Adding Routine To The Day

Friday, April 7, 2017

As my girls are getting older, I'm finding it necessary to have more structure to our days, particularly in the morning hours. We will start officially start homeschooling in the fall, and I know that already having at the very least a morning routine in place will make the transition a lot less frustrating for all of us. My last five years with them have been so sweet and I've so enjoyed the freedom to do as we pleased each day, whether it was play dates, running errands, cleaning house, or just hanging out at home playing. But I realized that with my oldest getting close to six, it was time to start building in some structure slowly, and adding some additional expectations that were reasonable for her and my four-year-old to fulfill.

I've been amazed at how both the kids and I have thrived off of having a set routine (though we aren't so bound by it that we don't still occasionally stray from it if necessary). My oldest especially seems to love knowing what's expected and what is next on the agenda. And for me, who hates being bound to anything, I'm finding that it helps me start the day productively even when I'm feeling tired and unmotivated.

So what does a typical morning look like for me and the girls? I'll give you the rundown. The times are approximate. The beauty of being a stay-at-home-mom is that we can move at a slower pace if need be. We are rarely frantic, which in my opinion is a very good thing, and so counter-culture to the fast-paced world we live in. This means that if someone wakes up in a sour mood, I spend a few minutes longer than usual snuggling on the couch until they're feeling better. It means if I have a late night and feel exhausted, I might enjoy a second cup of coffee before really getting going. I love that staying home means tailoring each day to individual needs--yet still being diligent to get things done.

Okay, on to a typical day with my five, four, and two-year-old!

6 am: I try to be up by six or shortly after. I'd love to bump it up to 5:30, but I haven't been able to meet that goal as of yet. I get my coffee going and drink some water, then head to the couch to begin my day meeting with the Lord. It's a habit I've had for a decade now, and I'm pretty much a disaster of a human if I don't start my day with Him. I usually have a devotion or some sort of guide, so that I'm not just opening the Bible and aimlessly reading (though if you are able to just open the Book and read with no additional resources, I think that is own mind tends to wander if I don't have questions to answer, things to be looking for, etc.). Then I get out my prayer journal and use it as a rough guide for my prayer time.

7:15-7:30: The two big girls are usually meandering down the stairs about now and we snuggle on the couch for a few minutes, until Brad leaves for work and we all hug and kiss him goodbye for the day.

7:30: I let them watch TV! No judging please!!! This is a crucial part of the morning for me--though I suppose I'd survive without it, as mom's did centuries before me! I'm super selective about what they're allowed to watch, and they watch half an hour, generally. I try to find shows that serve a purpose in either reinforcing morals and values we are teaching them, teaching them something new and useful, or encouraging creativity and imagination. Their half hour in front of the television gives me time to grab a super fast shower and get breakfast started for them, as well as getting organized for the day. I used to think I'd be super anti-television for my kids, but this really works for us!

8:00: They eat breakfast and I clean up the kitchen.

8:30: They begin their chore chart, starting with clearing their places and wiping the table, and checking to see if there's anything they can help me with in the kitchen. Then they make beds, get dressed and put their jammies away or in the laundry hamper, and brush teeth. I realize that this doesn't sound like much, but this is just the every-single-morning, get it done without being asked "chores". There are other things they do throughout the day.

9:00: Now we are ready for the day, have full bellies (oh wait, my kids are never full), and we sit down for one of my favorite times of the day. I first do a devotion with them. We love the book Be Like Jesus by Stephen Elkins, and The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers by Carla Barnhill (though my girls have pretty much outgrown that one). Then we take turns praying for our day. We have encouraged them in praying aloud since they were little. Izzie, who just turned two, loves it when it's her turn and I love hearing her little baby prayers to Jesus! Sometimes it's obvious they're praying because I'm making them, sometimes it's full of giggling, but often, it's a time of sincere prayers from them and it's beautiful! Last, we get out our old hymn book and sing a hymn or two. I started this because they love singing, and I thought, why not teach them the rich, meaningful words of timeless hymns rather than only children's songs? They love picking a hymn out of the book, and every month or so, we add a new one to learn.

That's about it as far as structure goes right now. After everything I mentioned is complete, we either do some school work, go outside (weather permitting), or leave to go to they gym, run errands, or meet with friends.

Lunch is around noon, and at almost 1:00 sharp everyday, we have resting time. This means different things for each of us, but all of us rest. The two-year-old naps, the four-year-old naps or reads, the five-year-old turns my bed into a little nest full of blankets, books, puzzles, and random things and has an hour of quiet, and I write, read, listen to a podcast while folding laundry, or nap myself!

A few other things that we do daily are tea time, dinner as a family, and Bible reading before bed with their dad.  Tea time is something we just started recently and the girls really hold me to it! We did it one day just for fun, and I said without really thinking, "We should do this everyday!" And so now we do. After the littlest one wakes up from her nap, we make tea and a little snack and sit at the table or outside and chitchat about whatever! I love it!

As I write this all out, it sounds like our whole days are planned out and there isn't much room for play, but I assure you, the majority of their days are still full of playing, exploring outside, drawing pictures, and just being wild and free kids. Having these set things we do day-in and day-out are teaching them at a young age something of responsibility, time-management, diligence, and routine. As they get older and as we start school, we will gradually add more responsibilities and there will be more and more structure to our days. But for now, that's a typical day for us!

I'd love to hear what works and what doesn't work for adding structure and routine to your days! I'm certainly not an expert, but rather figuring out what works for us day by day, and praying that whatever we do and however we do it, we bring glory to God, as is our ultimate goal in this life!

Your Body Image Will Affect Her Body Image

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I'd like to start by saying that I may be the least qualified person to write an article on healthy body image. And yet as unqualified as I feel, I know I must write about it. Maybe in a strange way, I'm more qualified than I think because it's something I've struggled with. It isn't easy for me to write about; In fact, I've been working on this for a week and deleted hours of work, only to start over. I'm sorting it out in my brain as I go, and if I sound preachy at any point, please know, I'm preaching at myself! So with that disclaimer in place, here we go. Body image. Drumroll please...

