Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Conference: The Heart Shaping Mom

If you haven't discovered this blog, you need to visit it asap.  Since most of you reading this are moms (or soon-to-be moms), this blog will encourage you in walking with Jesus as a mother.

Click the link.  Seriously, click the link.

Sally Clarkson is hosting a Mom Heart Conference on February 17-18th in Irving.  I'd highly encourage you to attend.  Make a weekend of it - meet with God and renew your mothering heart - and you might be surprised how 24 hours away will do you some good.

Let me know if you plan on going and we'll see you there!

(click for speaker information, schedule, and hotel info)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

OAMC, Part 2

Here's a brief overview of what I did these past few days, how much I spent, and what it produced.  I am very, very happy with the process!  The actual evaluation will come in a month, when we see if the freezing process created good food to eat.  

Thursday: I started at Costco with weekly ad prices from other stores so I could make the best decision and save the most money.  Walmart was great, too, and I spent significantly less there than I had planned.  Cleaned the kitchen in anticipation of prep time.

Friday: I had some extra time and energy so I decided to start prep.  It turned into just a few hours and resulted in several items for the freezer.  I made all the beef dishes, pasta dishes, and potatoes.  Cleaned as I went and still had a clean kitchen when Brad got home from work.  (Fail: I didn't plan for dinner that night and since everything I made was still freezing, we just got a rotisserie chicken from the store.  Next time, I need to have a plan for dinner on the nights I'm prepping.)  

Saturday: I purchased the chicken from Sprouts and was able to cook most of the breasts.  Chopped chicken and shredded chicken were the two types I needed so I baked them in the oven, about 6-8 breasts at a time.  Made a couple dishes that day.

Sunday: I finished up a couple chicken dishes, separated the beef stew meat and mixed with veggies and seasoning.  Working now on putting together a final list of what's in the freezer.

Aside from your normal kitchen items like salt, pepper, butter, etc. and storage items like pans, freezer bags, and aluminum foil, here's the breakdown of everything I purchased:

Walmart: $69.85
Costco: $25.59
Sprouts: $28.17
Rosas (tortillas): $2.70

Total: $126.31

Freezer Meals in 9x9 pans:
(2) Poppyseed Chicken
(2) Husband's Delight
(2) Sour Cream & Chicken Enchiladas
(4) Twice-Baked Potatoes (actually made 8)
Freezer Meals in Gallon Bags:
(2) Taco Meat
(2) Tomato Cream Sauce
(1) Spaghetti Sauce
(1) Chicken & Bacon (for the Crescent Ring)
(2) Chicken (for fried rice)
(2) Mushroom Beef Stew
(1) Fish Tacos
(1) Honey Sauced Chicken
(1) Chicken Tortilla Soup
(1) Ground beef for meatloaf

That's 24 meals!  My purchases also included most of the sides (white rice, fettucini for Tomato Cream Sauce, crescent rolls, and veggies for the slow cooker dishes.)

Price per meal: $5.26
Price per meal per person: $1.32

I am one happy mama!
Can you believe that's 24 main dishes?!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

OAMC, Part 1

I began a little experiment yesterday and thought I would take a few minutes throughout the process and share what I'm doing for Once-A-Month Cooking or OAMC.  A few things got me here so here's a very brief background:  

Grocery budget.  Food prices have increased radically over the past three years and so have my children's appetites.  It occurred to me that if I spend a mere $15 for dinner each night, our monthly budget JUST FOR DINNER would be roughly $450.  Add in lunch, breakfast, and other home items and that's a serious amount of money.

My Kitchen.  I have been feeling like all I do (or all I watch my husband do) is clean dishes.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, times four people plus pots, pans, and other prep items = Kitchen Chaos.  Time to simplify.

Through some random blogs and weekly newsletters, I heard about OAMC and Freezer Cooking and it piqued my interest.  So here's what I've done:

1.  Research.  My two resources are "Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month" with Deborah Taylor-Hough and find more here on the Facebook page.  Super detailed and contains the most practical advice, although I am using the first edition from the library and the updated one is probably better.  

Secondly, Money Saving Mom has a Guide to Freezer Cooking that I got for free.  I didn't find it nearly as helpful as Frozen Assets but it confirmed the process.

2.  Calendar.  I started with November 21st and my meal plan will carry through December 18th.  I worked in eating out dinner one night per week (see Eating Out Bargains below) and planned Sunday for leftovers.  Minus two days for Thanksgiving and its leftovers, left me with a need for 16-17 dinners.  

Once committing, I feel there are two paths you can take: use your weekly ads and create a menu plan based on the week's best deals, including recent coupons.  Or, you can do what I did, start with a menu and then use grocery ads to find the best prices.

