Meltdowns and the Meaning of Christmas

 

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The last couple years the hubs has been out of town for most of the month of December.  Thanks to kindly Mr. Amazon and his free 2-day shipping, being a single mom at Christmastime hasn’t created too much of a problem.

Except, of course, for the stress.  Luke left this week for his second trip of the month and everything was going well the first day, until about bedtime (sound familiar??).  I was trying to get my littlest ones to bed and my big boys kept running upstairs.  I yelled one too many times, they yelled back and then, out of nowhere I found myself sobbing in their room, telling them how hard it is being a single parent, even part-time.

Whoa…don’t even know where that came from.  Get a grip, crazy lady.

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It must have made an impact though, since when I calmed down enough to come back a little while later, Liam was still visibly upset.  I suggested that we needed to make some changes around the house in regards to our relationships and I asked each boy what they thought needed to change.  Toby said something about Mom being nicer (haha!  typical) but Liam just sobbed, “No one needs to make any changes…just ME!  It’s all my fault!”

Wow.  It broke my heart to hear my sweet boy blame himself for my shortcomings.  He even added that this wasn’t shaping up to be a very good Christmas.  Luckily, it humbled me enough to have a heart to heart with him.

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We talked about the reason for celebrating Christ’s birth and how Christmas isn’t simply a chance to remember the day Jesus was born but to celebrate His entire life, especially His sacrifice for us.  We discussed how Christ sacrificed for our sins, but just as importantly, He also paid for our small, daily mistakes.   Jesus made it possible for us to overcome any action, big or small that separates us from God, including when we lose control, yell or treat others unkindly.  Christmastime is a chance for us to remember that because of Him, we have reason to hope to improve every single day and reason to experience JOY.

I’m thankful that my little boy reminded me of this, the greatest truth in the history of the world.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:5

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Merry last-week-before-Christmas!!

How to entertain a toddler on a plane!

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A couple weeks ago I got to take a quick little trip to northern CA with Finn to visit my grandparents.  Not only had they never met Finn but my extended family was throwing a party for my Grandma’s 85th birthday so it was a perfect time to visit!

I was super jazzed to get my dose of fall colors, enjoy cooler weather and visit with family.  Oh, and only be in charge of one kid.

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This is one of my favorite special occasion cakes ever…soooo good!

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Classic grandparent shot 😉

I was less than thrilled, however, to handle an 18 month-old through airport security and keep him contained on my lap for the flight.  I brought a couple of toys for him but if you know toddlers, you know that they have the attention span of a gnat.

I had to get really creative and so I came up with a handful of games to play with him.  I also thought of some other great, common, household items that I’ll bring next time to help him stay focused on my lap (and not on running down the aisle during major turbulence).

Bonus: airplanes make lots of white noise so chances are good that no one will care how loud your baby gets while playing.  Anything other than ear-splitting screams is quite pleasant, actually.

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PACKING LIST:

Sharpie
small toy your child enjoys (i.e. doll or car)
popsicle stick 
masking or electrical tape (wound around the popsicle stick)
clothespin
string or twine
5-6 dry noodles with a hole through them (penne or macaroni work well)
pipe cleaner
1-2 plastic cups (or get them from the flight attendant)
balloon (in a light color, preferably)

Plastic baggy to hold everything

The list of games you can dream up with this great group of tools is nearly endless!  Desperation is the mother of invention so I’m sure any mother could come up with a dozen or so to keep baby occupied.  Here are some of my (and Finn’s!) favorites:

1.  Use the cup and small toy to play hide and seek.  Put the toy on your fold-down tray and then cover it up with an upside down cup.  Turn another empty cup upside down as well and move them around.  See if baby can remember which cup his toy is under!

2.  String the noodles onto the twine and make a necklace out of it.  See if baby can thread the noodles onto the pipe cleaner himself and then pull them off and let them drop into the cup.  Cover the opening of the cup with your hand and rattle the noodles around!

