my life

Life Lately & Our Trip to California in Photos

Hiiii!

Gosh I feel like it's been ages since I sat at this space and just let myself pour into it. Our vacation really threw me off, and as refreshing as it was, I'm so happy to be back home and in my normal routine! I want to share a little bit about what's been on my heart lately, and then I'm gonna dump the best photos from our trip!

So, right before Christmas, my dad called me and asked me if Brian and I would be willing to bump our planned March trip to California up to January. He offered to pay for our plane tickets if we did. Obviously we took him up on his offer! He booked us for two whole weeks and the trip was fairly last-minute, so the whole thing was one big blur to me. 

I have to say that I hated flying with the kids, and would absolutely choose the twenty-two hours of driving that we did with them over the 4+ hours of flying and the layover each way. Emmett is just at the worst age for being forced to sit in one spot for that long, and he was screeching and frustrated and miserable for most of the flight time, despite all the things we did to prepare. Our kids just love the car and do so well in it, I think we'll commit to road tripping back home every six months for now, and revisit the flight idea when Emmett is older. 

I was apprehensive about going back. I was worried about how being back there and spending time with friends and family would make me feel. I thought maybe being back where things are comfortable would cause me to hate our decision to move, and dread coming back to Arkansas. 

I was very wrong about that. 

Going back was so fun, so refreshing, so comforting, but somehow I felt even more confident about our move, and after the first week I couldn't wait to get back home. I saw California as a wonderful place full of people and places I love that I get to visit every six months and take a break from the rhythm of daily life. I loved the beach and breathed it in so deep, but when I walked back to the car with the waves at my back, I was okay. I was thinking of how good it would feel to go home and see the mountains again. I didn't look over my shoulder like I did when I walked away four months ago. I didn't need to, and that felt good. 

One of the things I realized while there, is that I haven't been truly settling into our new home yet. The first three months were at first total chaos, and then anxiety coupled with a lack of action. I wasn't really committed to new friendships, to my area, to making Arkansas our home like I did when we lived in California. I realized that it's time to bury my feet in the ground, put down some roots, dive into friendships and homeschooling and church, and start living here. Exploring the area isn't enough, I have to treat this place like home because it is! This is where God has led us and I don't know how long He will have us here, so I need to be all in. 

I can wait patiently for our next trip to Cali. I can look forward to my toes in the sand and my family surrounding me again, but I don't feel like I'm hanging onto the life I had there while physically standing on new soil. I feel present and settled and at peace. I feel ready to live. 

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Life Lately, God's Gangster Voice, + Why He's Still Good

Life lately is rain. Like, literal rain from the sky. A downpour that seems constant.

Being born and raised in So Cal, when it rains I stare blankly out the window and cross everything off my to do list because life cannot be lived if it's raining. Here in Northwest Arkansas, apparently, it rains a lot and people just keep on going, living and doing life things. This includes leaving the house, which is both jarring and shocking to the California girl in me. Even today as our family left to go see a movie, it was raining so hard that it felt illegal or something. I kept peering out from underneath my protective hood, looking for signs of life. There was a guy walking his dog, a girl jogging (really?! you're jogging in this???), and even a mom with her kids under the canopy at the picnic tables across from our house. Life can go on, even if it's raining. Good to know.

Life lately is also some metaphorical rain. Brian and I both expected life to get a lot easier when we moved out here. Some things have been a million times better, like his work hours, but other things have remained difficult or gotten even harder.

How could you, God?!

I've found myself cranky, even a little bitter over some of it. I have had to sit in the dark on the couch in the dead of night and lay it all out for Him. The confusion, the thoughts I have, and how pissed off He made me on more than one occasion recently. It's okay, He can handle my emotions.

God never promised easy if we follow His call on our lives. I know this, but I somehow thought our "big leap of faith" made us exempt.

God we moved all the way out here! Away from everyone we know and love! How can you not bless all of everything in our lives immediately?!

Oh humanity, you make me into such a moron.

God called us out of California and into Arkansas.

I know that for sure.

He blessed us with better work hours at Brian's job, enough money to make it, and the promise that He's got something big for us out here. At what point did I hear, "Get choself out to the mountains, girl! I'mma give you all the best everything! It'll all be butterflies and rainbows and unicorns fo sho!" (I don't know why I gave God a gangster voice. I get weird when I'm confessing something humbling. If this offends you go ahead and click away. I'll understand...)

I think so often we (or, um, just I) fill in the margins of God's voice. We hear Him give us a promise and we add in all the extra frills because the promise alone isn't enough.

It's a heavy lack of gratitude, at its best. 