3.  Menu.  Because it's my first time, I took dishes that I can make by memory and know my family loves.  (I'll get more adventurous as I become more experienced.)  Here's my menu:

Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
Poppyseed Chicken (2)
Husband's Delight (2)
Chicken Enchiladas (2)
Twice Baked Potatoes (2)
Tacos (2)

Chicken Bacon Crescent Ring
Mushroom Beef Stew (1)
Honey-sauced Chicken (1)

(best fresh, not frozen)
Parmesan Chicken Sausage (1)
Chicken or Shrimp Fried Rice (1)
Salad with Twice-Baked Potatoes

That's 19 meals, which exceeds my needs so I can be ready if we need to take a family a meal or have guests for dinner.  Side note: all dishes will be prepared in a 8x8 or 9x9, rather than 9x13.

4.  Shopping List.  This was so tedious.  You basically get every recipe and write down how much you need.  My final list included things like six onions, 30 chicken breasts, 70 oz of tomato sauce, etc. and was extremely long.  (Make a rough-draft list first, check your pantry/fridge/freezer, and cross off items you already have.  Make a new list for the store.)  Make sure you have the right pans and bags for freezing items, too.

5.  Shop.  I am not interested in going around town with three kids, so I picked two places to shop: Costco for bulk and Walmart for price-matching.  Jot down prices you want to compare or bring your price-match list.  I just returned from Costco where I got bigger items (5 lbs frozen lean ground beef, ten pounds of tomato sauce, and freezer bags.)  One exception: Sprouts is having a sale on chicken for $1.77/lb so I'll get chicken from there.

6.  House Prep.  The other thing I'm already loving about this process is how it's forcing me to clean.  I've already cleaned out my refrigerator and freezer.  I found more than 10 storage containers and ample amounts of mold.  ;-)  I wiped surfaces clean and rearranged.  I kinda like the idea of this informal schedule to clean the fridge.

So tonight I make the trip to Walmart, sans kiddos, ready to price match and coupon.  Tomorrow I will prep just the meats (ground beef and chicken) and chop or shred a few items.  Saturday is the big day!  I'll keep you posted!  Look for Part 2 next week.  

Eating Out Bargains

1.  Chick-Fil-A Family Night: The Benbrook and Cityview CFA's each have family night on Tuesday, where you get a free kid's meal with each adult combo.  We can eat for approximately $12.00.  Awesome. $3/person.

2.  Palio's: Wednesday nights at the Palio's Pizza Cafe on Bryant Irvin is BOGO: buy one pizza, get the second one for FREE.  I order two pizzas for 5:15pm pick up and Brad gets them on his way home.  Our kids love these pizzas so we get two of their large specialty pizzas for $15.99 plus tax. $4/person.

3.  Spring Creek BBQ: Each month the Valpack coupon packet contains a Buy One Rib Dinner, Get One Free coupon.  It works for any of their dinners (turkey, brisket, chicken, etc.), which range from $9-12.  We usually get the combo so the kids can share the meat and we load up on veggies (all you can eat) and supplement with their hot bread.  I'm a sucker for sweet tea so with drinks, we usually spend $15-17.  Again, about $4/person. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Set Hope Aside

This post is for my sweet, beautiful, and lively single friends.  I know some of you will roll your eyes and dismiss my words but I hope for a moment you would let me, even as a married woman, speak to your heart.

I laid in bed last night and remembered the many, many times my heart just groaned out of my chest for a husband.  I remember driving home from times with friends and crying from the loneliness and the often hopeless desire to have someone show interest in me.  Some days it wasn't even about marriage as much as it was a fierce longing for an esteemed man to just notice anything about me.  All that to say, I haven't forgotten those emotions and they were just as real and valid in my early twenties as some of you in your early thirties.  I know your heart often aches with unspeakable pain, and I know you often struggle with disappointment, insecurity, and fear.

Here is what I want to whisper to your soul, with a breath of fresh reality and challenge: setting hope for the future aside, are you truly thankful for your present?  There is often confusion in the single woman's heart between the very different hope and thankfulness in singleness.  We often have to pair our joy or gratitude today with hope, because it makes our heart leap at a promise of change.  But thankfulness is a deep acceptance of the current circumstance, no matter how frustrating or disappointing.  Thankfulness places a great and solid footing in the place where your boundary lines fall.  And the greatest beat of your heart is for the reality of Jesus' presence and pursuit in your life.  His absolutely unbelievable resolve at being your greatest treasure, love, and obsession.
"I say to the Lord, 'You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.' ... Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places...Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices."  Psalm 16:2, 5, 9
When these words take healthy root in our hearts and minds and when we nourish this text, we see the fruit in our thoughts and emotions.  We joyfully look at our circumstances as from the Lord, ordained by His sovereign nature, and believe that today is the best God has for us.
Part of me wants to tell you that this mindset will be of the utmost attraction to the opposite sex.  Or that as soon as you let this take root, just when you least expect it, Mr. Right will come bursting through your front door with a diamond ring.  But depth in thankfulness is so much more for the sake of your character and well-being.  It will shape your thoughts and movements with a genuine peace that will rock your world, with or without a man.  And it will wipe that silly "are you my husband?" look off your face. ;-)