3.  Set up a little town (for a doll) or racetrack (for a car) on your tray.  Use tape and popsicle stick to make roads, stores, gas station and the cup as a garage or bed.  Get creative making accessories for the doll or ramps for the car!

4.  Shove a couple of noodles into the uninflated balloon and help baby do the same.  Then blow up the balloon a little bit (don’t tie it yet!) and rattle the noodles around.  Clip the balloon closed with the clothespin and show baby what happens when it’s released a little at a time.

5. Draw a face or other cartoons on the balloon and show baby how the pictures change when the balloon inflates.  When baby tires of this game, inflate the balloon all the way and tie it.  Let baby go crazy.

6. Wrap the tape around the cup and draw pictures or write messages to your baby.  Let him peel the tape off and stick it on his hands and face.

7.  Make a mummy out of the small toy with tape and let baby peel it all off.

8.  Tie the string onto the toy and hang it off your tray.  Make a game out of pretending to rescue the toy dangling from treacherous heights!

9.  Draw a face on the closed end of the clothespin and pretend to eat your baby with this “monster”.

10.  Pin the clothespin to your baby’s shirt and let him figure out how to get it off.  Teach him how to open and close it and clip it to the cup, noodle, pipe cleaner, etc.

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Hopefully this helps maintain some sanity during this season of holiday traveling.  Let me know what other game ideas you dream up!

Laughs from the Littles: Twin Edition

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Having twins is a hoot.  I’m not gonna lie – sometimes the stress level makes it feel as if 1 + 1 = 7 but the hilarity usually makes up for it.  Vivian’s speech skills aren’t quite what Kira’s are but the latter has certainly come up with some gut busters lately.

While in the pool, Luke asks Kira, : “Wanna swim with me?”
Kira: “Yeah, but you got boogahs hanging outta yo’ nose.”

After a few discussions regarding where this new baby will come from…

Kira: “MOM! Wemember when I was a baby?  I drank baby milk and got in yo’ belly with Vivsy, then I came out the pink hole together with Vivsy holding hands.  And we were wearing pink heels.”
And I swear I never said anything about where the baby comes out!

She picked up the word “suspicious” from the big kids recently and so, any chance she gets, she strokes an imaginary beard and says…

“hmmmm, SUM-spicious!”

An Essential Guide to Crazy-Free Family Pictures

Pretty sure this kid was mesmerized by some rock or something.

Pretty sure this kid was mesmerized by some rock or something.

With one kid, taking family pictures is hardly a national crisis.  You get dressed in nice-ish clothes, do your hair and maybe have grandma hopping around somewhere behind the camera trying to get the kid to look.

Add a couple more kids to the mix (or 5 more, whatever) and all of a sudden your mental state has deteriorated to DEFCON 5.  (That’s the worst, right?  Or is it DEFCON 1?)  Seeing how we’re in the thick of family picture taking season (all you overachievers who had them done at the beach back in June can just tune me out), here are some tips on avoiding Post-Family-Picture Stress Syndrome (that’s a thing).

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1.  Use an experienced photographer.  This doesn’t mean that you have to spend oodles of money, but it pays to ask about experience, especially if you have a large(r) family.  If you really only want a snapshot, then your brother-in-law with the nice camera is fine.  But if you’re putting effort into outfits and spending money, make sure you’ll get what you paid for!

2.  Dress for the weather, if shooting outdoors.  We live in Phoenix, which means that every time we take holiday pictures it’s October and still 95 degrees outside.  Would I love to dress everyone in matchy-matchy reindeer sweaters?  Maybe.  But the subsequent heat stroke would make for some pretty crappy pictures.  Instead, we put on light pants, short sleeved shirts and find shade.  If November is already too cold for little girls in dresses, embrace it and take some cute shots all bundled up.  The outfit isn’t worth being miserable!