I've often wondered, what in the world ever made me think so much about my appearance? It doesn't take much thinking to figure it out. We live in a culture obsessed with outward appearance. Starting in middle school--if not grade school--it seems like the most popular girls are always the prettiest, most well dressed. In college there's pressure not to gain the dreaded "freshman 15" (I gained 30, thank you very much), and if you do gain weight, there's temptation to experiment with diet pills, crash diets, and even eating disorders in order to stay thin. Everywhere we look, there are billboards, commercials and magazine covers with seemingly perfect women: perfect hair, skin, teeth, clothes, and of course, body. We rarely stop to remember what we've probably been told somewhere along the way, that these women are airbrushed to perfection. Pounds shaved off, cellulite smoothed, skin magically cleared, breasts 'enhanced', teeth whitened. It's fake, but it still makes us women somehow feel less-than. While we should all strive to be healthy, striving for an unattainable, unrealistic pants size is...well, it's tempting. I know, I've been there. It's tempting, it's vain, and it can become all consuming. When we allow ourselves to gaze jealously at the women on the cover of magazines, we are setting ourselves up for discontentment with the amazing, beautiful, unique person that God lovingly, painstakingly created us to be; to look like. And we forget that we were created for the sole purpose of glorifying God by loving him and loving others. (I've found that the busier I am loving others, the less I think of myself and my appearance; and also, the more focused I am on myself and my appearance, the less I find myself looking for ways to love others. Funny how that works...)

Can I be honest? The women I often find myself envying are not those who are dressed to the nines. I don't envy other women's shoe collections, perfect hair, or seemingly perfect lives. I envy the woman who is absolutely, unabashedly unashamed of her body. Whether she is overweight or underweight, short or tall, flat chested or ample. Whether she has visible stretch marks or a less-than-flat tummy, tangible evidence that she birthed one or more babies from her body. These are the women I envy. You know the ones? They walk confidently, head held high. They dress nicely, wearing clothes that they actually like, not clothes made to hide every imperfection. And they rarely, if ever, make comments about what they'd like to fix about themselves.

Oh that we could all be like this! That we could all find our worth in who we are in Christ, and that that would be enough! I'm not saying that if a woman is overweight and desires to get healthy, she shouldn't bother. In fact, health is what we should all strive for--regardless of our weight, but we so often confuse being healthy with being skinny. You may be healthiest at size six, whereas I'm most healthy at size eight. Women struggling with certain medical issues may not budge below size ten or twelve. God made each of us so uniquely different, health can look a hundred different ways, but the absolute truth is that we need to think less about what size jeans we wear and more about what size heart we have! Consider the following:

"Rather, it [beauty] should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 3:4

"Charm is deceptive and beauty fades, but a women who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30

"The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

If we want our daughters to have beautiful hearts, it starts with us putting our hearts before our appearances. Our daughters pick up on everything, and you better believe that they hear you when you complain to your husband about your tummy pooch or your jiggly arms. Conversely, they hear you when you talk about matters of the heart. Not only do they pick up on our words, they see every little action. Our daughters see us spend time in front of the mirror and they see us spending time in the Word, in prayer, in serving others. Which one do they see more of? Stop and really think about that (I am too).

Please do not misunderstand. Exercising is good. Eating healthy is wonderful! In fact, I teach boot camp and fitness classes, and am a former personal trainer. I read about nutrition for fun. I am definitely a huge proponent of eating well and exercising. Letting your daughters see you exercise and take care of your physical body is fine! In fact, when my girls ask, "Mommy, why do you exercise?", I tell them that it's because it helps keep me strong so that I can take care of them and have more fun with them. That's the truth and it completely satisfies their need for an answer every single time, plus it's giving them the right mindset about exercise from a very young age: exercise is (or at least, it should be) about keeping a person physically and mentally healthy. Period. Please, don't ever answer your daughter's question with, "I'm exercising to lose weight" or "To get rid of these gross love handles." Instead, tell her the benefits of exercise; how it gives you more energy, makes you strong, and helps you be mentally healthy (a proven benefit of exercise). We should never teach our daughters that exercise is about achieving a six-pack, fitting into those size 4 jeans we've had tucked away, or having killer thighs.

When our daughters start to realize that we find ourselves flawed physically, they immediately wonder about their own physical flaws. Just hearing us say something negative about our appearance makes them suddenly very aware of their own appearance, and makes them wonder what they need to change or improve about themselves. It sets them up for a lifetime of striving for physical improvement, which so easily spirals into the unattainable and incredibly vain desire to look perfect. Again, let's look at the opposite side of the coin: If our daughters see us spending more time on things of lasting value, then they will naturally grow up believing that those are the things that matter. Let's spend a moment in honest reflection together. Does your daughter see you reading your Bible? Does she see you praying? Visiting someone in need and maybe making a meal for them? Using your gifts to help others and to glorify God? Does she have the privilege of having you read Bible stories to her? Praying with her throughout the day? Playing with her? OR, does she see you spend an hour in front of the mirror getting ready, checking out your butt in the mirror with a sour expression on your face, changing cloths a million times as you complain how nothing fits and how you wish you were skinnier? Does she watch you do a hundred squats and sit ups when really, she's dying to go outside and play hopscotch with you? Does she see you put in more hours at the gym each week than you do quality time with your husband? Honestly, she should see both. Both are good. We just need to make sure the scale isn't tipped the wrong way, where we're spending more time on ourselves than on others and with the Lord.