In my final years of being single, I discovered this little verse in Proverbs 31 that revolutionized my life.  Verse 12 says the wife of noble character "brings [her husband] good, not harm, all the days of her life." All the days of her life. It doesn't say the days of her married life or the days starting when she meets her future husband. In the years, months and weeks of singleness and loneliness (or not-so-loneliness), she is doing good to her husband by honoring his life and character by walking in the beautiful and rare thankfulness that springs from a mind saturated with truth.

My prayer for you, as a single woman, is that you would choose thankfulness and gratefulness today, in this moment, and the moments that follow.  May you have victory with your emotions and thoughts, may you step out from the shadows of bitterness, and may you flourish in singleness.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Home Schooling Part 1: The Myths & FAQs

Since we began researching home schooling three years ago, I have been asked lots of questions by moms (and dads) and have been in many conversations about the issue of education.  The topic of home schooling brings up a lot of fears and puzzlement in the hearts of parents, which makes my heart sad.  In an effort to encourage those of you who have young children, I want to start a blog series to peel back the layers of time, prayer, and research that have gone into our decision.  

Let's start with the most frequently asked questions & concerns:

1.  What about socialization?
This question makes me laugh just writing it.  Take a minute and think about a classroom, with 25-30 kids, and one teacher.  Pupils sitting "neatly" in their seats, being told to hush and sit still, boys being told to not be boys.  Peer-to-peer interaction only takes place UNsupervised with kids who don't necessarily come from homes that value your values.  Your child will become like THEM, not vice versa.  Children need to be taught how to interact with adults by you and your spouse (think life-long lessons here).  Moms are the gatekeeper to what their child learns and she relinquishes most of this right when she puts them in public school. 

2.  Don't you just need a break from your kids?
Yes.  Absolutely.  And there is a very big part of me that dies because I don't get to imagine sending all my kids off on a school bus at 7:30 in the morning and not have them return until 4:00pm.  But really, when I set aside my selfish heart, I can't imagine how that would make me a better mom.  The cost of how their little minds process the break in relationship is simply not worth the reality of public schooling my children.

Surprising enough, the minimal structure has actually helped me find some peace of mind.  My kids are no longer bored, Zoë thrives at the table while she works, and begs for more.  It's given me some breathing room, the TV is on waaaay less, and we have something to look forward to the next morning, rather than dreading the next day's long hours.  

3.  How will you find the time to keep your house clean, do laundry, and cook?
Let me tell you a little secret.  (This comes down to philosophy of home schooling.)  On our busiest day, we will spend 90 minutes home schooling.  Yep, that's it.  45 minutes encompasses math (20), reading(20), and handwriting(5).  And another 45 minutes reading literature on the couch in our pjs.  Afternoons are spent outside with nature journals on their own self-guided fun.

Using textbooks, a school's curriculum, and spending hours and hours at the table becomes school at home and ventures out of the home schooling category.  This was the moment that tipped the scales for me because I simply could not imagine giving up 4-6 hours of my day to sit instructing, marking errors, and writing on a chalkboard.

At Carole Joy Seid's seminar this past weekend, she said something that spoke further to this issue.  Paraphrased: Mommy's job is not to play with her kids, it is to work.  There is nothing more important than modeling a strong work ethic and instilling that into my children.  If my kids want to hang out with me, they can help load the dishes, fold the laundry, or stir the pancake mix.  Of course, I play with and read to them but that is not my primary responsibility in our home; it is not to entertain them and make sure they're happy.  Carole also said their future spouses will thank me for it one day...again, the life-long lessons developing in their hearts.     
4.  What's wrong with public school? 
Briefly, the PBS website refers to universal education for all citizens as "America's noble experiment."  It wasn't all that long ago that children were educated by tutors & governesses from within the home.  

This was particularly interesting to me, emphasis added, also taken from the PBS site listed above:
In the nineteenth century, the American classroom was sparsely decorated and furnished. School design was simple, expressing the frugality of a largely rural, agricultural economy. Rural communities had few resources to expend on education, and there was a lack of commercially available products for schools. Often the school would be open only for a few months of the year, usually when children were not needed to work at home or on the farm.

