the middle of the day and it refocuses me and reignites my purpose every time. It is absolutely my biggest piece of advice for other moms!

My favorite podcasts right now are:

Life-Giving Words with Sally Clarkson

God Centered Mom Podcast

The Influence Podcast

InspiredToAction Podcast

All you have to do to find these gems is search for them in iTunes! If you don't have an iPhone, I have no idea how you'd find them, but I would just Google them!

Another little tip...

Some days the kids have too much energy and I can't even get into the kitchen to wash dishes and listen to a podcast. Those are the days I need a midday break more than ever! If the weather allows, I take the kids to the park even if it means naps aren't on schedule, and let them run around. I pull out my headphones and listen to something refreshing while I push Emmett on the swings or follow him around the play equipment.

Whatever it takes, I really try to make a midday break happen at least a few times a week. I cannot say that I have ever had a bad day when I made time for that.

Prayer & Listening for God

I am sure when my kids are little older and my life isn't so completely chaotic, I will have time set aside for silence and prayer, but right now I don't. I know that's not what you usually hear from articles about being a Christian mom, but I'm just being honest. Right now I pray in the shower, when I'm driving, in the middle of the night, when I'm washing dishes, when I'm walking back and forth through the house putting laundry away, when I'm locked in the closet and I just need Jesus now.

In this season of motherhood, I pray as I go throughout my day, but I do not have a set block of time for it. I have tried forcing that and it only led to a lot of frustration, so instead I asked God to meet me where I'm at and help me walk with Him in this time of my life, and this is where I'm at now.

When I do need quiet and I need to hear the voice of the Lord on a particular issue, I wait until I can get silence, and usually I take a long shower and just sit in His presence until I get some clarity. Maybe that seems awkward to you, I know it's nothing fancy, but it's what I do and it has simplified my life and brought me a great deal of peace, and it works for me.

That about sums up this part of how I do this mom life thing. As always, if I skipped something or you have a question, just leave a comment. I will always see it and I love responding to you :)

One last thing for the mama who never takes time for herself...

Friend, God wants abundant life for you. He made you to desperately need time with Him and time for yourself. Your well is empty and you are unable to give your family what they need. That's not your fault, it's the way we work as mothers. You can let go of the guilt that comes with doing something for yourself, even if there's someone in your life making you feel guilty, let it go. It is your job to raise your babies and love on your husband, and it is simply impossible to do your best when you're running on empty. Press pause, take a breath, and do something small for your tired spirit. I'm saying a prayer over you right now.

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Life Hacks for Moms

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Pin this, girl! Share the love.

Like I've said more than a few times before, motherhood is pretty much total chaos. We are all struggling to find balance, choose joy, and raise our babies to be the best human beings possible. I don't like it when mothers put themselves against one another; I think we are all in this thing together, and since it's a pretty tough gig most days, I think we should encourage and lift one another up.

One way I like to do this, being a busy mom of four kids age six and under, is by sharing what helps make my gig a little less chaotic. Nothing makes me click away from a blog post faster than a snooty blogger chucking smug parenting advice at me, and while I've only been a mom for 6.5 years, I get asked "how do you do it??" a lot. Maybe my tips won't work for you, maybe you've got your own good thing goin', that's cool. But on the off-chance that something I've figured out on my own personal journey sparks something in you, I'd like to share what helps me out. 

Running Errands

I'd say this is probably the area that has been the biggest frustration for me in daily mom life. One kid is whining while another is pooping and another is crying for a snack and yet another is lost somewhere in the store. Serenity now! I have finally figured out a few things that work.

  • Bring lollipops. Seriously, I don't care how health-conscious you are, how bad they are for their teeth, when you have to get everything on your Target or Costco list and you've got a herd of cave-people to bring with you, lollipops are Godsends. 
  • Be a crazy person about who stands where. Bella always walks right by my side, Leland holds onto the left side of the cart and walks, Hudson sits in the seat part, and Emmett is in the Ergo on me. And nobody moves from their assigned locations. It just has to be that way or I won't be able to get a thing done; all I'll be doing is telling the kids what to do and what not to touch. There's already enough of that even with their location assignments, it would be total chaos if I didn't have them set up like that. They know if they move from where they're supposed to be, they lose their sucker and have to spend ten minutes in their room when we get home. Don't mess with the shopping cart locations, people. 
  • Go fast, mama. I organize my shopping lists beforehand whenever I can, that way I've got my list in order of the store's layout, and can move like a breeze down the aisle, grabbing what I need and reaching checkout before the lollipops are gone. It doesn't always work out this way, but when I plan ahead and am organized, it usually does. 
  • Go first thing in the morning. This is the time of day that my kids are their best selves. I may be my worst, as I am not a morning person by any means, but the kids are at their best, so I grab an extra large cup of coffee and we head out as early as I can get everyone dressed, fed, and out of the house. 
  • Save technology for the checkout line. My kids always start to get antsy at the end of the shopping trip, and I've found that when I hold off on letting them watch YouTube on my phone until we're checking out, it's a lot easier. Unloading a cart full of crap while wearing a baby isn't easy, but knowing the other three kids are happily crowded together at the front of the cart watching funny cat videos allows me to do what I need to do quickly, without interruption. 
  • Park near the cart corral. I have to. Leland hyper-focuses and will walk into an oncoming van, Hudson wanders...I need to be able to just get everyone straight out of their car seats and into the cart. 

Housework

I'm sure you've heard the saying "Cleaning with a toddler in the house is like straightening papers on a desk with the fan on". It's true. But kids aren't toddlers for very long, and even while they are, we've got stuff to do and a house that needs keeping. I go into a lot more detail in my book, Mama Needs A Reboot, but here are some of the bullet points that help me. 

  • Clear dishes, wipe the table, and sweep underneath it after every meal. No exceptions, just do it. 
  • Teach your kids to pick up after everything they do. After a little while it'll be a habit for them and less work for you. Win-win.
  • Start the day on a productive note and it'll keep you going that way. Right when you wake up, make your bed, then start a load of laundry, then have your coffee. I promise you'll feel like you've got it all together and it really only takes up a few extra minutes.
  • It takes twenty-seven days to form a habit, so form a good one. Choose one thing that you wish you had a habit of doing every day. Maybe it's making your bed in the morning or running the dishwasher every night. Whatever you choose, make it something that would make your life a little bit easier, write yourself a reminder or set one in your phone- make sure it will get your attention at one point every single day- do it for a month and it will become a habit. 
  • Keep the kitchen sink clean and the house will feel clean. This is a trick I learned from Fly Lady that's so simple but really works. When I keep the sink free of dishes and food, I normally end up treating the rest of the house the same way and having less to clean up at the end of the day. Clean as you go, keep your sink clear, and you will feel great about your house and be ready for company at the drop of a hat. 