My daughter's are two, four, and five (close to six). I've been very aware lately that they see me spend more time getting ready than they see me reading my Bible. Part of this is because I try to read early before they get up. Having my girls know what my priorities are in life is such an important issue to me that I've started--if only a couple of days a week--writing while they're asleep and opening up my Bible later in the day when they're awake, because I need them to know that mommy doesn't just talk about how important the Bible is, but they actually see me reading it. And as much as I love a good hard workout, I'm learning that taking them for a walk in the field and skipping with them, jumping over giant gopher holes, and giving them piggy back rides, can suffice for a decent days exercise. Again, there's not a thing wrong with them seeing me do sprints in the driveway or lunges in the living room on a rainy day, but I want to continually check my heart. What my family sees is a reflection of my heart. Is my heart leaning toward God or toward self? I think it's a question we should continually ask ourselves and answer honestly, making sure the tipping point stays toward God.

I know this isn't fun to read. I assure you, it wasn't fun for me to write. I had to take a hard look at my habits, my thought patterns, and my own actions. I realized that this is a struggle that comes in seasons for me. I'll have a season where I'm content and think very little about my appearance; when I do think about it (like when I'm getting ready in the morning), I'm just fine with who God made me. I'm not obsessed with the saggy skin on my stomach, proof of carrying and birthing three babes. I'm not squeezing my way into jeans that I only wished fit, and complaining to my husband about my butt. There's such freedom in living like that. Getting up and getting dressed and ready and then just living life without thinking about what you look like all day long. It's wonderful and it frees your mind up to be focused on all the important things around you. But then, I have seasons where I'm entirely too focused on external aspects of myself. Where I see every stretch mark, every miniscule wrinkle, the slightly crooked teeth and the mousy colored hair. It takes me forever to get dressed and I feel self conscious when I'm out. Most, if not all of us have been there at some time or another (postpartum anyone?). So what do we do when we find ourselves struggling with our body image? Here are just a few ways:

  1. Pray. Confess your struggle to the Lord and just talk to him! I feel so much lighter after just telling him why I'm struggling with something--even though I know he already knows! Ask him to help your focus return to him instead of self. Believe that he will help you overcome this frustrating struggle.
  2. As Ellie Holcomb sings in her latest album, use your "fighting words"! She's referring to fighting our inner battles with scripture. Use the scriptures I referenced above, or find some that ring true to you.
  3. Focus on the things you do like about yourself. It's easy to get so caught up in our imperfections that we forget about our assets. My husband never notices when I have a pimple (at least he claims he doesn't...), but when I have one, that's literally all I can see. Same with weight. No one else notices when my weight fluctuates five or ten pounds, but I obsess over it. I forget all about what I like about my appearance--and it's okay to like things about yourself! It doesn't make you vain or prideful:)
  4. Go out of your way to do something kind for someone else. Something out of the ordinary and unexpected. It will remind you that you are really, truly the most beautiful when you're heart is beautiful.
  5. Remember that your body is amazing: Truly, incredibly, unbelievably amazing! It carried life and delivered a tiny human into the world. It fed that tiny human for months, and now it keeps that human alive every single day! Your body bends and twists and works hard every day as you pick up and carry little ones, pick up messes, clean up spills, and give out countless hugs. Your body is capable of all that and it is amazing! Believe it!
Mama, your daughter adores you (even if she's a teenager and pretends not to!) She picks up your habits and idiosyncrasies and attitudes. You know the expression, "Like mother, like daughter"? It's true. Your daughter will become like you more than you know! I don't know about you, but I want my daughters to grow up being strong and healthy, living an active lifestyle and eating nutritious food that they enjoy! Not growing up trying to fit in a certain pants size, dieting, weighing themselves everyday and thinking about their bodies all the time. Scary as it seems sometimes, I have got to take responsibility for my actions and recognize the role that I play in their current and future thoughts and beliefs on this matter. Will they be more concerned with cultivating a beautiful heart or trying to cultivate what the world says is a beautiful body? I hope and pray that I lead them in the right direction, that I can be confident in my physical appearance in a healthy way that says, "Yes, I'm just fine with my body, but I'm also just not that concerned with it!"

I desperately want myself and my daughters to be women who fear the Lord, who are wise and strong and gentle-spirited and loving and full of faith and mercy and grace. With a tall order like that...who has time for obsessing over the imperfections?


Dads: Date Your Daughter!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Today I have the privilege of introducing you to my best friend, Brad. Oh and he also happens to be my husband, and dad to our three little girls! I told him when I started this blog a couple of months ago that I'd be recruiting him to write some posts just for dads, man to man, dad to dad. And so, today he is talking about how he "dates" our daughters. It's pretty amazingly cool (as is he;) ) here we go!

Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Cor 16:13-14

I once heard a wise man from our church talk about dating his daughter. He had got the idea from a website called All Pro Dad.  Another man I know and respect, a youth pastor and father of eight children, takes each one on a date every month. He goes on their birthday date each month and just spends an hour or so of uninterrupted dad time. His kids love it! Recently, our pastor challenged us with our goals as the new year started, and I thought, I need to take my daughters on dates. A wonderful movie entitled Courageous (my personal favorite--I watch it every Father's Day!) also encourages dads to date their daughters so that daughters can see what it’s like to be respected, honored and cherished; to encourage her to prayerfully wait for a man who is a servant loving leader; A man she can trust and respect because of the Christ-like example he is to her through his actions and words.  

I’ve got to be honest: It’s taken me two years to actually put this idea into practice. I roll ideas around in my head but really struggle with actually completing them; I often make excuses and rarely find the time to start. Why do I need to? Ephesians 1:1-2 says:

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
We are a direct representation of God himself to our children and others.