In the one-room schoolhouse sat students of all ages and abilities. The sole teacher was usually an unmarried woman; sometimes the students were older than the teacher. Using only the most basic resources — slate, chalk, and a few books — teaching and learning consisted mainly of literacy, penmanship, arithmetic, and “good manners.” Recitation, drilling, and oral quizzes at the end of the day were the norm in classrooms across America.
(Doesn't that list of subjects sound familiar?  Look at our schedule under #3 above.)  Today, schools are a very different place and it only takes watching the evening news for five minutes to see the problems: funding, classroom size, character of teachers, and bullying.  The public school system is a very broken place and, simply put, doesn't deserve my children.

5.  Aren't Christians supposed to reach their community?   
To sacrifice the well-being, training, and character of our children for the sake of a religious notion, based on nothing or loose theology at best, is blasphemous.  We do not ask our children to evangelize their friends in a setting apart from us until their theology is sound.  Families are asked to reach families, and this can be done best outside a public school, while running errands with mom and interacting with people at the grocery story or local park.  Some of our family's most beautiful gospel-moments have happened while we're out and about during the day.    


Beyond preference, I am convinced and convicted that all moms can home school their children.  We take things one day at a time around here, and look just a few months ahead, only lesson planning for the semester.  God gives us grace for the place where we're standing today, and He'll give us grace for the field tomorrow.  If you have questions or need some encouragement in your own process, please don't hesitate to ask away (comment below).    

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oh the Joys: Delighting in Teaching my Child(ren)

Zoë turned six just 13 days ago and we began to home school her today.  We don't do school at home, we home school.  We follow the great wisdom of Carol Joy Seid, Gladys Hunt, and Raymond S. and Dorothy N. Moore.  We believe that less is more...less time, less subjects, and less pressure.  More play, more creativity, and more nature.

We have long been on the journey with preparing for our children's education.  It has indeed been a long and arduous one, with ups and downs, backs and forths, and prayer on steroids.  (Let me just say, it is one thing to research and ponder your child's education but that process is a mere prelude to actually educating your child.)  

So today continues that journey and it started with peace and a sense of things falling into all the right places.  Some day I'll put some more detail into how we've spent the past three months getting ready for today.  For now, here are pictures of the big girl on her first day of school.  

With Daddy before he heads to work

"First Day of School 2011-2012"
Our "fun" book with wipe-off marker time

Mostly focusing on *great* books

Must-haves for Mom: coffee, lesson plans, and cute pens!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Giving Up Your "Birthing Right"

I read a really good blog this morning that described an observer's sorrow at a mom's last minute "emergency" c-section because the induction process didn't work. I appreciated the writer's heart and definitely agree with her frustration at the process but I feel like there's a finger being pointed in the wrong direction.

It wasn't all that long ago that men and women treated healthcare very differently. Doctors made house calls. Husbands paid for the care and medicine out of their own pockets. And care was only summoned in the event of emergencies. "Go fetch the doctor, John Henry is cut his arm off under the donkey plow." You get the picture.

Things are very, very different today. I haven't studied the journey of healthcare and how it's affected the way women approach carrying and having babies but isn't it time that women took responsibility for their own ignorance? Maybe it's just easier to blame the doctors (the "enemy" in some people's perspective) instead of rightfully suggesting that women need to know more about their options. I don't know the statistics but I wonder wow many c-sections are performed because 1. Mama doesn't take care of herself and has health issues, forcing a c-section, or 2. Mrs. Mama has a deadline and is just plain tired of being pregnant and requests insists on demands being induced. Maybe it's not just the doctors' fault that birthing is no longer a regular part of life, but now considered a medical issue. (Caveat: Obviously there are very good reasons for c-sections and I'm thankful for the healthy babies that result. I am not suggesting all c-sections are unnecessary, just a lot of them. But I'm not a doctor nor a medical researcher so if you disagree, think of me as just plain dumb.)

There's this little story in Genesis 25 where Esau, hungry and impatient, gives up his birth right (inheritance) to his twin brother, Jacob. It was a decision made out of feeling & ignorance/misinformation ("I'm hungry. I must eat now and this is the only way to get food.") rather than information & truth ("I'm hungry. But I can wait, I will not starve and can find food from another source.") I haven't heard many teachings in the church about this story but I think there's a general consensus that Esau was the idiot for giving away what was his, and not Jacob, for taking what wasn't his. What a sad, sad ending.

I guess I'd just like to see the "finger" pointed at women, too, rather than condemning the collective of OBs. And I tend to have strong opinions about things like this, usually considered counter- or anti-cultural and perceived as abnormal. So be it. But I'm a mama who has managed to keep possession of her "birthing rights" and that makes me a happy mama.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Proverbs 31

Do you know what I like most about the woman described in Proverbs 31?