3.  Pay attention to the best time of  day for your kids.  For mine, it’s usually right after naps but before they get hungry for dinner.  If this time works out with the sun for outdoor shots, then you’re in luck.  If not, you may need to get more creative.  Be sure to give everyone plenty of  snacks and water beforehand and BEFORE getting dressed, obviously.  Also be sure to bring water with you, as well as some non-messy snacks (i.e. apple slices or cheese sticks)

4.  Be aware of the location where you’ll be shooting and prepare for it.  For example, if you’ll be around water, make sure someone is the designated baby-watcher.  If it’s out in the open, you might want to bring an umbrella for portable shade.  If there will be snow or sand, bring sunglasses.  We neglected to bring bug spray this year and Arizona has had some terrible flooding and unusual mosquito problems this year.  It’s strangely difficult to get kids to smile when they’re scratching umpteen mosquito bites.

5.  Prepare kids ahead of time for what to expect and plan a bribe: Something like… “Mom paid money for these pictures.  They will last an hour.  You must wear what I say and do your hair how I say and smile.  If you do, you will get french fries and ice cream afterwards.  That is all.”  It works pretty well for us.

6.  Stick (mostly) with clothes you own and love: If you go out and buy new stuff for everyone, chances are, not only will you be broke, but everyone will end up itchy and uncomfortable.  I like to pick a few of our favorite things and coordinate them rather than match.  Pinterest has some great color schemes for reference, or pick a favorite fabric pattern for inspiration.  Beware of too much white or too many patterns.  Your photographer can also tell you anything else you should avoid.

If you need more tips for dressing your crew without going broke or crazy, check out this post here!

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Lastly, be realistic and relax!  It’d be nice to get several great, quality shots of every kid but that’s not always likely.  Instead, focus on recording this time of your family’s life with all it’s quirks and imperfections (note my vice grip on baby Toby’s hand in above picture).  Life is messy, roll with it!

The C-Section: Making an informed decision

 

I’m so, SO excited for my first post in a blog series on birth!  I LOVE babies and I love talking about birth.

I was extremely nervous and scared for my first two births but since then I have learned and experienced so much that it is now my favorite part of pregnancy…and not simply because I get to meet my sweet baby! (and sleep on my back and stomach, and go longer than 30 seconds without peeing, and fit into tight spaces… you catch my drift)

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I’m grateful that my birth experiences have been extremely varied.  Because of that, I am very empathetic to all mothers and their births, both those that go as planned and those that don’t.  My first baby was delivered by emergency c-section after Liam’s heart rate kept dipping dangerously low.  I fought like crazy to get a vaginal birth the second time around and I succeeded; Toby was a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) in the hospital, induced with Pitocin and I was given an epidural.  Juliet and Finn, my 3rd and 6th births, were water births at home, and 4th & 5th births, the twins, were natural and vaginal in the hospital (and also my biggest triumphs!).

The thought to write a series on birth popped into my head one day but I wasn’t sure what direction it would take.  Then the idea to write specifically about c-sections literally woke me up one night.  I couldn’t get back to sleep, thinking about all the women who face this decision and how scary it can be.

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This photo is of my little sister in the throes of labor with her first baby.  This was taken at a birth center but she ended up transferring to a hospital and delivering by cesarean.

No one can tell you what birth is best for you and your baby…or what unanticipated twist might occur to change your best laid plans.  But it IS important to plan.  If you read and research and become as informed as possible, then, if life does throw some crazy curve ball at you (twins anyone??), you will be prepared to change plans with minimal stress and still end up with an amazing and beautiful birth!

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This priceless photo was taken just seconds after I caught my 6th baby, Finn, who was born at home, in the water.

The reason I named this blog series “Making an Informed Decision” is because YOU get to decide how to birth your baby.  Yes, even if it ends in a cesarean.  Be very wary of any medical provider who tries to make every decision for you.  In some situations you will weigh the information given to you and it will be very clear that a c-section is the best choice.  In other situations, perhaps not.  But don’t forget that YOU have the last say!