1 Timothy 3:1-5 says:

"The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?"
And Deuteronomy 6:5-9 says:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Here's my story:
I screwed up big time on my middle daughters last birthday. I committed to something at school (I'm a teacher) that I couldn't get out of--on the night of her 4th birthday. A friend recently told me that he saw his dad pour into ministry but not pour into his kids. God forbid that our first priority and responsibility of raising our children as they should go so they won’t depart from it takes the back burner. I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want God to judge me because I neglected my family--the family that he gave me to love and to lead.
So I took a half day off from work to try to fix things and I took my daughter out for burritos for lunch and then to the carousel. It saved the day--and made her birthday so special, more than I even thought it would. She still talks about it as if it was yesterday. She loved and hung on to every second.
I’ll admit that going in, I didn't have a clue what to talk about for two hours with my four-year-old daughter, but it was fine. Fellas, we just have to start somewhere. Start small. I opened doors for her and told her how beautiful she was, and then listened as I asked her questions about what she likes about life, what her day was like, what does she enjoy most, her favorite food, or whatever… I listened and she talked. She just enjoyed having one-on-one daddy time.
Maybe you're already doing this, but if not, I want to share some encouragement and tips for you to be successful:

1.      GET STARTED AND DO WHAT THEY LIKE. I made a list for each of my three daughters of what interests them and what I knew they would they enjoy. For example, my oldest is super active and loves parks, so we went to a park in the dead of winter with snow blowing in our faces. She loved every minute. My middle daughter loves the carousel, so we went around multiple times. It’s her favorite and she still talks about going back. My youngest (who just turned 2), well, I took her to get a cookie and a snack and she must have spent 30 minutes eating and I just enjoyed her smile with a mouthful.
2.       KEEP IT SMALL. It doesn’t have to be extravagant--be creative to keep the budget lower. I took both daughters to a local candy store on different days after school and we sat at the soda fountain counter and shared a milkshake and candy as we talked about all the decorations around the room. One time we sat next to a dad and his older daughter and I realized other guys are doing this to. It is so valuable!
3.     CONSIDER BRINGING SOMETHING BACK for the others. My second daughter is always thinking of others and she was like, "Can we bring something back for our sisters and mommy?" and I said sure. So now they’re thinking of what their siblings would like. It's beautiful.
4.       GIVE YOURSELF SOME GRACE, BUT TRY NOT TO MAKE IT A HABIT OF MISSING. I told my middle daughter that we would go on a date the next day and then I spaced it. She reminded me as I was tucking her into bed that night that I had forgotten. A man who doesn't keep his word is not a man (I screw up too often with this--my yes is not always yes). I don’t want my daughter to fall for a flakey guy. We’re all imperfect but we have to try and make these commitments. (I took her on a date the next day) The girls wait for and anticipate these all month. Someone once told me, don’t start something you can’t finish. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. This choice to start these dates will become a tradition they look forward to.
Our daughters are always watching how we treat them and their moms, and we don’t want our daughters future to be hindered by our examples if we men neglect the responsibility to lead and direct the next generation. If we set the example for them, then prayerfully, hopefully, by God’s grace, they will not settle for anything less. Be strong and courageous-He’s with us wherever we go. His power is perfected in our weakness. May He strengthen us and build our houses.

What You Can Do Now to Raise Teens Who Talk to You

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

As a mom who's been blessed with all girls, I often find myself talking to a perfect stranger who, when they see that I have girls, feels compelled to warn me of the dreadfulness that will surely come to visit us in their teen years. It's simple statements with loaded implications, like "Oh what beautiful girls you have! What a blessing! Enjoy it now, because once they're teens..." Like it's a given that once our house is full of teenage girls instead of toddlers and school-agers, suddenly life is going to be full of misery and angst. Seriously, I've not ever received one positive comment from anyone regarding what's to come. Now, I write this as a mom who doesn't yet have teenagers, but before you blow me off as unqualified to write such an article, please note that these are all words of wisdom that have been given to me over the years from wise women who have raised girls, and not only survived, but thrived through the teen years. I've tucked these words away and try to remember to apply them daily, so that Lord willing, our home won't be as awful as all these well-meaning (or not-so-well-meaning!) individuals say it will. Even if your daughter is little, it's not too early to start intentionally forging a relationship with her that will make her more inclined to grow into a teen who wants to have you be primarily her mother, but also her confidant and friend. Here are four things you can do right now to move in that direction.

1. Listen to her even when you're bored out of your mind.

Sometimes my oldest wants to tell me every single thing that just happened on The Magic School Bus (her current favorite show). I'm talking details. That I don't care about. She will revisit the show in it's entirety, giving me the play by play for fifteen solid minutes. So guess what I do? I muster up a smile and I listen. I could take it a step further by stopping what I'm doing and really engaging and asking questions here and there. Why bother? Because if I don't listen to her now, she will eventually stop telling me about everything, and one day I'll wake up and she'll be a pre-teen going through some hard and awkward things and she won't want to talk to me about them. It will be too late. I'm putting the work in now (if you can call listening to the details of dreams and kid shows 'work') so they will feel like mom is always available to listen and talk with later when issues get heavy.

2. Watch your facial expressions.

This one goes along with listening. Kids are so in tune with details that we assume they are oblivious to. Not only do they notice our idiosyncrasies and mimic us, they notice our body language, our tone of voice, and our slight facial expressions. They can tell when we are listening but bored. They notice the dumbfounded look on my face that I get when they say or do something I disapprove of (or when they don't know something simple that I think they should know by now). Kids are amazingly in tune, especially with their mothers, and a snarky or bored or stupefied look on our face can cause them to be hesitant to talk to us openly and honestly. We don't have to wear big fake smiles all day long, but we can fight the urge for negative facial expressions when our children are talking to us.

3. Don't react negatively when they ask you a shocking question or say something wildly inappropriate.

Kids say the darndest things, we all know this and have experienced it at some point--or several. Young children will inevitably ask very frank questions about very personal subjects. They are curious and when they're little, they have no embarrassment themselves whatsoever, which is why it's important to answer them with an age appropriate answer, without getting all weird about it. That doesn't mean we have to give a three year old the details of how to insert a tampon and what a period is! But when she finds a tampon while rummaging in your purse and asks "What's this?", it's important to give a quick answer without making it into a big deal. If your child is school age, they will come home with questions about things they hear other (often older) kids talking about, and the questions might be absolutely shocking. Again, no need to divulge further than necessary, but please, please don't get angry or freak out about it! Even if it's a totally taboo subject that a 7-year-old shouldn't know about, your child isn't being bad by asking. By always answering in a calm and collected, unembarrassed way, you're communicating to your child that you are indeed a person she can feel comfortable talking to. As parents, we definitely hope to be the first people our kids come to as they start to have questions about their bodies, sex, and relationships. We can prove ourselves to be just those people by not getting upset or awkward about their questions now.