She didn't write those words about herself.

I've been meditating lately on what it takes to be a godly woman, wife, and mother. I've been pushing deep into my character and accepting the refining that God is taking me through. Nothing helps me see my sin better than His word, the Bible. Most Christians (both men & women) consider the wife described by the king in Proverbs 31 (as advised by his mother) as the end-all, be-all of women. She was a hard worker, she was faithful and sacrificing, she was wise, and she was loved and honored by her husband and her children.

And she was humble. She didn't write about herself or set up a forum discussing her strengths and projects, though I'm sure her blog would have been fabulous. She didn't stand on her roof to declare every little thought, though her tweets might have been fascinating. She knew her audience: her God, her husband, and her children. And she was probably just too busy, right?!

There is a part of me that wishes she had penned the verses because I'm sure we would have seen a much messier perspective, as she shares her struggles and bad days, the failures and the hiccups. But what stands the test of time and what impresses the heart of her husband is the glorious and indomitable spirit to work and manage, with frugality, generosity and a heart of joy. Those traits are birthed out of a deep groaning and a constant reminder: my life is not my own. My life is not my own. The ultimate act of humility is to embrace that our lives as moms and wives are not our own.

Breathe deep the air of humility, dear friend, and you will be filled with life.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Trump's Parenting Advice?!

Donald Trump on how to be a better parent? Yes, and in the most unconventional way.

Brad and I have been enjoying Celebrity Apprentice so it was quite intriguing when he talked about running for president. Perplexed by this entertaining businessman and wondering if he could do our nation some good, I checked out one of his books from the local library. Think Like a Champion: An Informal Education in Business and Life is a self-help book on success, geared toward college graduates or persons starting in the business world. I was reading to get a glimpse into his thoughts on life and learn a little more about his philosophies. Little did I know it would revolutionize my parenting. Halfway through one of the chapters (page 65 to be exact), I paused and realized I would never approach parenting the same:

Have the Right Mindset for the Job
"When I think of work, I often see it as problem solving. I've said before that if you don't have problems, then either you're pretending not to see something or you don't run your own business. Problems come with the territory, and they should never surprise you. You should expect them.

Even if you work for someone else, it's a good idea to expect problems and to be ready for them. To me it's a realistic approach. No matter how hard you work, there are times that things happen that are out of our control. Keep your eyes on your ideals as well as reality. That's what being prepared really means."

As I read this, I felt like the final twist of my mommy-Rubik's cube popped into alignment. Expect problems.

Somewhere in the Christian community, we began believing that to follow God and be a good parent meant avoiding problems with your kids. We worked ourselves into thinking that if we just pray hard enough and follow God's plan for parenting, we will sidestep the pitfalls. Walk in the fruit of the Spirit? So will your kids! Pray every day for their salvation? They will surely be saved! Pray every moment for a serene labor & delivery? It must come to pass!! My oh my, how we put such confidence in our abilities and don't prepare for problems. We live in a broken world, people.

I was shocked when my 18-month-old daughter hit the "terrible two's" about six months before scheduled. (Read that story here.) She was strong-willed and stubborn, and I was not ready for the early onset of her roller-coaster emotions and toddler defiance. Four years later, I was shocked again when, after several months of peace and consistency, Zoe hit another imbalance of discontent and malaise. Brad and I wondered where we had gone wrong; had we loosened the reigns of consistency and discipline?

I had not expected problems so I didn't prepare for them. I made so many assumptions and put so much pride in my own abilities (after all, people said we would be great parents!), that I didn't do my homework and prepare for the "next" season of life. And the next and the next. It wasn't until the crisis hit, that I discovered tools that would have prepared me for these times with our kids. I wish I had read this article when Zoë was 12 months old, and not close to six years. It would have shifted my thinking from avoiding the problems to preparing for them.

I'm already looking for great resources on the topic of school-aged kids, sibling rivalries, and raising brothers. I'm thinking about educating my boys and how it will vary from educating my daughter. I'll be checking out all the books on what happens in a marriage after ten years (we're almost at seven!) and not drown in the crisis of a moment. Even with all that help, I won't handle everything perfectly but at least I'll not be surprised when "it" happens.

Don't let your human ideals & expectations, laden with pride, lead you into blindness. Choose to see with eyes of faith - pray for the miracles to break through into your home and relationships - and ask for divine wisdom every step of the way. But prepare yourself - educate yourself - so you're ready when, and not if, the problems happen.