Feeling Good About What You Do

If you feel defeated all the time, you're going to lose your drive to do what you need to do, and if you're like me, you might even start to struggle with depression. When I feel good about what I do every day, when I am reminded of my purpose and feeling accomplished more days than not, I do this motherhood thing really well. How I feel affects everything. Here's what works for me:

  • Make a list of only 5-7 things that need to get done each day. This keeps you from setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and keeps you focused on what really needs to get done rather than what would be nice to have done. Your goal should be to tackle important tasks and feel accomplished at the end of the day, not to make a giant to do list and feel defeated when bed time rolls around. Having a longer list doesn't mean you'll get more done, it just means that's how much more you'll feel you failed, even if you actually got stuff done that day. 
  • Hit restart any time of the day you need to. Sometimes a totally crap day comes around, and no matter what you do or how prepared you were the night before, things don't go as planned and you feel like you got dragged nine blocks by a semi by 9AM. When this happens to me, it is so helpful to pause, mentally hit the reset button, and give myself a fresh start to the day. Maybe it's your big cleaning day and you needed to tackle your chore list, but your baby woke up with a fever. Maybe you were gonna work on a project after the kids went to bed but your husband came home after a horrible day and needs you. Reevaluate, move your priorities around, and hit restart. I've done this in the morning, the afternoon, even at night. Sometimes you just need to start over, so go ahead!
  • Get the kids dressed from head to toe. Most days I get myself at least somewhat put together, because I feel good when I'm dressed, but there are plenty of days when I'm gonna be cleaning and I don't even bother. Either way, it really helps me feel "on it" if I've got my kids dressed. Usually after breakfast (which is always at 8:00 in our house), I'll have the older kids dress themselves and I'll get the younger two changed out of their jammies. Then I have them brush their teeth and I do all their hair. When they're put together, I feel put together. It's a simple thing that helps me a ton. 
  • Smile at the starers. I used to think I was a little paranoid, but now I know people actually are very rude sometimes. They stare, mouths gaping at how many kids I have, they ask my age (whaaaa??), they make rude comments on my lifestyle choices, they're obsessed with what's going with me while I walk through Target, and I really don't get it, but it's rude regardless. I've learned that smiling back at them puts an ends to it usually and lets them know that I don't care and I'm good and I've got this. Even if Bella is asking a thousand questions and I'm about to lose my stuff. Just smile....
  • Let the little things go. This is my weakness, but I try to keep the big picture at the front of my mind. In the end, will it really matter that Hudson brought his juice into the living room and spilled it on the rug? When all is said and done, will it really matter than someone had a stomach flu explosion all over my new leather couch? Everything is fixable and none of that stuff really matters. So I try to let it go, Elsa style. 
  • Schedule yourself some breathers. If I know I am going to get the young ones down for naps at the same time, and I have Netflix ready-for-hire at the same time and can get lost in a novel for an hour in the middle of my day, I feel so much better! If I know Brian is bringing home a bottle of wine and we're gonna binge on Seinfeld reruns, I can handle whatever chaos the day brings me. If I know at the end of the week I've got a sitter coming over so I can go thrifting with a cup of coffee for two hours, then I am really on top of things that week. Taking care of me is important. I always say you can't give to your family out of your well if it's empty. 

When You Have Somewhere to Be in the Morning

Why are most events for moms so early in the morning?? 9AM, really?! It is so. hard. to get myself and four children fed and dressed and presentable and out the door by 8:45, but sometimes that's what I have to do to be somewhere I need to be. I never used to be late, like ever. But since Emmett came along, I have been about 10-20 minutes late to pretty much everything, and I've had to be okay with it and just do my best. There are a few things that help me get out of the house without screaming bloody murder or cancelling the event altogether though, so... that's good.

  • Pack everything the night before. This doesn't always happen, because I honestly really don't need another thing to do at the end of an incredibly long day. When I do pack for the next morning the night before, I never regret it. I get diapers and wipes in the diaper bag, PBJ's made if we'll be out during lunchtime, sippy cups filled, apples sliced, shoes by the door, and supplies like the park blanket, lawn chairs, etc in the car. This can shave like thirty minutes off a chaotic morning!
  • I lay out everyone's outfit, including mine, the night before. Similar to the point above, but another morning-saver. There have been so many mornings where I'm rushing around, looking for something to wear that ends up being dirty, or I'm unable to find somebody's other shoe. I save my time and my sanity and spare my kids from seeing Mean Mommy when I have everything prepared the night before. 

If you made it to the end of this post, I applaud you. You're either very desperate for help or you just really love me. Either way I hope I helped! If you have a question, leave it in the comments. I'll always get back to you :)

For the Mom Who Googled "I Don't Want to Be A Mom Anymore"

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This morning I was checking my blog stats, which allows me to see how new readers are finding me, and what Google searches are leading people to my website. Normally it's about the same...

Husband works too much

Makeup for broken out skin

How to pray for relationship with daughter

But today was different. Among the top searches that led people here were heart-wrenching phrases that made me put my coffee down and choke back tears.

I don't want to be a mom anymore...

Overwhelmed mom depressed...

Motherhood is too hard...

I was thinking about those words later as I washed dishes and tried to listen to the acoustic station I had playing as my boys bickered back and forth from their bedroom.

My gosh. Can I just get five minutes of peace while I clean up?

I realized the reason those words had hit me so hard wasn't just because they were sad.; it was because I have been the mom that felt like that. 

There have been dark days when depression overthrew me, and maybe I would have reached for my iPhone and typed in desperate words, hoping for a magic answer. I've been the mom in the bathroom with the door locked, tears running down my face because I just didn't know what to do about my strong-willed child. I've been the mom screaming at a defiant toddler instead of reaching for her heart and asking what's wrong. I've been the bitter wife, I've been the ungodly mother, I've been the housewife so overwhelmed that I just end up doing nothing.

Sweet overwhelmed mama, whoever you are, Jesus came so that you would have life, and have it abundantly.

Do you really believe that being so overwhelmed and isolated that you reach out to Google is abundant life?

It's not. There is so much more than you can even imagine waiting for you in the palm of His hand. And it's all for you. You just have to turn around, look at Him, and take it.

You're right that you can't do this. You're right that this is all too much for you. You're right that some days are depressing.

But you can do all things through the One who gives you strength.

That is about as cliche as it gets, but when you pause and really think about that beautiful truth and apply it to your motherhood, you can feel the giant weight that's been crushing your shoulders start to lift, it gets lighter and lighter as you say "yes" to His help. He did not create you to be able to do all this on your own. In fact, He knows that you can't and never had any expectation for you to be able to.

You did that to yourself.

He wants you to let go of that and let Him guide you. Let Him give you peace that diffuses your anger, love that overcomes your frustration with your children, joy that breaks the chains of depression.