Why would I ever expect perfection in my life as a result of following God? Getting that would mean He gave me a way out of needing Him, of needing a Savior. That goes so far from His character, and believe it or not, His total goodness.

When God calls us, there's a reason, even if we can't see it. There's a lot of hope in His call, but never perfection. In this fallen world we face hard trials and take deep cuts. So what's the point? Why follow the call in the first place if it's still going to suck sometimes?

Because even if not, He is still good. (Daniel 3:18)

Even if the things I think or hope will come to pass don't come anywhere near my life, even if I give up everything I own and love and follow His call and I lose even more,

He is still good. 

He is still good because He has promised that, eventually, His plans for me will make me prosper. (Jeremiah 29:11)

He is still good because His love for me never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:8)

He is still good because He will never leave me in the mess of life, or any other time for that matter. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

He is still good because He has poured out His blessings upon me, even if things are difficult at the moment. (Psalm 34:8)

He is still good because He adores me with a rich passion that I cannot even fathom. (1 John 3:1a)

He is still good when things seem unfair because of His love for me, and because love does not delight in evil. (1 Corinthians 13:6)

He is still good because His ways are higher than mine. (Isaiah 55:9)

He is still good because He is God. (Psalm 100:3)

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 

Romans 5:3-5

And so I shut up, I stop expecting what is uncharacteristic of the God I love and serve, and I stop complaining about all He has blessed me with. So I run with purpose in every step and move ahead strong, trusting in His high ways and great plan, because my humanity is so weak, and I need a big God like Him. 

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 Lately [+ the deets on our big move]

Hi lovelies!

Well it's been awhile, but I'm happy to be back at my blog after a break. I can't believe all that's happened since the last time I sat writing on this page. I actually can't believe any of this is happening at all. I keep saying to Brian, usually while we're driving and it's quiet enough for my thoughts to drift, "I can't believe we actually did this!!"

In case you're new or you missed it, we moved from Southern California to Northwest Arkansas two weeks ago. If you live in California your response to that statement is probably, "oh yeah. Get out while you can!" If you don't live in California, you probably think we're stupid or insane or both. We get both reactions on a near-daily basis.

Yes, California is incredibly expensive and liberal and dry and in desperate need of rain and not super big-family-friendly. And yes, California has some of the most beautiful beaches and living there comes at a price, so of course it's expensive. And yes, our entire family and [almost] all the friends and people we've ever known and loved live there and nothing can replace the support of loved ones.

We know. 

This is why it took us awhile to finally follow the call we have heard for so long- the call of God to move somewhere else. We didn't just move because of perks. The positives of moving to Arkansas are just that- perks, and nothing more. We moved away because as much as we tried, we couldn't pretend God wasn't tugging on our hearts. We know beyond any doubt that we are where we are supposed to be right now.

We don't know how long we'll live here, if it'll be forever or a few years, we don't know what's next. We know we absolutely love it so far and we feel incredibly peaceful for the first time in a long time [that happens when you're in God's will], and we know we would like to buy a house here within the next year or two. Other than that, it all depends on God and His still, small voice.

All that being said, I'm ready to fill you in on how everything went down! Moving a family of six that includes a baby, plus a cat cross-country is interesting to say the least.

So if you've been wondering what's up over here since we took the big leap of faith, here ya go :)

The Road Trip

We sold pretty much everything, and rented the smallest U-Haul trailer [it was 5'x8'] which fit our mattresses, table and chairs [taken apart], and a few other favorite items like my beloved bicycle art, and the boys' bunk beds all taken apart. We didn't even bring dishes or silverware, so I do mean we sold pretty much everything. We got a hitch added to our minivan and were ready to go!

We had been renting our house, and were on a month-to-month lease, so we were able to get out easily without the need to sell a house or anything, which was a huge blessing. The night before we were going to leave, we were sleeping at my parents' house, and Hudson and Emmett were tag-teaming the destruction of our trip. They were both waking up every half hour or so, and the plan was for us to get as much sleep as possible since we were supposed to leave at 3AM. Well we had to adapt, so we slept till 5 and left then.

Bonus: Starbucks was actually open by then, so of course I made Brian stop right before we got on the freeway. He was thrilled.

And so the road trip to our new life began...

Everything was really dry and ugly for awhile. 

We got In N Out one last time in Arizona. Goodbye my looooooooooooove!! *insert sobbing emoji*

The kids did beyond amazing. I really couldn't be happier with how well they handled so many hours in their carseats. The whole two days of driving, they were seriously perfect. It had to be God because that is not what I was expecting from my kids. Not even close.

Chicken did great too.