Thanks, Mr. Trump. Your check is in the mail.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Truth Investments

Truth is one of the few investments we can make that has a guaranteed return.

Though we haven't done it perfectly, Brad and I committed early in our parenting years to tell the truth. We tell the truth to our kids because we believe it is an investment. An investment into our relationship with our kids and most importantly: our character before God. We have found (and find it increasingly difficult) that telling your kids the truth is counter-cultural in the most extravagant of ways. Here's what I mean - take a look at these common examples:
  • Santa Claus & the Tooth Fairy. (Leading our children to believe in something that isn't real.)
  • The bug (or fish or hamster) is 'sleeping'. (Altering the truth to "protect" our kids from the topic of death.)
  • Fairy tales & stories that include magic, spells, etc. (Have you watch any recent episodes of Dora the Explorer lately?)
  • Letting our kids believe they are "good." (God says there is no one good, Romans 3:10)
Kids think and absorb in concrete details. If they see repeated images, stories, and characters, they can't distinguish between fact & fiction. For example, my kids have recently asked "Will that tiger talk?" when we go to the zoo. They see a show that portrays a cartoon tiger talking and they assume tigers can talk. Leading up to Easter, Zoë and I were talking about Jesus coming alive after dying on the cross and she said "The angel came and made a spell to make Him come alive." Oh boy. She is processing the difference between miracles and magic. (P.S. Both exist and there's a big difference.)

We don't let our kids believe that Santa is real because I want them to believe me when I talk about Jesus. (He is the well-lit way.) I don't avoid death conversations because they must understand the truth about life AND death from me, not from a false source. And the more I convince my kids that they are "good," they less they will understand their great need for a Savior King.

Aside from these tangible reasons that will help our children grow with healthy perspectives and never have to question what Mom & Dad say, I've place a VERY high value on my integrity. My integrity is not worth the value of a white lie, so I refuse to sell it for such little cost. It's not worth the fun of Santa or the Tooth Fairy, so I refuse to compromise.

It's hard to tell the truth. I mean, it would be so much easier to go with the flow when it comes to holidays and their respective characters. It would be simpler to say "the fish is going to wake up" than talk about the complicated process of death. And it would be so much more fun to watch all the cartoons and movies that are geared toward my preschoolers. Don't get me wrong, we have failed when it's inconvenient. But something inside of me believes that there is going to come a moment when my children will decide if they believe me and it.will.matter. It will be more important than Santa and his fluffy white beard. It will be when they test the concrete brick support of my commitment to them and the faith that sustains their family. Every sacrifice will seem like pennies compared to the vast richness of Truth's treasure. Truth will be the fabric that covers my children, my husband, and our legacy.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

94¢ FUN(fetti)

Brad worked late one night last week so I decided to help occupy our evening with some cupcake decorating. It's always helpful when local grocers support my efforts with a sale! Here are a few pictures from our night:

Silicone muffin cups are a must!

Is there anything better than a funfetti cupcake?!
(Yes. This face.)

Quick chat with Grandma.

Sprinkles. Sprinkles. Sprinkles.

Smushy smushy.

Frosting anyone?

Sweet siblings.
(Yes, that is a knife he's holding.)


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hope for this Mama

I've recently discovered Brooke Fraser and I love her. I mean, I love her heart, song-writing skills, and the gospel that draws me close when I listen to her music. I have had such a hard time lately with mothering and this song is healing my heart, giving me hope, and proclaiming truth when I'm blind. Think of these lyrics as you journey through your perspective as a mom.

Shadowfeet (from her Albertine album)

Walking, stumbling on these shadowfeet
toward home, a land that i've never seen
I am changing: less and less asleep
made of different stuff than when I began
and I have sensed it all along
Fast approaching is the day

When the world has fallen out from under me
I'll be found in you, still standing
When the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees
When time and space are through
I'll be found in you

There's distraction buzzing in my head
saying in the shadows it's easier to stay
But I've heard rumours of true reality
Whispers of a well-lit way


You make all things new


When the world has fallen out from under me
I'll be found in you, still standing
Every fear and accusation under my feet
When time and space are through
I'll be found in you

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The 10pm Nap

...and other things you didn't know about having a newborn.

I'm continually amazed at the surprises that await new moms. Several of my friends are having babies lately and many of our conversations (though few and far between while juggling our changing schedules) revolve around the things we never knew or forgot about having a baby. Sure, there are dozens (hundreds?!) of books about having a baby but I think they focus more on how to take care of a new baby than prepare you for the nuances. So in an effort to make light of the sweet things of newborn-ville and remind you that you are not alone, here are some things you might discover in your baby's first four months of life!