Take a deep breath, quiet your spirit even if all around there is noise, feel yourself letting go of all this and reaching to touch the face of your Savior. Get up and walk in the Light now, because a daughter of the King deserves better than to be taken down by the lies of the enemy.

"The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

John 10:10


"When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him."

Isaiah 59:19


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HERE ARE SOME EPISODES OF THE PURPOSE SHOW THAT ARE RELATED TO THIS TOPIC!

 
 

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How to Stop Checking Your Phone All the Time

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Time is what we want most, but we use worst.
— William Penn

 

We live in a day that a post with this title is completely necessary, and although that is sad to me, I've been a part of the problem myself.

I've been on both ends- sitting with a friend who is checking her phone while I'm awkwardly waiting for her to put it down and engage in conversation with me, and being the one who realizes it's been a minute since I checked my phone and trying to fight the urge while being in the middle of real life.

Either way, the addiction to technology in today's society makes me kind of wish I was born in a different era. I recently realized I was completely addicted to my iPhone. I kept not noticing my kids talking to me, standing in one spot of the house scrolling through social media apps, and anxiously awaiting the next time I could grab my phone and check how many Instagram alerts I had. 

Sad reality.

Something needed to change.

This is my one and only life! This is my only shot at raising these kids God entrusted to me. Every day matters and has the potential to become a memory permanently imprinted on the minds of my littles. Do I really want those memories to include me staring down at my phone?

No way. 

I knew I was going to have to face the facts and be hard on myself, to bring purpose to this area of my life, so I set some ground rules.

When you're struggling with something, when something has become an idol in your life, you are commanded by God to put it in its place. This isn't some silly issue that is okay because everyone struggles with it. You are called to be holy, set apart, and so am I.

And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God...
— Exodus 20:1-3

Here are some rules to help break the cycle of checking your phone all the time that have helped me forget about it and get on with real life.

Assign your phone to one location.

I think one of the main reasons our smart phones are so addicting is because they take what used to be stationary (the internet on a computer) and make it mobile, accessible anywhere and everywhere, with the touch of a button. That's tempting for sure! But just because technology offers us so much doesn't mean we have to take it. I chose the little chest of drawers in my entryway, because it's out of the main rooms I spend my days in (kitchen and living room) but near enough that I can hear it if Brian is calling. I do allow myself to bring my phone with me to my bedroom when I nurse the baby to sleep, which means I've got about twenty minutes to browse Instagram and respond to text messages several times a day. That's when I'm on my phone, otherwise, it's pretty much just sitting in the entryway.

Delete the Facebook app from your smart phone.

Almost any time I checked my text messages or used my phone to call someone, I'd see the little blue Facebook icon I would always click on it without even thinking! Why do we really need the Facebook app on our phones? Do we really need to be able to see what our high school girlfriend is doing for lunch at a moment's notice? No. Facebook is one thing that can be browsed during downtime on the computer, or on your phone's browser. No need for an app to give us constant easy access.

Turn off all notifications.

I have turned off all the notifications on my phone except for calls and texts. Having the screen light up with app notifications is only distracting and harmful to the purpose of my days. Plus, when I do take a minute to check my phone, all I see are missed texts and calls, and I can get back to people who matter most without the distraction of a distant relative's comment on my photo. If someone isn't important enough in your life to have your phone number, they shouldn't be able to get a hold of you any time via social media alerts on your phone. Wasted time.

Choose carefully who you spend time responding to.

I feel like one of the biggest problems with texting, as helpful as it can be, is that everyone feels like they can get a hold of you at any time, and they expect you to respond, quickly! I have four kids, so it seems to me people would get it when I don't respond for several hours, but I have received a few texts saying things like "hello?! Are you ignoring me? Are you getting my texts??"

Seriously? Who are you to feel entitled to my time? I'm supposed to drop everything and answer your text message at a speed that seems reasonable to you? I am in the middle of raising world-shapers and managing a home!

It can wait, and it will wait.

I don't want this to sound unkind, but I feel we should be very choosy with who we respond to with texting. Think about it... if someone that isn't in your immediate relationship circle (your family, your husband, your closest friend) is sending you text messages, and you respond right away, you just gave them your time. You took time away from your family, your kids, your job, whatever it is you do all day, and you gave it to them. You also set a precedent, letting them know they can text you anytime and get a response. This same principle goes for the topic you're texting about. Choose wisely how you spend your time!

Ordinary people think merely of spending time. Great people think of using it.
— Author Unknown

Maybe this sounds ridiculous to you, and if so I'd say that's a good thing because maybe you don't have a smart phone addiction! Maybe you don't have a smart phone but you're on the computer all the time? Most of us have been addicted to technology in one way or another, and do have a problem and need crazy rules to put the phones down, keep them down, and live life. Set some rules and be strict with yourself. Don't let something as meaningless as Facebook rob you of precious time.

Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing.
— Thomas Jefferson

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I HAVE CREATED A FREE + EASY GUIDE FOR YOU THAT LAYS OUT DIFFERENT PHONE SETTINGS THAT I USE TO HELP ME STAY PRESENT IN MY LIFE + WITH MY FAMILY. I ENCOURAGE YOU TO DOWNLOAD IT AND CHANGE YOUR SETTINGS. IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE SO MUCH!

For the Mom Who Feels Like A Failure, On Mother's Day

I've felt how you do before, friend. You're tired, burnt out, defeated, unsure how you're going to get out of this rut.

. Maybe you find yourself yelling way more than you'd like to admit. Maybe you just aren't really joyful in your role as Mom right now. Maybe you're surviving rather than thriving, and you can't see a light at the end of this lonely tunnel.

I know.

We go through seasons, and I will surely find myself in a darker place again one day, but right now I'm writing this for you from the other side, from the light you hope is there but can't see. I have come through the pit of depression and been through the drudge of the mundane.

There was a time when it seemed like every step I took was wrong, every time I chose joy and tried to be the good mom, the happy mom, I would make mistake after mistake after mistake. I just wanted the days to pass by so that I could sleep, so that I could see my husband and hear the quiet of nighttime. Mother's Day came, and I didn't feel very worthy of being celebrated. It didn't seem right to spend a whole day celebrating what I was doing.

I didn't feel any purpose in my motherhood.

To be honest, most days I felt like all I was doing right was making my kids some food and making sure they stayed alive.

Bare. Minimum. 

Let me tell you something, friend...

The reason you feel so tired and defeated is because of what you are giving of yourself for your family- and that deserves honoring.

You are serving your family.

You are loving your kids unconditionally as only a mom can do.

You are the heart of your home.

And whether you feel like you're at your best or not doesn't matter. You're here, you're trying.