We drove from Murrieta, CA to Albuquerque, New Mexico in one day. It took us 17 hours with traffic and all the stops we made for gas, food, and stretching our legs. I had to slap Brian around a few times at the very end of the drive because he was falling asleep but we'd already booked a hotel on Priceline and paid $80, so we had to make it there. I won't lie, the slapping wasn't so bad for me.

Totally kidding. Sort of. Anyyyyway...

The next morning we hit Starbucks for coffee and bagels and headed back out around 7:30. And then everything got gorgeous.

We stayed at a hotel in Oklahoma City that night, and when we got there we realized we had landed a reeeeally nice hotel on Priceline. We had no idea. When we walked in we clearly didn't belong, especially with how disheveled we were. But staying there was great and we all got some good sleep that night.

Getting There

The next morning we headed out, finished off Oklahoma, and headed into our new home state of Arkansas, where everything got even more stunningly beautiful.

My great grandpa, Elum lives in Arkansas, about an hour from our new home, so of course we met up with him on our way in. It was such a treat for him to meet his great great grandchildren, and I am so thrilled I got to see him again! PS. The Waffle House? YUM.

Once we got into our city, we were all sick of each other and S O  D O N E with the trip. The baby was screaming, Brian was stressing out trying to find the management office, the older kids were bickering loudly, and I was wishing it was acceptable to put my headphones in, but alas, that would've pissed off the love bug. We were required to show up in-person and show proof of occupancy at the Springdale Water District, which was suuuuper fun to do after three days of driving. So after the townhouse management office, we headed to get our water turned on, and then we went home! 

Settling In

After much looking online, discussing, praying, and thinking about it from every angle, Brian and I decided to forego a house and rent a two-bedroom townhouse. We just didn't feel the need to get all the space we might want right away, having to deal with shoveling snow from our property [which, since we're both born and raised in Cali, we are so unprepared for], and collecting a bunch of stuff before another inevitable move whenever we buy. We are in a season of chaos and major change, and in this season, we have found that what we crave is simplicity.

 Our townhome is perfect. It's two stories, the kids are all in one room via a triple bunk bed and Emmett's crib, and the hard oak flooring makes me giddy every time I come downstairs. Choosing this type of house meant no fuss, no huge empty walls or spaces begging to have money spent on decor, no room to bring in a bunch of junk... it's somewhat close to

tiny house living

[a dream of mine], and I love it.

My mom flew in the day after we got to our new house, which was awesome because she spent six days helping with the kids while Brian and I did what we needed to do to get set up. We had four full days before Brian had to start work, so we went to IKEA [the closest one is in Kansas, eep!], and stock up on groceries, and explore the area a little before life had to start again. We got a sofa and some other things we needed to function, everything else will be slowly added in as I thrift and shop on the weekends.

I have to say, getting rid of all of our stuff was the most liberating thing I've ever done. We threw away so much junk that was taking up closet space and sold so much, this fresh start is like water to my thirsty soul. I am so glad we chose to go this route rather than paying to bring all our things over here with us! Also, I don't think I was a true minimalist until the move, because I honestly didn't realize how much random crap I still had in my hallway closet. That was humbling.

Fast forward to today, two weeks from the big move, and we now have a TV, we started our home school year yesterday [we decided to wait until after the move to begin, and more on that later], we are getting back to our normal schedule with naps and meals and errands, Bella has started horse riding lessons again out here, and we are starting to feel like we know our way around our little area. We are in love with the beauty of "the natural state", and we both agree there's a beautifully heavy peace over every part of our beings since we got here. God. is. so. good.

Thank you lovely readers of mine for being patient with me as I got through this big step in my life and took a blogging break. I missed you all and cannot wait to share more of our adventures with you!

Life Hacks for Moms

Pin this, girl! Share the love.

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 Brian, On Father's Day

I really wanted to give Brian something sentimental this Father's Day. My best friend, Jules had the idea of making him a video where the kids each say something sweet about their Daddy, and since I recently learned how to use a new video editing program, I decided it was the perfect thing.

So this is for my sweetest friend and the father of our four babies. You are so appreciated, and so very adored. Happy Father's Day!

Note: the song playing in this video is the song that was playing while I took a pregnancy test, waited for the results, and found out I was pregnant with Leland. This song has a very special place in our hearts, which is why I decided it needed a part in this video :)

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!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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!

Depression + Motherhood

If you've been around my blog for awhile, you probably know that I struggle with depression. Today I want to really open up and talk about it, in hopes that it will raise awareness and help somebody. Depression and motherhood are common acquaintances, and not enough people are talking about it openly.

