Showing posts with label Motherhood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Motherhood. Show all posts

A Third Birthday Letter To Clarice



My Sweet Clarice,

Darling, amidst all the paperwork and packing and moving, you quietly turned three years old a couple weeks ago.

We celebrated your birthday by taking a trip to the zoo as a family.  We asked you which animals you wanted to see and you said "E-wah-fants!"  Your voice is the cutest thing right now, high-pitched with a lisp.



Your hair is just as curly and delightful as it's ever been.  You are more active right now, so the curls don't stay in perfect formation.  They fluff and fly as you run around, and form the perfect frame for your sweet little face.  I've been intentionally telling you lately how pretty your curls are, and your blue eyes light up every time.

Your favorite food is definitely "choc-wat".  You went out with grandma for your birthday lunch a few weeks ago, and she told me that when she gave you a hot fudge sundae, you took a bite, sighed, and declared "Choc-wat is the BEST!"  You are a girl after my own heart, darling!



You are still very attached to one particular bear, your pink "first birthday" bear.  I've bought a couple replacements and backups for your bear, because it would be so sad if you lost it.  You call it "Baby", and carry it with you everywhere - and you are delighted whenever you get the chance to treat it like a real baby, by putting it in a stroller or strapping it onto yourself like a baby carrier.  You found the backup a couple weeks ago, dubbed it "Other Baby", and now you carry around both of them.  You came downstairs in the middle of the night a couple weeks ago, scared because of a bad dream, and you were clutching a "baby" in each arm, their heads tucked under your chin.  It was so impossibly adorable, I couldn't even stop myself from chuckling.  You act happy and sheepish whenever I tell you that you are a good little mama to your "babies".

When I think about you at this age, I think of a little girl with big feelings. When you are happy, your smile is so huge it takes up your whole face, and I dare anyone not to smile back.  When you are sad, the whole world is ending, and your blue eyes drown in tears.



Whether you are so happy you might burst, or sad enough to get my shirt all wet, when I pick you up to give you a hug your little arms wrap around my neck.  It's hard to want to put you down.  I walked past the mirror when I was carrying you the other day and realized how tiny you still are.



You are such a joy to me, darling, and the one I can always count on for a smile or a snuggle.  You light up all my days.  You have grown so much in the last year.  You have become such a wonderful big sister.  You have started talking more and more.  Your personality has become even more fun, if that were possible.  But you are still my sweet baby girl, willing to cuddle on my lap and dragging around your teddy bear.  I can't wait to see how you grow over this next year, but I also hope it doesn't happen too fast.  I know I'll want these days back.  I'm loving life with you so much right now, at three.

Love You More, Baby Girl.

-Mama


All About Breakfast



Confession:  I give my kids Marshmallow Mateys for breakfast sometimes.

Now that we've gotten that dirty little secret out of the way...

Lately I have been branching out a bit on breakfasts for the kids.  When I went to the homeschool conference this summer, one of the speakers said that you can't really get mad if you gave your kids sugary cereal with nothing more substantial added in, and they act all crazy later.

As we've established, I have nothing against breakfast cereal, but I did think she had a point.

So while we still do Coco Puffs for breakfast occasionally, I've added a few other things into the rotation, with the intention of helping my kiddos get some brain-sharpening, focus-encouraging nutrients in, especially on school days!  Here are a few of my current go-to's.

Oatmeal - One of the reasons I used to default to cereal was because it was a quick, easy breakfast for the kids - but I've learned that oatmeal is fairly quick and easy too!  And it's healthier and more sustaining since they are getting the whole grain.  I use old-fashioned oats, and add a little brown sugar, nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, apples, or cinnamon.  The kids think I'm the best mom ever when I add in chocolate chips (but it's still less straight sugar than cereal!).

Muffins (made with freshly-ground flour) - I mentioned that I got a grain mill this summer, and I have to tell you, I love it!  When flour is freshly ground, it still contains all the nutrients that the whole wheat berry contains, so it's more sustaining, has a lower glycemic index, and it's healthier.  But beyond that, I like the way baked goods taste when they are made with fresh flour, and the texture is chewier (which I actually love!).  I have a few go-to muffin recipes from this book. I try to make one batch every week so they can be our on-the-go breakfast, but that doesn't always happen.

Hard-Boiled Eggs with toast - Also quick to make, because I just pull them out of the refrigerator!  (Are you noticing a theme here?  I like quick and easy breakfasts.)  I have to be careful with this one though, because sometimes I forget I boiled the eggs and we don't end up eating them.