1. The 10pm Nap. No longer the beginning of a stretch of dreams and quiet, your normal bedtime will become the start of a nap. You'll be up within the next 2-4 hours, feeding the sweet thing. So forget taking sleeping pills and prepare to be tired. VERY tired. It could be months and months before you get a full night of sleep.

2. The "Sleep while s/he is sleeping" advice is darn near impossible. While this is meant to encourage new moms to rest, I found that it was a complete challenge. Once the baby falls asleep and assuming you can put it down (see number 3), you will find 1.) you're not tired, 2.) that laundry, dishes or some other chore must be done, or 3.) your favorite show has just started. You will start a load of something, wipe down the counters, eat something and pee, then fatigue will start to set in and just as you curl up with your head on the pillow, the baby will wake up. No joke.

3. Your baby will sleep best (and possibly only) while being held. By you. By your spouse. By a grandparent. By a stranger at the grocery store. It's wonderful that babies require such physical touch and cuddling, and believe me, I love to snuggle with my kids and realize they won't always voluntarily crawl into my arms. But after working for 15...30...60 minutes to get your baby to sleep, you'll hold your breath and place it in bed, only to find it waking up immediately. We resorted to arranging pillows and blankets and the boppy (stopping just short of a heating pad but considered it!) to simulate our arms but that little nugget will know the difference! Argh!

4. Is my baby breathing? One of my most vivid memories of Zoë's first days was sleeping with the light on. She was in the bassinet next to my side of our bed but I couldn't bring myself to turn off the light because I wanted to make sure she was breathing. I was afraid to fall asleep because I was just positive she would stop breathing. It's so frustrating but most every mom experiences this fear. You'll be desperate for the baby to sleep for 5-6 hours and as soon as she does, you'll wake up in the middle of the night and rush to her quiet room, thinking it's only because she's passed out. Really. This happens.

5. The Phantom Cry. When you finally get a moment or two to shower, you'll swear you hear the baby's cries muffled by the sound of the running water. You'll hop out, soaked and covered in shampoo to check on the darling, only to find he's fast asleep and not making a noise. WTHeck?!

6. Your brain will change. I love how God created a portion of a woman's brain to start functioning as soon as the baby comes out. For nine months, your pregnancy required no mental thought to create the baby - it just happened on its own. Motherhood, however, requires every ounce of brain matter to remember, organize, structure, function, cope, and manage diapers, feedings, clothing, formula, pacifiers, naps, meals, and hygiene ALL while worrying about germs, growth rates, a healing mommy's body, and comparing yourself to every other mom in the world. Embrace the change.

7. Breast feeding might be best....but Similac/Enfamil/Gerber will make you think otherwise. By the time Tucker was born, I had seven (7!) full-size samples of formula in our closet. I mean, COME ON! There is nothing more tempting than giving up nursing when "the answer" sits in a hidden corner of your pantry. In just one pregnancy, the formula industry sent me over $100 worth of products to lure me in. It's worked every time. :-( You are not a bad mom for giving your baby formula.

8. Pacifiers are a blessing...and a curse. "Do you have the pacifier?" became as common as making sure we had the baby when leaving the house. I am so thankful for something that provides a sense of peace to soothe when my baby needs it but hate the dependancy it creates. It doesn't stay in. It gets dirty. They get lost as easily as ponytail holders and are only found when not needed. There are so many kinds (silicone? latex?) and are only cheap because you'll go through dozens in just twelve months.

9. You will expect the father of your baby to be a mother. You and your husband will care for the baby differently. Very differently. I believe that God created the woman to be the primary caretaker of children and this applies to newborns, too. I don't believe it's meant to be a 50/50 partnership of shared feedings, diaper changes, and wardrobe updates. He won't know when to feed the baby because you did the last feeding. He won't know if the diaper needs changing because you put on the last clean one. He'll want to hold the baby but won't offer to take it from you because you're its mother and wild animals kill anyone who tries to take their baby. He won't warm up the water for the bottle because you told him it was too hot last time. He won't get up in the middle of the night because he has to work the next day and doesn't even have an opportunity for a nap. He will try very, very hard to be a great dad but he's just not sure what that means and he's so overwhelmed with love and responsibility for this sweet bundle of joy that he doesn't want his weakness to make a mess of it. But he will be a great dad, if you let him.

Welcome to motherhood and take hope! Do you know the strength and power that resides in your heart? Do you know that you'll lose your life as you raise this child and surrender its every purpose to God? You'll die to yourself throughout every moment and realize how many rights you think you still possess. But your character will be beautiful as it's refined. You are not alone - God is with you and He's the perfect parent. He has all wisdom and knowledge for every challenge you're facing with Sweet Pea. He is our strength in moments of weakness. He provides friends who also go through the fires of motherhood, some who have gone before, some who walk alongside us, and some have yet to start the journey.