Another important thing to understand about c-sections is that they are not a normal birth outcome.  A cesarean section is major abdominal surgery and has major ramifications for both baby and mother (both in the present and future).  In other words, it is not a decision to be taken lightly.  That being said, let’s all recognize what a miracle these life-saving surgeries are! Millions of women and babies would have very different, possibly catastrophic, birth outcomes without this amazing intervention.  C-sections have saved the lives of many babies and mothers.

Interestingly, the rate of c-sections has been on the rise for the past decade.  It’s currently close to 30% in the US (and 40% in the Arizona county where I live).  While there are lots of arguments regarding an “ideal” rate of c-section, it is widely believed that this surgery is often done unnecessarily.  See some great sources at the end of this post if you’d like to read more.  A cesarean can result in some scary stuff: placenta accreta, infection, blood loss or uterine rupture.  In short, it’s not a procedure you want to elect for if there’s a way around it!

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All the twin pictures in this post are of Vivian and Kira.  I love these shots so much!  Our girls were born vaginally but most of the doctors I interviewed preferred to deliver multiples surgically.

So the question is, why so many c-sections?

There are definitely some clear-cut medical reasons to get that baby out fast.  Some of these include eclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure in mom), problems with the placenta, and other serious medical conditions.

But there are also situations where the decision is less clear and it’s up to both the mother’s discretion and doctor’s opinion.  Some of these include a baby deemed larger than average, a breech or other poorly positioned baby, and previous c-sections*.

In these situations. it’s crucial to be informed and aware of your options.  Below are some great questions to ask your doctor if you’re facing either a planned or emergency cesarean (CS).

Why do I need a CS?
What are the risks of getting a CS?
What are the risks of delivering vaginally?
What happens if we wait and see (i.e. attempt a vaginal birth first)?

By the way, these questions are also a good thing to remember when facing any intervention (induction, epidural, episiotomy, etc).  A “cascade of interventions” is often blamed for leading to an emergency cesarean (i.e. too much “stuff” done to mom and baby).  Experts also blame changes in medical malpractice insurance and hospital policies for the rising rate of these surgeries.

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My last piece of advice is this: don’t be afraid to get a second opinion!  If your doc is telling you something that just doesn’t sit well with you, see another OB or midwife for his/her opinion.  For some reason we often hesitate to second-guess our doctors, but getting another opinion just means you want the very best for yourself and baby.  There are a lot of forces at play in America’s maternity system and sadly, not all providers make decisions that are in the mother’s best interest.  YOU are your own best advocate.

When we trust our bodies and our babies and assume they will do their jobs just fine on their own, chances are good that they will!  If for some reason something goes wrong, be educated enough to ask the right questions and have a birth advocate help you (if you’ve never considered a doula, look into it!  They can be wonderful).  Lastly, if a c-section is necessary, we can be grateful that we live in a country that offers access to this life-saving surgery.

Birth is an amazing, miraculous, spiritual journey and I hope you enjoy it!!

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*I am a huge advocate of VBACs, and I’ve fought tooth and nail for every one of mine (5!).  If you’ve already had one or more c-sections and are interested in learning more about having a vaginal birth, check out ICAN online or email me! I’d love to share what I’ve learned.

Sources:
International Cesarean Awareness Network
Brazil isn’t the only country with high c-section rates
Why is the US c-section rate so high?
C-section by choice

You can find all my posts in the series on birth HERE!

Note, this post is not meant as a substitute for medical advice.  Please consult with a qualified midwife or obstetrician in regards to your prenatal and birth care.

 

Candy corn pennant

Like the other 7 billion people on the planet, I LOVE Halloween décor, even though, as a mother, I HATE the holiday itself.  Don’t even get me started on kids changing their minds on costume ideas 2 hours beforehand or the sugar highs, fights over candy, fear of weirdos kidnapping my kids…. 