You need to believe that there is grace for you, that God can bridge the gaps caused by your humanity. You need to believe that you deserve to be fussed over, to be served breakfast, to be given sweet handmade trinkets and cards, to be taken to lunch and hugged and kissed. You deserve celebration just as much as the mom who is in her best season of motherhood. You deserve to have a day dedicated to what you do... don't rob yourself of that. Let this Mother's Day bring you joy, be a deep breath for you, and remind you why you do what you do. Your weariness makes perfect sense, and this day is well-deserved. Let go of the shame in your life and embrace the love waiting for you today.

Happy Mother's Day, sweet mama. Today is for you.

Minimalism + Motherhood: A Day in the Life of No TV and Less Toys

Photo from my Instagram.

With no TV on most days, and very little toys in the house, my kids have had to get creative, which is exactly what Brian and I want them to do. We feel strongly about not catering to or entertaining our kids on a daily basis, and want them to have loads of free time for imaginative and creative play. Bringing a minimalist sort of lifestyle into our home has proven to have so many benefits. Our kids' bond is stronger and closer, I have less of a burden to keep them busy throughout our days at home, I have seen their imaginations blossom, and a spirit of gratitude is being cultivated.

TV used to be sort of a crutch for me as a mom, and it was just a background noise that was on pretty much all the time. My kids weren't even watching it, I found myself constantly irritable and frustrated because the house was never peaceful. Once I decided to shut it off, it was an adjustment for all of us, but things got better.

We got better as a family. I started playing quiet music in the house while we went about our days and the atmosphere was just so much more peaceful and productive. I was a much calmer, happier mom, too.

Now that you have a short summary of why we are raising our kids this way, I think an hourly outline of our typical day will answer most questions. Keep in mind that this is how our typical days at home are spent. I normally run errands one day a week, occasionally I'll spend one day out of the house, and we have Sundays and Mondays as our weekends with Brian home. We are not currently homeschooling Bella- she goes to school on the "PM schedule" for kindergarten, which is 10:00-1:45 every day of the week.

5:30-6:30AM Emmett's morning feeding. I'm still half-asleep.

6:45-7:00 I get out of bed, make my coffee, Brian's Bulletproof coffee, and spend a little time reading a devotional. The kids are usually awake, but they know not to come out of their rooms until 8:00, so they're usually playing quietly in the boys' room. Brian is normally getting dressed for his day while I put his lunch together and drink my coffee. Three times a week I go for a 25 minute run.

8:00 Kids come out of their rooms and I serve them breakfast. Brian is leaving for work by now if he didn't leave earlier. I make my breakfast smoothie, and clean up the kitchen.

8:30 Kids get dressed. If they're dressed and put together, I feel on top of my day, even if I look horrid.

9:00 Send kids outside to play. I start the laundry, get dressed (most days this is just a little powder and deodorant), and feed Emmett his breakfast solids.

10:00 Bella goes to school.

10:30 Kids get a small snack, then play (train tracks, wooden blocks, Legos, or puzzle) while I nurse the baby down for his morning nap and do some housework. We always have music playing and the windows open :)

12:00 Lunch time. We eat together, then everybody helps clean up and we do something together (walk to the park, or we'll eat our lunch outside picnic-style and linger for an hour or so while the kids climb the tree or run around). I might finish some chores, and I feed the baby.

1:45 Pick up Bella.

2:00 Nap time/quiet time. This involves everybody, no matter how old. I cannot be a happy mom for my kids without a little break in the middle of my long days! Bella will color or play quietly in her room, every once in awhile I let her watch a movie and rest on the couch, both boys take an actual nap, and I'll nurse the baby down, then either nap with him or catch up on housework if needed. Sometimes I just veg out with a book or an episode of Grey's or New Girl. This is my time, an oasis for me in the middle of the mundane. I do whatever will make me feel refreshed or caught up.

4:00-4:30 Kids wake up and have a small snack. Then they get a choice: play outside or have some constructive/creative play time. They'll go out back on the swing set, or make up a scenario to play in the living room (usually they're animals in the jungle or something silly like that), or they all do arts/crafts together, or they build a fort and bring a bunch of books into it...whatever they decide, they almost always choose to play together, and they always keep themselves very entertained. I am normally nursing the baby or folding laundry.

5:00 I start dinner.

5:30 Dinner time. Everyone helps set the table, Bella normally helps me prepare the meal, and everyone cleans up the kitchen/table afterward. I try to eat with the kids whenever possible, but most of the time I'm sitting with them and feeding Emmett his solids.

6:30 Baths, get ready for bed, nightly pick up. The kids pick up whatever is out of place- toys, blankets, books, trash, sippy cups- and they pick up their rooms.

7:30 Bedtime. Bella is usually allowed 30 minutes of quiet time with her light on before she's required to actually go to sleep. Sometimes I'll talk with her for a little bit or read to her extra.

8:00 I wrap up any of my chores that were left undone (usually just putting laundry away) and this is when I do my blogging. Sometimes I'm just brain dead and will veg out until Brian gets home, which is normally around 9:30.

We are normally asleep by 10:30-11.

I hope this helps and inspires you and isn't a totally useless post, ha! One thing I keep hearing is that other moms don't think their kids can play on their own like mine do, or they think my kids are just different and they can't get rid of TV or purge the toys.

Yes you can! We used to have the TV on all the time, and our kids' rooms were constantly a disaster- full of crap and toys everywhere- but the kids were constantly bored! Once we turned the TV off and got rid of the noise and the junk, it took a little bit, but our kids transformed, and so did our days. You can do it!

If I left anything out or if you have any more questions, please feel free to leave me a comment! I'll always get back to you :)

3 Things To Do After A Hard Day of Motherhood

You know the feeling. Your legs ache, your feet hurt, your head is clouded, all you want is to climb into bed, and you haven't even started dinner yet. I've been there so many times, and since I have a husband who works extra hours so that I can stay home with our little tribe, I don't get any relief until the kids are in bed.

But you know what? This is my one and only chance at life. This is where God has placed me, and I am called to serve in this season with a joyful spirit.

And so are you. 

"Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name." Hebrews 13:15 (emphasis mine)

So, friend, together we are going to learn how to praise God in the middle of an old battle we feel like we're always losing. I'm sharing with you the things that refresh me at the end of a long day, when I know I have to start all over again after just a handful of short hours of sleep.

1. Put the kids to bed early.

I feel like so many moms think this is somehow not okay? You're the mom, lady! If you've had it and you can't handle the final hour or two of a hard day, put the kids to bed! They need to listen to you. They don't have to physically go to sleep, but they can be in their beds with a book or a quiet toy until they do. Use this precious extra time to put headphones in and listen to a relaxing song, take a bubble bath, light some candles and read a book, veg out on your favorite Netflix series... whatever you need. You'll be a better mom tomorrow if you take time for yourself tonight.

2. Do one helpful thing for tomorrow's you.

Don't get the whole house in order before you finally hit the pillow, just do one helpful thing that will make your morning routine a little easier. Give yourself a break and just pick one daunting task, like the dishes, and make it as pleasant as you can (headphones in, an encouraging podcast on). When it's done, stop. You're finished for today, mama. Go rest.