Yogurt - We don't eat yogurt as often as I'd like, because with five kids and me that could get expensive really quick.  But sometimes I buy a big container of plain yogurt, and I mix it with honey and frozen berries for the kids' breakfast.  This is also one of my favorite breakfasts for me!

Cereal or Donuts - Everything in moderation, right?  Sometimes cereal or donuts is just easier, and I don't shame myself or anyone else for going there.  Having a sugary breakfast sometimes is fine in my book.

What are your breakfast go-to's?  Any other quick-and-easy ideas for me?

What I Learned In Our First (Real) Year Of Homeschooling




This past week we finished up our homeschool year.  I have to say, I was a homeschooled student, but coming from the mom side is a whole different thing.  There are a lot of advantages I have as a homeschool mom from being a homeschool student myself, but there are also a lot of things that you can't learn until you are on the teaching side of it.  I thought I'd take a little time today to reflect on what I've learned over this first year of homeschooling (first real year anyway - in my book, kindergarten doesn't count).


Homeschooling Is Great For Developing Patience

I would in no way consider myself a patient person.  Patience is something that I've struggled with over the years - I get impatient when things don't go smoothly, when I have to repeat myself, when things don't go my way.  Getting married cured me of some of that.  Having kids has grown me even more.  But having my kids with me 24/7 and teaching them myself at home is a whole other ball game when it comes to patience.

When I mention that I am homeschooling my kids, I've had lots of moms say to me "Oh, I wouldn't have the patience for that."  This year I learned that I don't have the patience for homeschooling either.  The secret is, a lot of moms who choose to homeschool don't have the patience for it.  But homeschooling is an excellent facilitator for sanctification.

I know you've heard it said that if you ask God for more patience, He'll give you opportunities to practice it, and that's exactly what homeschooling has done for me.  It hasn't always been pretty, and my deep-seated impatience has never been more obvious to me, but I can honestly say that at the end of this year that I am more patient then I was at the beginning of the year.  And that's purely through God enabling me and giving me practice at developing patience through this thing called homeschooling.  It's hard, but I know this is exactly why I should be doing it.

It's Okay To Change Curricula In The Middle Of The Year

I mentioned in a recent post that we ended up changing curricula in the middle of the year.  A lot of homeschool posts will advise you against switching your curriculum, will tell you to give it a really good chance before you drop it.  And there's some wisdom in that.  You obviously can't be switching curricula constantly - it would waste a lot of money and stunt your child's learning.  But this year I learned that when something just isn't working, you should find something else that will.  I'm so glad we didn't muddle through the whole year with the curriculum I had originally bought for reading - finding a curriculum that fit was so life-giving to our homeschool days!  Switching curricula mid-year does not mean you are a failure for starting with the wrong one.  When you are in the early homeschooling years with any kid, it's going to take a little trial and error to figure out what will work best with your unique blend of personalities.  I imagine we might have to switch curricula mid-year again at some point since I have five different kids with unique learning needs, and that's okay!

You Will Be Miserable If You Don't Learn To Stop Comparing

I remember seven years ago, as a brand-new mom, I struggled constantly with comparing my baby to all my friends' babies.  I doubted myself whenever another child started rolling over, walking, talking before my own baby.  Every new mom has to learn not to compare her baby to others, because every child learns and develops at their own pace.  I eventually became secure as a mom as I learned those things.  What I didn't expect was for all those insecurities to come roaring back as soon as my oldest hit school age.  This year I had to re-learn all over again that kids' learn and grow at their own pace, and that this will necessarily affect the way we homeschool.  While kids' need to be challenged to grow, there are also times when they are just not ready for a certain academic skill and you have to sit back and wait until they are.  Learning when to challenge your child with a new skill and when to wait a bit - and learning to stop comparing your child to other children - is part of becoming a good homeschool teacher.  



You Actually Can Have A Baby In The Middle Of A Homeschool Year

I have to admit, I was nervous about how having a new baby in the house would affect our homeschool year.  This is the first year we have had a legal requirement on the amount of days we needed to do school, and I was really worried that having a baby would make it hard to hit our target. But I learned that having a baby in the middle of a school year is not really a big deal.  The great part of homeschooling is that it is so flexible!

I tried to get ahead a bit by schooling a few days here and there over last summer, but we only accumulated 20 extra days.  When Georgie was born at the end of October, I took the entire months of November and December off, and we didn't do a single thing (aside from some field trips).  But we still finished up our school year before June!  Our school days after Georgie arrived were laid-back and simple - we did practically no school work in the mornings.  When the little ones were down for a nap in the afternoon, then we would work on our reading, language arts, and math.  When the younger ones got up, we'd read our history and science books together.