 

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But back to the fun part: décor!  My all-time favorite holiday DIY is this candy corn pennant because
1. it’s made of fabric! My favorite medium
2.  It’s super easy to sew
3. It has lasted year after year, which is more than can be said of my paper projects of years gone by.

Bonus: Read on for a no-sew alternative!

 

 

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My banner has 10 pennants and measures about 10 feet long, FYI.

Supplies:

Quilting cotton in orange, yellow and white (1/2 yard each)
10 feet of black, double fold bias tape (purchase or make your own!)

 

 

1.  Download and print a copy of the template right HERE.  Be sure the “fit to page” box is blank and/or set your margins to “none”.  The template should measure about 7.5” x 9”.

2.  Cut one copy of your template into 3 pieces for the front of the candy corn.  For the other copy of the template, just cut out the triangle whole (this will be for the backs).

2.  Using the three front pieces, trace and cut out fabric pieces in each of the coordinating colors.  Do this until you have enough for your entire pennant (i.e. 10 yellow top pieces, 10 orange middle pieces and 10 bottom white pieces).  Then, using your uncut template, cut out backs for each candy corn.  I alternated between orange, yellow and white for the backs, just to make it interesting.

3.  Sew the three front pieces together, right sides together, pressing each seam open.

4.  Lay your back piece on top of the front (right sides together) and sew down each side (leave the top open).  Turn right sides out, poking the point out with a chopstick or pencil tip.  Press seams well.

5.  Using black double fold bias tape, sandwich the top of each pennant in between the folds of the tape, and top stitch all along the open edge of the tape.  I left about 4” of space between each candy corn.  Lastly, fold in the short raw ends of the bias tape and topstitch.

Voila!

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No- Sew Variation!

Same supplies as above plus:
pinking shears
fabric glue (No-Sew, Fabric Fusion or others found at any craft store)

**Follow instructions above through step #2.

3.   Fold the front tops of the middle and bottom pieces of each candy corn over 1/4” and press.  Using fabric glue, glue the folded down top edge onto the raw bottom edge of the piece above it (middle piece glued to top piece, bottom piece glued to middle piece).  OR just use felt and no need for folding or pinking shears!

4.  Run glue around the inside edges of finished front piece and attach back piece.

5.  Using pinking shears, cut around sides of each candy corn.

6.  Glue each candy corn to inside of double fold bias tape.

Done!

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Wondering what magnificent Halloween photo is in that frame?

Ok, you asked for it:

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A classic from the old glory days of college.  Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure this wasn’t even ON Halloween…

Girls’ Room Inspiration AKA Early nesting

If you missed the announcement on social media, here it is again, in all its camera-phone glory.

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Everyone is SUPER excited about another baby.  The kids watched Cheaper by the Dozen the other day and then announced that we need to have 5 more kids.  Uuhhhhh… I’ll have to think about that one.   This feels completely normal to me and like I’m fulfilling my destiny by having a big family…but every once in a while I catch a mental glimpse of myself from other people’s perspectives and it’s kinda scary.  No wonder I get googly-eyed stares when we go anywhere.
We are so weird!  hehe

After seriously YEARS of having little to no motivation to do things around the house (I blame having twins), I woke up the other day with this burning desire to finish all the little nagging things that whisper at me every time I see them: missing closet doors, unpainted bathrooms, crappy towels, etc.

The first room to feel my wrath has been the girls’ room.  It was adorable in pink, black and white damask for Juliet’s nursery, and then in bright pinks, greens and turquoise for the twins but I haven’t really done anything to it since all three girls moved in together after Finn was born.

What stays: a set of white bunk beds, this lavender/blue bedding and white and lavender desk that my mom gave us.  I also have a child-sized rocking chair given to me for my first birthday (dumpster dived for back in 1981, no less) that I’m contemplating painting turquoise as well.

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I found this fabulous vintage dresser on craigslist (along with another amazing vintage campaign dresser for the boys’ room!  One of these days I’ll get around to finishing and sharing their room too) within 5 minutes of searching so I decided it must be fate.  It’s much smaller than their previous dresser but I consider that a good thing.  Major clothes purge needed around here.