3. Text a friend.

There's something about feeling the camaraderie of motherhood that makes the hard days bearable. Text the friend that gets you, that gets life, that gets the throes of motherhood and tell her about your day or just how you're feeling. Let her encourage you, just listen to you, or make you giggle, whatever her way is of loving on you. Know you're not alone.

Motherhood isn't for the faint of heart. It's okay to have days when you just don't know if you can take another minute of it- you're a human being! But don't just sit in the trenches crying, take care of yourself. You can't keep giving to your husband and kids if your well is all dried up.

How We Are Giving Our Kids a 70's Childhood in A Technology-Obsessed Era

This post isn't meant to make anyone feel like a bad parent. Neither is it meant to shine a spotlight on me or make me look wiser than the rest of the world, because I couldn't be farther from that. Let me be clear that what I want this post to do is open eyes and hearts. I want it to set parents free. I want it to set kids free. I want it to make people think, take a step back, reevaluate. I wrote this post to share what we are doing that has brought incredible beauty into our children's lives.

Maybe this post won't do anything for you. Maybe it won't stir anything in you or it just won't resonate with you. That's okay. We only need to change what we feel convicted about by the gentle leading of the Spirit. But if, as you're reading this or when you reach the end, those self-shaming thoughts start to creep in, promise me something. Promise me you'll throw them away. You don't have to feel guilty, you don't have to feel like you're a bad mom, you just need to get up and do something, go be better than you were before you clicked this link. 

"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." -Maya Angelou

My husband and I are young, twenty-eight to be exact, and we have four kids. We grew up in the 90's, so you may be wondering what I'm doing writing a post about raising kids like kids were raised in the 1970's. I guess I wouldn't know exactly what that would look like, but there's a point to the title I chose for this post. The point is that in the 1970's, kids were being raised to play, to get dirty outside, to entertain themselves, to use their imaginations. They weren't sitting on a bench at a park on an iPad, or looking up YouTube videos on a computer while the rest of the family eats. Sure, a 70's kid watched some TV, and of course there were some parents who let them watch as much as they'd like. But technology wasn't behind every single part of their day; technology wasn't the center of their world.

Technology hadn't taken over childhood yet. Now, it has.

That thing I said about kids at the park on their iPads? Really happened. I've seen moms at the park checking on their older kid because they're watching a movie on the car DVD player while their siblings play. I've seen epic meltdowns caused by a mom saying "give me my phone back". Vitamin D deficiencies are worse than ever. Everyone has one. Adults with vitamin D deficiencies I can understand- we work, we stay inside cooking and folding laundry... not everyone gets outside with their kids and plays- but children with vitamin D deficiencies hurts my heart. They're not even getting twenty minutes of sunshine a day?!

What is happening?

I feel like I could write a book on all that's wrong with the typical childhood of today, but I'll stop there and get to the point of this post.

Brian and I decided a long time ago that we weren't going to go with the flow when it comes to raising our kids. We decided we want to raise grateful, competent, confident, imaginative, healthy, creative human beings, and that allowing them to be technology-obsessed would be the enemy to our goals. Here's what we're doing:


We keep our kids' technology use at a minimum.

When I say minimum, I mean like, the bare minimum. We own a tablet, but I don't think our kids even know we have it. We have a television in our living room, but it's called a living room for a reason. We do life in that room, and the TV is on [maybe] a few times a week. On the days when motherhood has worn my patience down to nothing, and the baby is teething and dinner needs to be started, yes, I turn on Netflix. But TV in our house is not a daily thing for the kids, it isn't their favorite thing to do or even something they ask for often. It's just there for when we want to have a family movie night, I need a little help sneaking a shower in or getting dinner on the table.

It's an extra in our house, not the most-used item or main event. 


Our kids spend 75-80% of their day outside.

We don't own land [yet] or have a huge backyard. Our backyard actually kinda sucks, to be frank. It's mostly dirt and weeds, but Brian built a play restaurant and there's a swing set and slide, and in the summer time we get a plastic pool. Our kids use their imaginations and will spend hours in the yard playing made-up games and acting out stories together. The weather doesn't phase us much, as we live in Southern California, but if it's cold, I bundle them up, if it's hot, they wear very little, and they are still told to "go play" and they do it.



We don't entertain our kids.

Brian and I don't cultivate a need to be entertained in our house. The kids are always playing together, and they figure it out themselves because we expect them to. We don't take them somewhere fun every day, we don't buy them lots of toys or games, we don't have friends over all the time. As a matter of fact, we've taken on a minimalist lifestyle and have gotten rid of nearly all their toys, keeping only constructive play items (blocks, wooden trains and tracks) and books. Kids are experts at imagination and play. If you give them items that don't require either of those things, you're not giving them a gift at all, but rather robbing them of something beautiful and fulfilling. You're also instilling a "gimme gimme" attitude in them and setting yourself up for some rough teenage years.


We give our kids responsibilities and expect them to follow through.

I believe that not requiring kids to help out around the house does damage. It makes them bad spouses, lazy coworkers, poor students, superficial human beings, and hollow additions to society. When I hear things like "I want their childhood to be fun, so I don't make them do chores" I want to scream! Our children are given to us by God so that we can raise them up in the way they should go, and train them to be good people with strong work ethics, humble attitudes, and servant hearts. That won't happen without work. Our kids have to pick up after themselves, take care of the pets, make their beds, set and clear the table after meals, use their manners, and help with cooking and laundry among other things, and they're required to do it on their own. Obviously, that takes teaching and guiding them into those habits, which we happily do for them.


Want to dive in deeper? Click below to get access to my FREE recorded web class with Meagan Wilson that details how to raise unplugged kids in a tech-obsessed world.


We are role models for our kids.

The saying goes "Do as I say, not as I do", but we all know that doesn't really work with raising kids! Brian and I want our kids to see us living out what we're teaching them, and that is so hard sometimes! When it comes to technology, it's way too easy to get sucked in, especially when Brian's job is all about technology and I'm a blogger with a love for social media. We have to have boundaries, or we'll just be hypocrites, and our kids will see that. During the week, when Brian is working and I'm at home with the kids, I have my phone time in the morning. I drink my coffee and talk to my friends about their days and check my email, then I put my phone down. 

For the rest of the day, I only answer my texts if I've got a free second- waiting for water to boil, before I start folding a load of laundry, using the restroom- or if Brian's personal text message sound goes off. I have my off days, but for the most part I really try to abide by this. People don't need to be able to get a hold of me at the drop of a hat, whenever and wherever, despite what's going on in my day. I make it a point to look up and answer if one of my kid's needs me while I'm on my phone. I want them to know that technology is great, but it doesn't deserve a spot at the top of our priority lists. I spend about 40-50% of my day playing with my kids. I have set times for writing. I love Instagram, but I have set times for that too, and I pre-schedule my Facebook page's posts more often than not in order to avoid constantly being on my phone or laptop.