4. Make it a habit to talk with your daughter-not just at her.

I was surprised one day when I asked my five-year-old what her favorite thing to do is. She replied, "Just talking with you, Mom!" I knew what she was talking about. Her little sisters still take naps most afternoons, and while I make Addison rest for a bit, she usually comes out and just wants to hang out with me. Sometimes I read to her or she helps me with things around the house, but every once in awhile we play the question game, where I ask her a bunch of questions about what her favorite things are. She absolutely loves this! I find myself talking at my girls so often. Time for breakfast...make sure to clear your plates...brush your teeth and get dressed...don't talk to each other like that, use kind voices...did you brush for two minutes?...we have to leave in five minutes, get your shoes on! Sound familiar? Children need a lot of direction, so naturally we moms find ourselves guiding them through the day, reminding them of things and directing them. It can become a constant thing, especially when they're little. That's why it's so important to intentionally make time and effort to talk with them. I find that coloring with my girls opens up communication in such a simple way. When we're all coloring together, there's no other where to go, nothing to clean up, and generally no one is fighting or getting into trouble when we're just coloring. It's the perfect time to just sit and chat and ask them questions or tell them stories from when I was a little girl (they love hearing about when I was a kid, although they can hardly believe I was ever little like them!) Opening up the communication channels and becoming a person they love to talk to is crucial to building a beautiful, deep, open relationship that we all desperately hope we have with them as they grow into young adults and beyond.

If your daughter is little, start applying these things now and start building the foundation for a beautiful relationship during the more tricky teenage years. And if she is older and you read this feeling like you've already messed up, don't despair! It's never too late. Start today, and ask the Lord to bless your efforts. Our girls want to have a good relationship with us, and I believe they would prefer to have us be the ones they come to with hard things, but it starts with us. It's dependent upon our intentionality in making sure our girls know we are there for them in a non-judgmental, unembarrassed, talk-to-us-about-anything sort of way. TODAY, we build the foundation for the relationship we desire to have with our daughters tomorrow, and for a lifetime.

10 Non-Crafty Ideas for Rainy Days with Kids

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Yesterday I heard a glorious sound outside my window while I was putting on makeup. It was the sound of cute little birds chirping away in the sunshine. Be still my heart! Spring must really, truly be coming! In Montana where I live, we don't hold our breath on that until we hear the sound of a very specific bird: the Meadowlark. Yes, this yellow-bellied beauty with the distinct song knows without fail when spring has actually arrived here in our great state. And when I say great, I mean greatly COLD. Let me be totally honest. I entitled this 'Ideas for Rainy Day(s)', because I know that most of you reading this actually have a season called spring, where the grass turns green, daffodils and tulips decorate front yards, and people actually own something called umbrellas for all the rain they get in the Spring (I'm pretty sure that native Montanans who've never left the state don't know what those are; It almost never rains here). You see, "spring" in MT is really just an extension of a very long winter. Sure, we get a tease here and there with a random 65 degree day, but then our very souls are crushed when we wake up to three more inches of snow the very next day. On Easter, it's not unusual for us to wear pretty Easter dresses with snow boots. We hardly get any rain, but mud and slush for a few months as the several feet of snow melts, then freezes, then melts some more, and freezes again. Sometime around June, the temperature jumps up to the 80's and then it's summer practically overnight, thus, we don't have a cutesy flowers and butterflies spring. But I happened to live in TN for several years of my life, so I do know what a true, magical spring is like, plus I see all of your pictures on Instagram of flowers blooming and painted toenails peeking out of sandals, so I do know about spring, okay?

That said, those of you having spring, complete with rainy days, and those of us who are still dealing with snow until late March or April, we have something in common: STIR CRAZY KIDS. I have three girls ages five and under, and this time of year, they spend a lot of time with their faces pressed to the glass window panes asking, "Mommy, when is it going to be summer?" (See?! They don't even ask about spring!!) Those are the days I have to get my creative hat on and come up with some splendid idea to keep them happily occupied in the house. I do crafts with them occasionally, but I'm not really a crafty mom--art, yes; crafts, not so much. This winter has been extra brutal and looks to have no end in sight, so I decided to share with you some of our favorite things to do when we're stuck inside all day. And by the way, this probably came across as pretty whiney. I actually love living in MT and I love raising my kids here, but I have some major spring fever going on, and maybe a touch of seasonal affective disorder (something I struggle with most winters). February and March are tough, no doubt, but I sincerely love the rest of the year! Now that we've got that cleared up, let's get to it!!