You can see my paint swatches in the corner…I ended up going with a lighter version of that dark taupe.  Although now that it’s done, it almost looks like a lighter shade of the nasty beige that’s on it here.  Ugh.  Whatever, I’m SO not painting again.

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Some of the inspiration I’ve found lately is just to die for.  Here’s hoping I can put stuff together with minimal expense and make it look as cute as some of these rooms!  Check out my Pinterest board for it here.

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land of nod

 

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This last one is probably my favorite of them all (or the land of nod room…can’t decide!) I was going for this taupe-y/gray on the walls and don’t think I got it, but regardless, it’s a fabulous room! You have to see the other pictures…follow the link underneath.

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My only caveat is that I need a spot of black or something to ground the frou-frou colors.  I love matchy-matchy rooms but the BEST designs always have some contrast to them.  I’m thinking about adding this rug!

You really can’t go wrong with black and white striped anything, amiright?

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5 Keys to a Happy Mom

 

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I’m gonna take a quick moment to state the obvious: Motherhood is HARD.  If you are a mother or you had a mother or you know a mother, you certainly know what I’m talking about.

And while the rewards of being Mom can be amazing (sticky hugs and super-smart kids and seeing your genes in miniature), sometimes they just aren’t enough.  Sometimes, you wake up with dread in the pit of your stomach and nothing seems to make up for all the spills and fights and disasters and loneliness.

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When I first decided to be a full-time stay-at-home mom, it was a scary huge adjustment for me.  I always knew that I wanted to have kids but I also always expected to have an advanced degree, a part time job or some other “useful” outlet for my time and energy.  I knew the value of motherhood but couldn’t see myself deriving ALL my personal value from wiping stinky bums and making endless tuna fish sandwiches.

The decision to stay home full-time was a long and personal journey for me (as it is for any mom) and it was full of bumps and adjustments.  But now that I’m in my 10th(!) year of staying home full time with my kids (of which there are now 6 adorable, homeschooled ragamuffins), I have learned some amazing tools for dealing with the occasional emotional slump and ensuring that I wake up happy and excited to greet every single day (alright, almost every day).

Every mom will have different tactics she uses to keep her mom-bucket full, but here are my top 5.

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1.  Take care of yourself. 
I know, I know: gone are the days of the weekly pedicure or the 45 minute blow-out or sometimes even the daily shower.  But how you feel about yourself speaks volumes about how you’ll feel (and treat) your home and family.  Decide what makes you feel good and commit to doing it.

I personally have to shower and get dressed every day.  I don’t always wash my hair or shave or all those other niceties, but if I don’t shower, my motivation for just about anything else is gone and I feel like crap all day.

Also, exercise REEEALLLY helps me.  I know sometimes it’s only a pipe dream (like if you have a nursing baby younger than 6 months) but getting up just a half hour early to take a jog or do a YouTube yoga video makes me 110% more productive and energetic all day long.

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2.  Take care of your cleaning peeves, let go of the rest.
Take a minute and think of the messes or issues that REALLY bother you in a home.  Taking care of these in your own home might be so second nature to you that you’ll need to think of someone else’s home.  Do you despise filthy carpets?  Loathe crumbs on the counter?  Get super grossed out by dirty toilets?

Obviously we all prefer a clean, meticulous home, but if you are super stressed and busy beyond belief and have 5 minutes to take care of something, what would it be?  My top three are laundry on the floor (can’t stand it!), walking on crumbs (blech) and piles of toys everywhere.  Dirty dishes and bathroom sinks (while gross and eventually need to be cleaned) are less important to me.