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We fill our weekends with quality time and adventures, not TV.

Brian is off Sundays and Mondays, with one work-free Saturday per month [which gives us the gift of a three-day weekend every four weeks]. Since his days at work are much longer than most people's, we make sure our weekends are awesome. This is usually when we get out and do fun day trips and things like that. We are together, we're a family, and we are making memories. Sometimes this looks like hanging around the house resting, because our week was particularly exhausting. Sometimes it looks like a train trip to the beach or a long drive just to try a world-famous cupcake. The point is, technology is left behind and we are spending quality time together, talking, laughing, sharing stories, each of us 100% focused on each other, living in the moment.

Brian says that technology should be treated like sugar- it's a nice treat and fine in moderation, but that's it. I wholeheartedly agree.

 

WANT A LITTLE EXTRA MOTIVATION?

HERE ARE SOME EPISODES of the purpose show that are RELATED TO THIS TOPIC!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Are you overwhelmed? Inspired? Disagreeing with me? Have a question?

Tell me in the comments.

How I Stopped Waiting for Naptime and Started Enjoying My Kids

I had taken the kids to Starbucks to have breakfast outside on the patio. They asked a lot of questions and I answered them, mostly while skimming through apps on my phone.

After that we headed to the park. They played hard, as they always do, and I kept the baby happy in the grass. We left for home once lunch time came around. I turned the music up in the car to discourage more question-asking.

I served lunch and let them play with toys in the living room while waiting for naptime to come. Actually, if I'm honest, I was kind of begging for naptime in my head. For no particular reason, other than I've formed the habit of eagerly waiting for naptime, and bedtime...basically all the times my children are quiet and away from me.

Five minutes before it was time to lie them down, Leland, jumping up and down and accompanied by his little brother, brings me a white piece of paper and excitedly asks me to make them paper airplanes.

"No, honey. I don't know how to make one that will fly, and besides, it's naptime."

His little face dropped a little and a disappointed moan made me feel a little guilty. I brushed it off and got up from the computer, where I was browsing Facebook, killing the time before naptime.

I don't know where it came from or what caused it, but I suddenly stopped and thought about everything, the whole day, their whole lives in one sad flash... Mom on the phone, Mom on the computer, Mom saying no again and again and again.

Maybe later...

Just be quiet...

Stop...

No...

Not right now...

I realized in one very quick but powerful moment that I rarely say yes, and I've been wasting these precious years with my children waiting around for the next time they're asleep. 

I felt like something was pressing down on my chest. The realization was just so very heavy.

The boys were walking down the hallway to their bedroom with their little heads hanging low when I told them to come back. I typed in "How to Make A Paper Airplane" on YouTube and made two of the most perfect paper flying machines ever constructed.

They were so happy!

We spent the better part of an hour playing with those little paper planes. Kids are so simple, so easy to please. They don't need iPads and Netflix on a constant reel; they don't want more things or more toys to keep them occupied.

Kids want you to give them YOU. 

Kids grow up, fast, so I hear. They become adults with jobs and to do lists and responsibilities and a past. That past is written by a pen that's in your hand. What are you writing?

How I Stay Home When We Can Hardly Afford It

I get asked about how we can afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom a lot. We live in Southern California, where a "cheap" rental home is $1600 a month (that's what we pay). This is one reason Brian and I have always talked about getting out of Cali and have plans to do so in the future. But for now, this is where God has us, and He has called us as parents to "teach His commandments diligently to our children, talk of them when we sit in our home, when we walk by the way, when we lie down and when we rise." How we do that in our home is by having me here with them. Like I talked about in

the first part of this blog series, staying at home is a sacrifice we choose to make, not something we are lucky to be able to afford. Honestly, I'm not sure how anybody with an average income even can afford this life. But for us, it isn't about that. It's about saying "yes" to the call and doing what we can to make it happen, then trusting God with the rest. 

Here's some of what we do to live on just my husband's income. 

We cut out what we don't really need.

One of the first things to go was cable TV. This is more of a sacrifice for Brian than the kids and I because he loves football. We had TV for a few years, but he ended up not wanting to spend his time off watching the games. God changed his heart's focus to loving his family and cherishing the days he has away from work, and for that I am surprised and grateful! Now he listens to the games on the radio if he's working, or watches highlights online, and sometimes we'll go to my parents' house and he will watch games with my dad and brothers. We have a subscription to Netflix and Hulu where we watch our favorite shows together and can turn on a kids show so I can get a half-hour of peace every once in awhile. Honestly, our TV is hardly ever on. We go days without using it at all, and it's been so wonderful. My kids have a true love of books and stories that other people ask me about and I know it has to do with how little they watch movies and shows.

We don't have a flat screen TV or any other "latest and greatest" anything for that matter. My parents gave us their TV when they upgraded and it works perfectly fine for family movie nights. We have one computer- my laptop- that has been with us for years and has tape around the charger, but it works, and it's fine, and we are not in want for anything.

I am blessed to be married to a man who doesn't find his worth and value in the things he buys his family!

We don't live on credit.

The only credit we have is our car loan, and that payment is much smaller than the average because of the savings we put down on it at the time of purchase. We do not use credit cards at all. I have heard people say they can afford to stay home with their kids because of credit cards... I'm scared for them! Brian and I love Dave Ramsey and follow a lot of his financial principles (the envelope system works, people!), which we have found to be biblical and very wise. If we don't have the cash for something right now, we don't buy it. It's as simple as that, and this rule keeps us from so many unnecessary purchases!

I get thrifty.

Thrifting has become the cool thing to do, apparently, but I thrift because you can get amazing deals on great stuff! I find things like brand name, clean and new kids shoes for a couple of bucks. I always look through the clothes and house decor when I go thrifting. I get a lot of my favorite dresses and sweaters at thrift stores. Another thing I have good luck with at thrift stores is maternity clothes. It's sad, but stores just completely rip you off on maternity wear. They know you're growing and have to buy new things!

Burlington Coat Factory online has been a huge help with saving on maternity clothes as well. I also joined local exchanges on Facebook where people post items they are selling for super cheap in my area. Craigslist has been great for bulk toys like Thomas the Tank Engine and building blocks (sanitize, sanitize, sanitize!) as well as big ticket purchases like furniture and outdoor play things for the kids.

Gettin' thrifty with my girl at Goodwill!

I even get thrifty when it comes to groceries. However, I am not a couponer. I find that Extreme Couponing and things like that are a waste. All the coupons are for packaged stuff and junk that's bad for you! I save more money by steering clear of packaged anything and buying fresh more often. I get our produce at a local farmer stand, I grocery shop at Winco (a much cheaper version of the grocery store where they can charge less because they have very few employees and have customers bag their own groceries), and I go to Costco for the things that are actually cheaper there and that we use in bulk (diapers, wipes, toilet paper, meat). 