10 Non-Crafty Ideas for Rainy/Snowy Days with Kids

1. Build an epic fort.
 Use furniture and sheets (sheets work better than heavy blankets). Once the fort is built, it can be 'furnished' with pillows, blankets, books, and whatever your kids want to bring in with them! We usually leave ours up for a few days, since it takes a lot of effort to build it.
2. Play dress up and have a dance party.
 This always, always cheers everyone up on grumpy afternoons. Experiment with different types of music depending on everyone's mood (or the mood you're hoping to achieve!)
3. Help your kids put on a puppet show.
Honestly, this takes zero craft making ability. Your kids can use stuffed animals, socks with eyes glued on, or my kids favorite puppet: a popsicle stick glued to a picture of an animal. Of course, you can get more creative with making your puppets, but the whole point is, you don't have to!
4. Have tea-time and read aloud or play games.
And by tea, I mean whatever drink your little ones prefer. Mine have been experimenting with tea because I drink so much during the winter, but really, they prefer hot chocolate, milk, or kambucha (weird, I know). We pop popcorn and I read aloud out of the Little House on the Prairie series, and occasionally if we forgot to do devotions that morning, we'll do that. Picture books are fun depending on the age. Anything goes, just read or play games and have fun!
5. Have a scavenger hunt.
I know, this is more of an outside activity, but it works indoors too! Use an egg carton and number each section 1-12. On a notecard, list 12 things by number that they need to find. It's okay if they can't read yet, that's what you're there for!
6. Bake a double batch of something: one for you and one to give away.
My girls love baking, as do most kids! While this activity in particular tries my patience sometimes, it's genuinely one of my favorite things to do with my kids, and it's fun to wrap a batch up and take it to someone else to enjoy!
7. Help them write letters to grandparents or other family or friends.
 Do your kids love drawing or painting? Have them draw a nice picture, and then help them write a letter to someone special. I love doing things that make them stop and intentionally think about someone else, and letter writing does just that! Plus, it makes the recipient's day!
8. "Go" to the movies--at home!
Okay, this one involves watching TV (hey, I never promised that this was a TV-free list!), but it's still creative and fun. And especially great for sick days when no one wants to do much. Create comfy spots for everyone (the fort is fun, if they can see out to the television!), pop popcorn, close the curtains and turn the lights out, and watch a movie they've never seen. Watch it with them if you have time to slow down. It makes for uninterrupted snuggle time:)
9. Plant something!
This will get you in the mood for spring for sure! On a nice day, go to a garden supply store and buy some seeds and soil. Depending on your budget and how much you want to spend on this little project, you can plant them in solo cups (the plastic red or blue ones you find at the grocery store), or buy mini plant pots. Set your planted pots in the window sill and watch them grow! Don't forget to water them!
10. Do a "unit study".
 This one takes a little planning, so if you see nasty weather in the forecast, you can do some prep work ahead of time. Ask your kids what they are interested in learning about. Space? The ocean? A particular country? The topics are endless. Then check out any books and videos your local library has on the subject. Look online for fun things to do that go with your cuisine from a different country, etc. The sky is the limit.


Well, I hope this helps you out during the next couple of rainy (or snowy--depending on where you live) months. It won't fix stir-crazy, but it will help, I promise!!! Cheers to fun-filled rainy spring days!


Your Daughter Hears You (even when it seems like she doesn't)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Do you ever feel like your kids don't hear a word you say? Do you get discouraged wondering if your efforts to "teach them and train them in the way they should go" are all in vain? I know I do!

Here's how a typical conversation about something important goes with my four-year-old:
Her: Poses difficult question; something deep and theological and hard to understand.
Me: Brief pause as I prepare to answer in an age-appropriate manner that she can understand, then answering with as much wisdom in the matter as I possess on the subject. Feeling like I did a pretty good job, when...
Her: Blank stare, followed by, "Mom can I have a snack?"

Ah, the frustration of this aspect of parenting little ones! You want to impart truth to their young minds and impressionable hearts, but most of the time it seems like you're talking to a monkey. You say something serious and they fidget the whole time or decide it's the perfect time to practice whistling. You ask them if they understand the incredibly important thing you just said and they reply with something off the wall and totally unrelated. Honestly it can make a parent feel like giving up on speaking words of truth and wisdom to their young children!

May I just say? DON'T GIVE UP! KEEP ON SPEAKING TRUTH! Keep sharing those little nuggets of wisdom as opportunities arise. As the Bible tells us in regards to talking to our children about Him,
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up...Write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:7,9) 
Whether or not it seems like they are listening or hearing; even if it seems like it goes in one ear and right out the other; be diligent and you WILL see the fruit of your labor. Case in point: I often wonder if my girls are hearing anything I say, noticing anything my husband and I model for them, learning anything from church, absorbing anything we read to them. I hadn't seen any fruit in such a long time, I was questioning everything I'd been doing as a mom. Was I living a terrible example? Lecturing too much? Not saying enough? As these questions kept creeping into my mind, the Lord was so kind to give me not one, but several moments in the last week to reassure and encourage me towards continuing to give it my all (by His grace--always and only by His grace!) One afternoon in the car, my oldest was having a world-class complain fest, and I finally cut her off suggested that she list some things she was thankful for out loud. I didn't expect much, but for the next twenty minutes, my four and five-year old sat in the back seat saying the most lovely things! I'm thankful for our church family...I'm thankful for Jesus dying for my sins...I'm thankful for the sky that God paints everyday...I'm thankful for beautiful music...for clean water...for a bed and warm cozy blankets. On and on they went. I nearly cried it was so beautiful. They unknowingly spouted off so much theology and faith, my mama heart exploded with thankfulness, and it was God's way of reassuring me that they were indeed hearing and absorbing. That same week, I watched the [more] selfish one put others first and her needs last, even when she thought I wasn't watching. I saw the fruit of the Spirit bubbling out of them and it renewed my passion for teaching them and guiding them along paths of Truth. Of course life is still the same: plenty of sister fights, arguing with mom, disobedience, and grumbling. But to see fruit intermingled with typical kid behavior is beyond thrilling!

Moms, Dads: Keep fighting the good fight! If anything was ever worth persevering, it is this! We can't make the seeds grow, but we can sure plant and water the heck out of them, and then joyfully watch God grow our little women. Keep that in mind as your own little monkeys stare blankly at you as you feed them nuggets of truth each day, and take heart: they hear you!