The recognition of these stress triggers helps me to better manage my time.  I deal with the most annoying things first and, when I run out of time, I let the rest go.  This is hard, especially when people come to your house and you feel guilty or judged for having a mess.  In the end, your peace and happiness are more important than what the neighbors think.  There will come a time when you have all day to clean the house again.  And that is precisely when you will wish you had cute little kids running around to distract you from it 🙂

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3.  Make something beautiful
It took me several years to really understand this one and make it work for me, but when I did, it made all the difference in the world.  I recently did a presentation on creativity for a class I took with other homeschool moms.  I talked about how women are natural creators (we make people!) and that we are drawn to beauty.  I believe that it is part of our human nature to seek out and create things that please the senses.

It’s often hard for us to think past the visual arts in this sense (painting, design or crafting) but ALL of our senses appreciate beauty.  Instrumental music and song, delicious food, home repairs or décor, even fitness or fashion apply here.  Improving ourselves through any creative means will lift our spirits, give us a sense of purpose and fill our lives with appreciation for all of the beautiful things around us.  Read more rambling about the importance of creativity here!

I have found a passion in home decorating, sewing (obviously) and other crafts.  This can be as simple as hanging a picture on my wall.  But after a day of changing diapers that are just gonna get pooped in or feeding mouths that will be hungry in 20 minutes, anything I can do that stays done, is like a breath of fresh air!

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Some spectactularly fabulous college roommates of mine gather together from all over the country about once every 18 months or so to eat, talk, laugh uproariously and generally revel in each other’s amazing company.  I HIGHLY recommend this!


4.  Spend time with friends
Women are unique in our need for interaction from the same gender.  We need friendships with other women unlike men need guy friends.  I don’t know why this is, but it’s a fact (according to me).  When we isolate ourselves, either purposely or accidentally, we lose the ability to see ourselves from an outside perspective.

Give yourself 15 minutes with a few close friends and you will feel happier, more optimistic, less alone and more prepared to face the stress of everyday life (*not a scientific study, it just works!).  If you’re short on close friends, go find some.  I guarantee there are dozens of other mothers (and non-mothers!) in your town who need camaraderie and support just like you.

It helps to look in places where you might find someone with similar interests (the kid section of the library, the step class at the YMCA, church, etc.) but don’t count someone out just because you don’t see much in common up front.  Some amazing friendships can blossom in unlikely places (think church-going conservative housewife and tattooed, single gym rat).  If you feel like life is getting you down, schedule a girls’ night.  Chances are good that you’re not the only one who needs it.

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5.  Look at your kids
Have you ever found yourself, harried and overwhelmed at the end of the day, and realize that you haven’t even really looked your kids in the eye?  Maybe everyone woke up late and you forgot you had to carpool and someone threw up and there were 3 poop accidents.  Regardless of the reasons, I sometimes forget that my “job” includes caring for people.  Little people who love me and look up to me and just want to please me.

Sometimes, if I look into those little eyes, I can see past the 27th glass of spilled lemonade and realize that this kid just wants me to love them and tell them it’s OK.  Life is hard and scary and Mom is the ONLY person (besides Dad) who loves them unconditionally.  You are their entire world and they need you to acknowledge them and help them through the rough patches.  All the messes in the world won’t mean a darn thing to a mom who regularly gives her kids the attention and acceptance they need.

This is not a step intended to invoke guilt for ignoring your kids when you need 5 minutes alone in the bathroom (for the love of all that is holy… just FIVE minutes!!).  It’s simply a reminder that we can be tempted to see a child as a task instead of a sweet little person.

**As a final note, let me say that real (clinical and chemical) depression exists.  It often happens to mothers because of fluctuating birth hormones and then sticks around.  If, after doing everything you can to feel good about yourself, you just can’t seem to feel happy, please see a doctor.  There is great courage and nobility in recognizing that you need help to get your life back.  Don’t waste a single second of this precious time with your babies; seek for help and then reach out to others who might be struggling in the same way.  I thank the heavens that we live in a time of good therapists and miraculous medication.  We deserve to be happy!

Good luck, mamas!  The work you do is not only good, it is the best there is.