Hubby works extra.

This is the hard one (for me). Brian has the option to take on overtime at work- lots of overtime. It's such a blessing! It's a difficult thing to do though, for sure. He can work twelve hour days if we need him to. In order to make ends meet and live our lives as usual, he works two twelve hour days a week. When we need to save money (since we don't live on credit) or have a large purchase coming up, he will work more. For example, right now is crazy. We are building up a large amount of savings and making some big plans for early next year, but we don't want to put in all the overtime after the baby is born (beginning of November), so Brian is working six twelve-hour days for about two months and we are saving our money now. It's crazy hard! But God provided a way for us to have the money we need and control our income according to our needs, which helps me stay home. I am so thankful!

I plan out our meals.

This is where all of our money used to go out the window- eating. A few months ago I signed up for Emeals. (I saved money there too by paying for a year ahead rather than more money monthly). Emeals is incredibly helpful! We are on the Paleo family dinner plan, and I just choose 3-4 of the suggested meals each week, then stretch them into the remaining nights by doing leftovers, breakfast for dinner sometimes, or just a snack-around night if Brian is working late. We pretty much never go out to dinner as a family- it's just too expensive (and too chaotic to enjoy it anyway)! I also avoid the drive-thru on the days we spend out of the house. I cut up fruits and veggies, pack sandwiches, kettle corn and sippies full of water rather than stopping for cheeseburgers if at all possible. If we'll be out all day long, I bring a cooler with ice and keep it in the trunk. Anything is better than stopping for fast food if it's avoidable, and not just for health reasons but for budget reasons! I will say though, there are times that I am out much longer than expected or life happens and we have to grab a quick bite. But I plan when I can and as much as I can, and it saves us a ton of money. However, let the record show that I do have a Starbucks problem (if you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed how often I have a cup in my hand). I keep that under {some} control with my Gold card, by loading a small amount on it each paycheck and when it's gone, no more coffee out. Plus with the card, I get points toward a free coffee with each purchase :)

I make my own...everything.

Dishwasher detergent,

laundry soap

, dandruff shampoo, baby soap, rash cream... you name it, I make it. There are a few things that, for me, aren't worth the extra effort- hand soap, dish soap, body wash, regular shampoo and conditioner- those are a few things that I have found to be complicated (or the recipes I found didn't work well enough), and it's just better to spend the few bucks. The biggest savings comes from making my own laundry detergent. Seriously, it is so expensive at the store! I can make a huge batch for a few bucks and it'll last me six months. Also, there are some seriously scary and harmful, cancer-causing chemicals in soaps (yes, even baby and kids soaps), so that's another reason I prefer to make my own stuff or at least buy natural on the stuff I don't make myself.

We homeschool through a charter school.

There are so many reasons why many homeschoolers refuse to involve the state in their homeschooling. I have read up on this so much, and I know all the why's and why not's. For us, the why not's do not outweigh the benefits. I feel many of the reasons to homeschool solo, which is more expensive, are based on fear, and we do not make decisions out of fear, but out of obedience to the Lord. Through the charter school in our area, we get $1,000 of funding per student per school year, and it can go towards curriculum, enrichment activites (like the American Girl history class Bella will be going to this year), sports, ballet, music classes... you name it. It's awesome! Our particular charter school is very parent-led, and I get to choose whatever curriculum I want, and don't have to lie or hide the Bible portion of our school days like some other parents do. I am also free to lead my children through a Charlotte Mason curriculum without any complaints from my ES (education specialist) about not having enough structure.

There is so much that goes into living on one income, making it very difficult to concentrate it into one blog post. If you have any questions or can think of something I didn't cover here, please share with me in the comments and I will try to cover it in the next portion of this series!

On Staying Home// No Luck in this Sacrifice

Photo from my Instagram feed [@allie_thatsme]

It's one of the questions I get asked among all the other common ones...

"How far apart are they?"

"You sure have your hands full, don't you?"

"Do you stay home or work?"

And when my answer to that last one comes with a smile and personal pride, "I stay home with them", I get the same response nearly every time.

"You are so lucky."

It's not that this response bothers me necessarily, but there's something about it that just doesn't sit right with me.

Lucky.

Why lucky? I'm not one of those people that's adamant about people using the word blessed instead... it isn't that. I thought about this a lot the other day as I drove home from a kid's birthday party where the above conversation had taken place yet again. Am I lucky to stay home with my children?

No. 

I am not lucky at all. Five years ago, my husband and I sat down and made a choice after I heard from God Himself the call to be home. I tucked away my fresh real estate license and pencil skirts and traded them in for sweat pants and Veggietales.

Staying home was a choice we made, and it comes with sacrifices not everyone is willing to make.

We are following a leading of the Holy Spirit- a calling on our lives and the lives of our children- to live this one life I get at home with them- being there for every step, breath, boo boo, and giggle.

Sometimes there are just a few dollars in the bank, seriously. That's because of a choice we felt led to make, and it's a big leap of faith and a sacrifice. It means we are saying "no" to credit cards and debt, "no" to more money and better things and worldly stability. It means we are saying "yes" to a one-income lifestyle so that our children will always remember their mom being there for every little thing, having no work to take up any of her days. It means less of everything material in exchange for more of everything emotional and spiritual. It means making difficult decisions based around a small budget and doing what is best for our family- which is for me to be at home with our kids.

I know people mean well and aren't thinking their comments all the way through, and I mean no rudeness to them, but I am not lucky to stay home. I am a Spirit-led parent who made a hard choice, and continues to make that hard choice every week when there is less where there could be more. But you know... the exchange is a pretty sweet deal- less in my wallet than others but a thousand times more tiny moments and memories in my heart.

A Dirty Kitchen

It was one morning last week that I posted this photo of my messy kitchen before Bella and I dove in and conquered the mess. We scrubbed and made bubbles and talked about horses and about the right way to load the silverware. I like sharing my messes on social media. It's so anti-Instagram right now. Most of what I see being popular online is perfection- perfect hair, stylish clothes, moms with perfect bodies, neat and perfectly decorated homes. I appreciate beauty and a great photograph, but there's something wrong when we stop being real with one another. Sometimes life gets messy, and I have no problem sharing that with my followers. 

Once the kitchen was clean, I got the kids down for naps and sat down to check my Facebook page, where I saw a negative comment (something I'm learning to get used to). 

"I would never let my kitchen get that bad. Yikes."

I'll spare you my knee-jerk reaction (I'm sure you can imagine), but I ended up doing what has proven to be the best method over the course of my time as a blogger-- silence and a prayer. As much as I wanted to respond (and I certainly didn't lack the words), I knew it wasn't what this woman needed. Whoever she was- a wife, a stay-at-home mom, working mom, whatever- I prayed that she would learn grace. Grace for others, so that she would no longer attempt to shame others with comments like this one, and grace for herself, that she would learn what's really important; and it certainly isn't a clean kitchen. 