You are not alone!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hello World!

Yikes! Last post was September?! Until just a few weeks ago, my excuse was pregnancy and two kids so don't ask how I'm able to sit down and write a coherent thought with three. Let's just call it a miracle...all three are napping so what better way to write about the greatest news of our year? There were so many things different about this pregnancy and one day I'll write a detailed entry about my struggles through the first and second trimester but TODAY, I want to remember how Tucker Jack made his entry into this world.

According to my calculations, our second boy was due to arrive around February 1st. It was confirmed with multiple sonograms and my midwife's date showed February 3rd so when 2011 knocked at our door, we had at least a month to prepare. I had a "Pre-Baby Checklist" of items that needed purchasing and projects around the house. Brad and I talked about what needed to happen with Zoe (5) and Colby (newly 3) before the baby's arrival. Words like "gentle" and "please be patient" and "quiet please" needed to make their way to the forefront of our vocabulary. But most of all, we were still working on naming the little boy - I needed more time!!

My favorite part of Tucker's early arrival is that I cannot take an ounce of credit. God made Himself known as my Good and Sovereign King throughout every step. I had learned so much humility through Colby's labor & delivery that I was pushed to my knees from the moment we had a positive pregnancy test. I prayed. I asked God for really big miracles. I struggled with the balance of having faith for the "unseen and yet to come" and yet guarding my heart against human expectations. I prayed and prayed and then I prayed some more.

Tuesday night, January 4th
We took the kids to Chick-Fil-A for family night (free kids meals!) and came home for a dance party. (We have these a lot at our place right before bedtime.) While the kids shook their hips and laughed with Brad, I sat in the rocking chair and made a point to remember the moment. Knowing we'd soon have a little newborn and grow to a family of five, this stage of life was coming to a close so I wanted to embrace the image. I made another mental note to plan a "just the four of us" party before the end of the month. We all went to bed at our normal times; Brad took a double dose of melatonin.

Wee hours of January 5th (apologies if this is TMI...)
The sensation of gushing water between my legs woke me up at 1:45am and I rushed into our bathroom. I sat there and yelled to Brad (deep in a mela-coma): "I think my water broke." I was barely 36 weeks along and couldn't believe this was happening. I called my sweet midwife, Donna, who was in deep sleep and not expecting a call from me for another month! She instructed us to call when contractions got close together. I changed into my birthing gown & robe and donned a lovely pair of Depends. We started washing clothes (no newborn stuff was ready) and packed an overnight bag, in case we had to go to the hospital.

Around 6am, I had a few contractions that were just a few minutes apart so we called and asked Donna to come. My labors with Zoe and Colby were 3.5 hours and 4.5 hours so I expected similar results and didn't want my husband delivering our premie baby. Donna arrived but my contractions disappeared. The kids went to my parents but labor came to a standstill. All. Day. I would go over an hour without a contraction and started wondering how soon I'd have to go to the hospital. I was so thankful for a husband who was peaceful and prayerful and a midwife that exudes authority and peace and wisdom. I was never fearful just perplexed and trusting that we had heard the Lord about a third home birth.

Donna left early afternoon and we tried to rest. I ate Mexican food, hoping to "spice up" my labor. I tried to sleep but mostly rested until we crawled into bed at 9pm. I laid there for an hour and finally moved to Zoe's empty bed to elude my husband's snoring. (Sorry, babe.)

Thursday, January 6th
Labor finally began just after midnight with contractions intensifying and regulating. At that point, I was JOYFUL to have a painful contraction and relieved to be in labor. God knew what I needed. The birth team arrived (midwife, assistant, and student) and I was hurting and serious. Unlike previous labors, I found that focusing on random objects (the door hinge or screw head) helped me breathe. I talked out loud to myself, like my own personal coach. I could feel the transition and knew our baby boy was making his way to our arms.

Just before 6am, I could feel the little boy moving down to make his arrival. I had forgotten the pain of the last few moments of labor. Donna later compared it to a freight train and she was right: I lost it. Donna's voice calmed me down and I pushed with eager desperation. Whew, he was OUT! He was sticky and crying and beautiful and perfect.

He was on me within seconds and I just kept calling him my "sweet boy" and Brad's voice filled his ears. And though we didn't give him a name for another, we know that God established his identity before time and calls him by name. And we like to call him Tucker. Tucker Jack Thompson. Who weighed exactly seven and a half pounds - can he still be called a premie?!?!

As I finish this entry and remember back to the moment God told me that this baby boy was for me - for my heart and for my joy - I am overwhelmed with love for a child I had often wished away and second-guessed. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!