If you still doubt yourself, watch this.  Warning: may cause tears.

 

Homeschool vs Hawaii

We had a fantastic summer of traveling this year.  I made the rash, irresponsible, more-than-partially-crazy, super exciting decision to take a road trip with my 6 kids by myself from Arizona through Vegas, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Washington…and then all the way back again.  3000 miles of screaming, road-side diaper changes, crumbs up to our shins and lots and lots of fun!  It was seriously my favorite road trip to date.  I obviously much prefer the job of driving with my headphones in to snack-passer-outer and baby-calmer.

Then Luke and I got to go to Ireland with a great group of family and friends.  After that, we took an “official” 10-year anniversary trip to Hawaii which was absolutely breathtaking.  Even better was the fact that most of the trip was free because Luke won a raffle through a business partner.  Yesssss.

So, I have these gorgeous pictures of Hawaii sitting around on my hard drive, just waiting to be shared and enjoyed.  But I’ve been slightly preoccupied with all the things and bodies that need me here at home.  I thought I’d put together a quick recap of home life, in relation to a tropical vacation getaway.

 

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I think you get the picture.

Reality is reeeeally cute, no doubt about that.  But messy.  And less… beachy.

In all seriousness, the summer of relaxation was just the thing to prep me for this year of homeschooling.  We’ve had a great start to the “school” year and just this week I found the most magnificent resource for any parent interested in their kids’ education.

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This homeschool summit put on by The Home Education Council of America is the coolest collection of webinars!  They’re airing 3 talks a day by prominent, amazing educators and leaders in the homeschool community.  You can watch them live or stream them for up to 48 hours after the live session.  It’s all month long, all online and it’s all FREE!

Seriously!  I’ve watched 3 of them already and they are chock full of incredible information for any parent wanting to be more involved in their kids’ educations.

Today, I listened to Andrew Pudewa talking about how the physiological differences between boys and girls are essential to address in the way we educate our kids.

Did you know that most boys can’t hear sounds as soft as most girls can?  Girls see colors and textures with more distinction and boys see direction and motion with more clarity.  Anyone noticed that their boys draw predominantly verbs (flying, shooting, running, fighting) and girls focus on nouns in their artwork (animals, people, houses)?  These were just a few of the amazing eye-opening ideas he talked about and there’s plenty more coming.

Good luck this year to all the parents out there who are trying to give their kids the best education they can, at home or at school.

I hope more moms and dads can take advantage of this great conference!

Deliciously healthy blueberry muffins

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These little puppies may not win any beauty contests but their taste will blow you away!  Especially after you see how healthy they are.   Whole wheat, with healthy fats and no refined sugars, all without tasting like dirt!  In fact, they taste like the exact opposite of dirt:  Heaven.

My kids are generally indifferent about muffins: they’ll eat them if they’re starving but certainly don’t crave them.  My first batch of 12 of these babies were gone before lunchtime.  I may or may not have eaten 4.  Hot, with butter.

Deliciously Healthy Blueberry Muffins

1/4 c coconut oil (or butter)
1/4 c buttermilk OR plain yogurt (I prefer a full-fat Greek variety)
2/3 c pure maple syrup
2 eggs
1 3/4 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c oats, quick or regular
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup milk, non-dairy milk or buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease muffin tin with coconut oil.  (These also make perfect mini muffins!  Just cut cooking time in half and watch carefully)

In a large bowl, mix oil, buttermilk and syrup together (if using butter, you’ll need to beat with a mixer).  Add eggs and mix again.  In a food processor (or blender), process oats until ground.  Add flour, baking soda, salt to oats and pulse until combined.  Pour dry mixture into wet and lightly mix; add mashed bananas.  Stir in milk and vanilla and then gently fold in blueberries.  Spoon batter into muffin tins.

Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let rest for a few minutes in the pan and then roll them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.   Pair with a smoothie for a phenomenal breakfast.

Recipe adapted from this one at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Enjoy!

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