Confident Mom Series Part III: Maintaining Your Gifts in the Midst of Motherhood

Friday, February 17, 2017

Thanks for coming back for more of the Confident Mom series! This is the third and final installment:) I do hope you are enjoying it and feeling encouraged. Sometimes we moms get so focused on raising our children and helping them develop their strengths that we forget about ours! Our gifts can slowly get pushed to the back burner until we scarcely remember them, only to wake up one day wondering, "Where did that part of me go?" Sound familiar? Here's a quick example:

For as long as my memory serves me, I've loved art in all forms and fashions. Both of my grandmothers were artists, and both taught me to draw and paint from the time I was old enough to hold a brush in my tiny fingers. As a child and adolescent, I saw myself as a creative type. I loved drawing, painting, and making jewelry. When I graduated from college, my husband got me an expensive oil painting kit, complete with an easel, brush set, canvases, and quality oil paints. I had our first baby two months later and the oils have only been used once in seven years. I was too busy mothering that I never even made an effort to carve out time for the things I once loved and felt gifted in. One exceptionally cold day, I was invited to a last minute birthday party for a close friend. The party was that night, and I didn't feel like dragging my three littles out in sub-zero temperatures to find a gift. Suddenly, for the first time in ages, I thought about all the beads and jewelry making hardware I had in a box somewhere. I dragged everything out and within an hour, made my friend a gorgeous pair of earrings, and packaged it up in a pretty piece of fabric with a simple ribbon. My girls watched in fascination, eager to look at and touch and sort the vast array of beads before them. I felt so alive! This thing, this creativity and the artist in me that had been lying dormant for almost a decade had made an appearance, and I realized, I can throw myself into motherhood AND keep my passions alive. Sure, I don't have hours to devote to creating world-class paintings (not that I ever did in the first place...), but I thought, surely I can do this more regularly, and it doesn't have to be something that detracts from my role as a mom. No! Just the opposite! This was something that could add to who I already was as a mom! Just as my grandmothers taught me art, so should I take my deep-seeded love for creativity in the form of painting and jewelry making and pass it on to my own daughters! It is part of me, so it can be part of who I am as a mom. How freeing!

I think so many moms feel bogged down with the demands that motherhood inherently brings: from diapering and round-the-clock feedings; to never-ending dirty dishes and meal planning and grocery shopping and cooking and feeding (ever feel like your entire life revolves around food, mom?); to playdates and activities and reading stories and cleaning up. Need I go on? This is reality, and we put our game faces on and we get in there and get it done! Day after day, week after week, year after year. Sure, the diapers and midnight feedings pass with the years, but they are replaced with other things to keep you equally busy.

I know I felt this way! Some days I still do. I admit, I still have days where I throw my hands up and pray for a cheerful heart, as I struggle feeling like my entire waking existence is spent running after my darling, beautiful, MESSY, HUNGRY, IRRITABLE children. But other days, I've learned to carve out time for what I love. Yes, the laundry may not get folded. There is furniture I haven't dusted since who knows when. But my house isn't a pig sty by any means, and I've decided to forgo perfection on the home front, in exchange for cultivating my God-given love for art. It's part of my heritage, and I hope to instill a love of art in my daughters, whether they gravitate toward drawing, oils, watercolor, scrapbooking, jewelry making, whatever!! It doesn't have to be some guilty pleasure that I indulge in occasionally, or something I try to cram in during naptime. Rather it can and should be just something I do and something my kids do with me, catered to their appropriate age and capabilities. Lord willing, someday they will look back and think about how their mom taught them about art. Maybe I will get to paint with my grandkids. Think of it: five generations teaching each other to create beauty.

So, beautiful, busy mama:
What's that thing you've let go dormant? What have you pushed to the back burner? Maybe you even turned the burner off and put the pot away in a box in a storage unit to gather dust. Maybe it's been more than a decade and you think, "I could never be good at that again." WRONG! If you read this and something popped into your head, maybe made your heart flutter the slightest bit, than I think you're on to something:) I want to encourage you, even if you're neck deep in the thoroughs of motherhood, be it the little years, or chauffeuring teens a million different directions, find ten minutes this week. Any one can do that. Let a load of laundry sit (or make your kids fold it!) and get out that paint brush, that instrument, that journal, that gourmet cookbook. Close your eyes and remember how that thing used to make you feel. Then roll up your sleeves and have at it! And if it still makes a part of you come alive, then don't put it away. Keep it out. Do it once a week. Do it five minutes a day. Let your kids see. Let them help. Involve them. And let it become part of your unique mom-ness. (is that a word? I just made it one!)

Let your uniqueness and your gifts shine! You'll thank yourself, and so will your kids:)

Confident Mom Series Part II: Why it's Important to be a Confident Mom

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Welcome to Part II of the Confident Mom series! I'm glad you're back for more:) Today I want to discuss why exactly it's important to be a confident mom. This hits so close to home for deep in fact that it's a big reason why I started this blog. You see, I struggled with confidence since the tender age of seven when my parents moved us across the country. I struggled to make new friends and my brother and I were the "city kids" to our MT dairy farming cousins. I always felt like I didn't really fit in anywhere, and in an effort to feel accepted, I tried to be anyone but myself; I never thought myself was good enough. I tried to be athletic instead of artistic. I tried to be a tomboy instead of embracing my girly interests. In college I went the science path instead of embracing my creative mind and going with an English or art focused major (huge regret of mine!!). To be painfully honest, it was  only in my early thirties that I began to develop security in who I was and stopped trying to be parts of all the people I thought were better than me. It was so freeing to finally be honest with myself and others about who I was and what I liked, what I was good at, what I wanted to pursue. Because of my insecurity, I made huge, destructive, life-altering mistakes for more than a decade. I partied to fit in. Partying led to other mistakes, and my life spun out of control to the point of eventual rehab. Looking back, every single self-destructive path I took would have been avoided, had I been a confident young woman. It is our job as moms of daughters to raise up our little girls with confidence in who they are; in who God created them to be. Let's get more in depth!

Why is it important to be a confident mom--especially if you have daughters?