At the end of my first pregnancy, I began to feel "off". I was sad, uninterested in the things that I normally loved, and I couldn't figure out what exactly it was or why I felt that way. After Bella was born, I fell into severe post-partum depression (PPD), which lasted for about 18 months. My case was a bad one. I physically could not get myself out of bed. I am not a person who enjoys relying on others; I'm a go-getter, an I-got-this kind of person, and I normally enjoy waking up and getting out and being productive. I felt my depression physically, it was so bad. It felt like I had black clouds stuck in my head and pressing down on my chest, causing severe fatigue and a feeling of hopelessness. I had no natural motherly insincts. It was like they wouldn't stick to me because I was so immersed in depression. When Bella would cry, I felt nothing. Not anger or irritation, not sadness or sympathy... just nothing. My baby's cry had no affect on me, and neither did her cooing, her laughter, her growth. I was lifeless. When I watch videos of myself at that time, I can't help but cry. I wish I could reach out to that girl and take away her pain. I was so confused by what was happening to me.

We lived with my parents at the time, and my mom and husband both saw there was something very wrong, but didn't know what or why or what to do. When they tried to talk to me about it or help me, that's when the only emotion I sometimes felt would come out- anger. I got a prescription for an anti-depressant from a doctor but I didn't want to accept that kind of help. I was scared of what the drug might do to me, and I didn't want to become a robot. I didn't take the meds and the depression held on until about fifteen months after Bella was born. The clouds lifted a little, and I became pregnant again. I believe the hormonal changes in my body caused my serotonin (the happy hormone your brain produces) levels to boost, and I felt the depression had passed completely around eighteen months after it began.

The hardest part of this part of my life is that my depression was so deep and debilitating, that as I look back, there are blank spaces in my brain, and I have no memories of my baby girl during her first year of life. When I look at photos or watch her baby videos that I am in, it freaks me out because I do not remember being there at all. PPD took over my body, my mind, and my life, and it robbed me of the most precious memories that should have been mine to remember the rest of my life.

 When my second child, Leland was born, PPD hit me again. I panicked at the thought of losing my bond with my son and my memories. I went right away and got medicine, which helped get my serotonin level where it needed to be in six months' time, at which point I weaned off the medicine. The important thing to note here is the type of depression. For me, this was not the "baby blues". It was an extreme, life-altering, deep depression that was ruining my life and my family. It was not a situational depression (brought on by difficult circumstances). It was a chemical imbalance that needed to be treated just the same as if I had diabetes.

I did not have PPD at all after my third baby, Hudson was born. It's funny because there was so much bad going on in my life that I think I should have struggled with depression, but I had absolutely none. This confirms even more that what I experienced before was an imbalance that I could do nothing about without medical help.

Although I didn't struggle with PPD after my last birth, since I became a mom, I have battled on and off with depression (situational depression and depressive "lulls", not the same thing as PPD). Having gone through so much and experienced both, I can tell when what I'm struggling with is a lull, and when I have a chemical imbalance that requires medical help. I hadn't really had more than a bad week for three years until a couple months ago. I woke up one morning and could feel the difference. I didn't want to get out of bed, hopelessness seemed to have settled over me overnight, and I felt fear get me. I was depressed. Again. For those who haven't struggled in the past and are unclear about depression, it is very real, it isn't an excuse to be lazy, it isn't a thing of the imagination, it can become physically painful, and it does not mean you are being punished for something wrong you did. I have heard all these things said to me, and I will not tolerate any such comments, let me be clear on that.

For me, depression looks like this:
Lack of interest in things I normally love, like reading, Zumba class, being outside, writing, going out to dinner, etc.
It's usually accompanied by anxiety.
Daily tasks feel as daunting as climbing a mountain. Seriously. Getting off the couch to switch the laundry feels completely overwhelming. Showering, doing my makeup, and getting dressed for the day doesn't happen.
Avoiding family and friends.
Binging on junk food.
Just not caring in general, about anything.
Snapping at my kids a lot more than just the usual end-of-the-day burn out.
Feeling really unhappy and irritated with my life or my day.

In contrast, for me, a lull is just a bad day or maybe a bad week, where some of the things I listed above come into play and I am not myself. A lull comes from getting overwhelmed, giving in to my tendency of laziness for more than one day, not spending time with the Lord, not getting out of the house much, a difficult time in my marriage, or not taking care of myself (health, and emotions). A lull goes away quickly and pretty easily. Depression lingers and is very heavy, but can still be overcome.

It is so easy to brush off the signs of depression and ignore it, but it's a serious thing that will be helped by accepting the problem and prayerfully seeking treatment- whether that means you need medicine to balance yourself, or you just need to make yourself better through personal changes. Today I really just wanted to clarify what depression usually looks like and also clearly explain the differences between a lull in the daily grind and serious depression. If you feel you may be depressed, please feel free to email me with any further questions you might have!