What she didn't know is why my kitchen was so messy. She didn't know that the day before had been one of baking cookies, playing in the backyard, reading endless stacks of books, and driving with the windows down. It had been a day of playing with my children rather than sending them to play while I cleaned up the kitchen. I (normally)  rinse the dishes and pick up my house as I go through the day, and load the dishwasher before I head to bed every night. But that day? That day I saw an opportunity to say "no" to mundane and "yes" to joy and childhood memories.

It wasn't out of laziness that the crusty dishes gathered, but out of a Spirit-led choice to live this blessed, fleeting day I had been given as a gift. 

As the fun and laughter turned to yawns and snuggling, the day came to a slow, and I tucked my littles into their beds just as my tired husband walked in the door. As I warmed up his dinner and listened to him summarize his work day, I saw another opportunity to love and serve in my home. Again the Spirit led me away from my chores to my hard-working husband who had had a bad day at work. Rather than let him eat dinner at the table while I cleaned up from a day spent outside with my kids, I sat and listened and encouraged him. Through our dinner conversation I saw that he needed his wife- he missed me. What a huge honor and blessing that is- for him to actually miss me after ten years of togetherness and three kids! We added his dishes to the mess and enjoyed a movie on the couch, exchanging glances, laughs, and kisses until I fell asleep in his arms.

You can bet your last dollar that I will "let my kitchen get that bad" when there is an opportunity to enjoy and to breathe life into my family. I don’t stay home to keep a clean house. I stay home to cultivate love and grace and Jesus in my family, and serving them through homemaking is a part of that, but not the top priority. Look how many precious memories would never have come into existence if my kitchen had been cleaned.

That would have been an absolute pity, and the poorest use of my time I can think of. 

Parenting Both the Fiery One & the Quiet One

Leland is my second-born. He is a heap of passion placed inside a human body. He is fiery, incredibly strong, tells me everything he's thinking (loudly!), and I never have to doubt how he feels about something. Most days it seems like Leland is always in trouble- taking a timeout in his room, sitting in a chair facing the corner, screaming in protest, yelling that this isn't what he wanted (that's the whole point, son).

Bella is my first-born. She is sweet, caring, silly but on the quiet side, and always voicing concern for everything and everyone. Don't get me wrong... she knows how to be loud and have an attitude and get bossy and yell at her two brothers. But overall, she's the quiet one that will accept discipline without fighting it and keep her thoughts to herself. Bella generally isn't the problem in our house, other than the occasional bad attitude.

As you can imagine (or maybe you don't have to imagine because you've got the same situation in your house), Leland takes up most of my attention, focus, time, and energy. There have been so many days where Bella didn't get me at all because Leland was such an energy-sucker. How do you give your quiet one what they need of you when your strong-willed one is so constantly demanding??

There are some things I've been trying lately, as God has been nudging me to look in Bella's direction more often, and inspiring me with ideas for how to train up all my children, and giving more of my time and attention to the ones who demand it less.

I am teaching Leland that it's not all about him.

Although it's simply the fact that Leland is loud and strong-willed and in almost constant need of correction that gets most of my attention (it's not like he's a brat that demands my time and is rewarded with it), I am still working on teaching him that life isn't all about him. Over time, he will notice that he gets a lot of my attention and I want to make sure that doesn't turn him into a brat later on. Plus, he has a natural self-centered outlook (like me) and I know the importance of guiding that firsthand.

I make time to spend with just Bella while Leland is awake. 

I give Leland something to do on his own (coloring, building a block tower) in his room, then turning my phone off and sitting down to do something one-on-one with Bella. Usually Hudson is napping or just joining in with Leland's activity, so it's just us girls. I want Leland to be awake and to see that there are times when he needs to busy himself while I spend time with someone else. I really try to do this once a day. I also will take Bella out for frozen yogurt or hot chocolate at Starbucks every month or so. Brian and I do this with each of the kids, but I feel Bella benefits from it most because of her age.

Leland's consequence for disobedience is time away from us in his room.

When he was younger, I needed to put him on a chair for a short timeout or just give a little spanking and call it a day. Now that Leland is over three, he is at an age where isolation works and is applicable. When he disobeys, I calmly tell him what he did wrong, send him to his room, and let him cry or scream it out there while the rest of us carry on. This avoids giving Leland negative attention, which is still attention so he's getting what he wanted, and doesn't make the other kids suffer for what he did wrong. You break a rule? You go in your room for a bit until I come in there to talk to you.

Do you have a strong-willed child and a quiet child? What do you do to keep the feisty one from taking over the house and sucking up all your focus? Leave your feedback in the comments.

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Raising Hypocrites: what I've been doing so very wrong

All throughout the day, I am instructing my three children to apologize to one another. Mistreating one another physically or verbally isn't tolerated, and is met with discipline and then instruction to sincerely apologize.

Then there's me.

Annoyed and snappy with my daughter.

Rough with my slow son on the walk to the car.

Disrespectful to my husband with a sharp comment.

Yelling at my kids to "just be quiet" and "knock it off".

And not an apology in sight. Do you know what that makes me?

A complete hypocrite.

The message I am sending my children is not a good one, and it's this:

I am an adult, and I can do what I want. But you? You're a child and you must act perfectly and be humble and be kind and be Jesus, all the time. No excuses. Do it or I will discipline you again.

When I don't apologize for what I do wrong, I'm showing my kids that you don't always need to do the right thing. I'm showing them that it's okay to just skip the apology.

But it's not.

If I reverse this, and I am careful to apologize when I mess up, because I will mess up, then my children are seeing a real, living example of what it is to be a Christ-follower. They see what it is to be human, but to live in grace, forgiven and humble.

Today I got very angry with my oldest after she asked me for a Popsicle for the fifteenth time. She ran away to her room crying, which annoyed me because I had already told her "no" calmly so many times. God tapped on my heart and I knew what I needed to do.

"Bella, I'm sorry I yelled at you. That was not okay, and it was wrong of me. Please forgive me for using my voice to hurt you."

My daughter's face went from shock to understanding-- understanding of what it means to mess up and apologize. She told me she forgave me, then apologized for not listening and asking for a Popsicle so many times. And I didn't even have to tell her to. I led her by example and it clicked.

My kids remembering me as a hypocrite is one of the worst things I can imagine. My prayer lately is that God would continue to nudge me when I need to apologize, to my child, my husband, a friend, or a stranger. It is so incredibly humbling, but isn't humility the very best way I can be Jesus to somebody? After all, He lived out the ultimate humble act on the cross for me. I want my children to know how to live that out in daily life. That lesson starts with the story of the cross, and it continues every single day with me and how I live.