In today's world, girls have an insane amount of pressure to live up to some pretty unreasonable expectations, and from such a young, impressionable age! They see the magazine covers while they wait with you in the grocery lines from the time they are itty bitty! The pressure to be thin, flawlessly beautiful, successful, sexy and trendy (all outward, worldly, cheap characteristics)--the pressure begins young. But you, mom, YOU are the one and possibly the only woman in your daughter's life who can teach her the value of inner-beauty and confidence in her worth in Christ. But how do you teach such a deep truth in the face of such lies swirling around in every which direction? By living it. Every. Single. Day.
On purpose.
You are your daughter's hero and the woman she is around more than anyone else, especially in her early years. Your actions and words have a tremendous impact on her belief system about herself.

My fellow mom: By being confident in Christ, confident in the truths we profess, and confident in our abilities/gifts/talents, we encourage our daughters to be who God made them to be rather than a cheap imitation of what the world will forever encourage them to be. We will give them the gift of deeply rooted authenticity. When they see us devoting more time to reading the Word than to fixing our hair; When they see us using our time and energy cheerfully serving others rather than spending our time ladder climbing and wishing for something 'else'; When they see us embracing our talents--painting, writing, creating, leading, serving, cooking, singing...whatever, and enjoying doing it, more than they hear us saying envious words towards those who we are not. I wish I could sing like her; She's such a better cook than me; I wish I was motivated to run marathons like her (then I'd be skinny like her).  When we are confident in our eating habits, our family values, our belief systems, our daily routines, our looks, our body type, our personality, our likes and dislikes--then and only then will we be able to truly teach our girls to be confident in who they are. THIS IS HUGE. I cannot stress enough how important a girl's confidence is and how it will play into her life as a young adult, as she begins to navigate the world without her mom guiding her each day.

A confident girl knows who she is and who/what she believes in.
A confident girl doesn't care what other's think of her.
Not caring what others think of her means resisting peer pressure.
Resisting peer pressure means being authentically herself, because she is secure (confident)enough to love being herself even if it isn't 'cool'.
Loving herself means having a respect for who God made her, and allows her to pursue her God-given dreams, not distracted or deterred by what the world thinks.
All because of you, her confident mama. The one who shined and taught her to shine.

Are you a humble, confident mom to your daughter?
Humble in that you know your weaknesses and aren't afraid to ask for help?
Humble that you know you need Jesus every minute of every day.
Humble that you spend a good amount of precious time on your knees asking Him for help as you do this big, sacred work of mothering?
Yet, confident of who you are? Of who He made you to be? Confident that He has made you the mother of your kids and that you truly are the best mom for them? Confident that you can do this mom thing and do it well with the grace God provides you?

My prayer for you, and for myself, is that we would daily submit ourselves to God, asking Him for help in this task of motherhood, and that our confidence as moms and as women would come from Christ. That we would embrace our gifts and stop envying the gifts of others. That we would shine--to His glory, and that we would teach our girls to shine like stars in the crooked universe.

Join me for Part III in the Confident Mom series! It's going to get fun! We will talk about using our unique personality types--quirks and all--to be the best mom for our kids. Have a terrific Wednesday friends!




Confident Mom Series Part I: Our Confidence is in Christ

Monday, February 13, 2017

Welcome to the Confident Mom Series!!! I'm excited about this, I've been  prayerfully working on it for awhile now. You may be wondering what a series about confident mothering is doing on a blog about raising godly daughters. You may even be thinking that confidence is in direct opposition to the biblical principle of humility, that it's a topic more suited for a women's magazine article: 10 Ways to feel more Confident in Bed. How to Impress Your Boss with Your Confidence. Feel Confident and Sexy with these 5 Easy Tricks. (These examples are NOT the type of confidence we'll be exploring together) Yes, confidence can certainly be secularized and even demonized. The Bible warns us of the dangers of being proud, and exhorts us to imitate Christ's humility. Yet, knowing who we are in Christ and being sure about who he created us to be as unique individuals is imperative to living out our full potential--IN CHRIST. As I share some of my story in part II, you'll see why I'm so passionate about the importance of being a confident mom...especially when we have daughters!

I hope and pray that you like this series, and most of all, I hope it resonates with you, and that you walk away feeling like you  are in fact, the perfect mom for your kids. Before we really get started, I'd like to chat about the word "confident" real quick. Confidence is often confused with cockiness or pride, and therefore some people assume it's sinful to be confident.  Let's define the word, shall we?

CONFIDENCE is defined as:
1. the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust
2. the state of feeling certain about the truth of something
3. a feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities

First and  most importantly, we can be confident because we believe that we can rely on and trust in God. Foundational to every single thing we discuss in this series, is that we are confident in Christ.

Second, is that if we are in the Word daily, we can be certain about the truth. We can be absolutely certain that we are to teach our kids about God; that we should, as God enables, model the fruits of the Spirit. We can teach them about love and forgiveness; about loving their neighbor as themselves. We can teach the how to serve the least of these, and we can set for them life long habits of fellowship, worship, and community by attending and being involved in a local church. Those are truths that you can be confident in.

Finally, we can appreciate our own God-given abilities and qualities, and run with them! Rather than envying your best friend's abilities and chasing after something that doesn't come natural to you, take some time (if you aren't sure) and determine what your strengths are, and then pray for God to help you shine in those areas as you parent.

I hope that clears up any misgivings you may have had about a Christian blog going on and on about the importance of confidence. I'm in no way advocating to be full of one's self, to see one's self elevated over anyone else, or to be puffed up in any way, shape or form. My own testimony is one full of regret and heartache, of destructive behavior and selfishness towards those I was affecting. I've shared my testimony many times to groups of women or teens over the years, and every time, I go home and lay awake because there's always been one unresolved issue in my mind about my story: WHY. Why, as someone who was raised a Christian, did I make the decisions that I did? Why did I choose the wrong path over and over again? It took me a solid decade to figure out the answer, and I'll share about that in part II: Why Being a Confident Mom is Important. Hope to have you there!