I was surprised and encouraged to see that homeschooling fit easily into our new life stage - and the key was letting our days be flexible.  I'm actually glad I didn't have to deal with getting my kids out the door in the morning and picking them up by a certain time every day, not to mention all the extra preparation for lunches and school events - it might actually be easier to have a baby without sending my kids' to a school building!

Learn To Love What Must Be Done

I am admittedly an academia-loving person.  I get excited by school supplies.  I love studying and learning new things myself.  I actually love the idea of teaching my kids history and science!  But there are some areas of being a homeschool teacher that I was not as excited about.  I've had multiple friends make comments to me too about not looking forward to homeschooling, not feeling excited or passionate about it.  However, through this first year of homeschooling I've learned that it is possible to learn to love what must be done.

I can't remember where I first heard this phrase, but it has become a constant refrain for me this year, as we pushed through our lessons on days when I was just not feeling it.  It's impossible to be passionate and excited about something all the time, and I think to be successful at homeschooling you have to realize that. You can push through and learn to love what you are doing anyway.

It's the difference between the newly-married, heart-pounding love, and the steady deeper love that you have when you've been married for years.  As the fresh excitement of the school year faded, and the seeming drudgery of daily work took over, I learned that there is a deeper satisfaction and passion that develops when you push through, as you find the meaningful in the midst of the everyday, as you learn to shake things up and give yourself a fresh perspective throughout the journey.

That's how you learn to love what must be done, by sticking with a commitment even when you don't feel a superficial excitement about it - there's a deeper accomplishment, and yes, even a love, that comes with the commitment.

Next year is my first year homeschooling two kids in two different grades, so the learning has just begun!  Stay tuned.

Homeschool friends, what was the biggest thing you learned in your first year of homeschooling?


Lots Of Firsts - Georgie At Seven Months


Georgie Bea is seven months old, and this post is late!  Whoops.  I'm blaming vacation (even though it was a month ago).

Growth And Eating

We are solidly into size 2 diapers and 6-9 month clothes, though I still make some smaller sizes work as well.  Her feet are big enough for shoes now, but since it's summer I rarely put shoes on her.  She looks adorable in her baby swimsuit (I will share pictures on Instagram soon).

Georgie has really filled out over the last couple months, and I love her chubby little cheeks!  We started food purees this month, and she loves them.  She often lurches toward the spoon if I don't bring it to her mouth fast enough.

She is still cuddly and sweet when I feed her a bottle, and she snuggles into my and reaches up to touch my face.  I love that she still does this, even though we are no longer nursing.  She can almost hold her own bottle now, but I try not to let her too often when we are at home, because I want to enjoy her baby snuggles.



Sleeping

No change, she's still amazing.  She does have a harder time when I first lay her down lately, but she's usually still asleep within 15 minutes.

Firsts

We went on Georgie's first family vacation this month!  Maybe I'll get around to posting about it before the summer is over.  She had her first plane flight, and did wonderfully on the plane.  She met her Uncle Jeff and Aunt Rae for the first time.  She saw the ocean for the first time (even though she won't remember it).

We also started solids for the first time (which she loved)!



Personality

Georgie hates water, and always gives me this desperate, betrayed look when I put her in the bathtub.  She hates getting sprayed with the sunscreen.  Aside from those two things she has generally been an abnormally happy baby.  It's not hard to get her to smile!  She also has the cutest little baby laugh (I know, I say that about all my babies).

Of course, as we've passed the 7 month mark her teething has gotten a little more aggressive, and she has had some days where she just gets upset whenever I put her down and wants to be held all day.  Whenever I pick her up she immediately gives this triumphant grin and pats my shoulder, and I have a vague feeling that I've just been played.  Still, I usually just try to accommodate - she'll be crawling soon, and then who knows if she'll want me to hold her?



---

Georgie Bea, 

How you've grown this month!  You are starting to look like an "older" baby.  The happiest place for you to be is resting on my hip, and you grin at everyone who looks at you.  I love your sweet smile and dimples, you charm people wherever we go!  Even the people on the plane couldn't get irritated that they were sitting by a baby because you were so darn cute.  I love how your eyes follow me around when I'm not holding you, and you lean toward me with your little raised eyebrows whenever you catch my eye.  I'm still your favorite, and you can be attached to my hip for as long as you want, Baby Girl.  I love you more than all the stars in the sky.

Love Always,

Mama


936 Pennies Review - Recommended!



I somehow found Erin Lynum on Twitter a few years ago, and I specifically remember clicking through to her blog and reading her post about receiving a jar of 936 pennies as she dedicated her baby at her church.  The 936 pennies represented the weeks she would have with her baby from birth until their 18th birthday.  In that post she challenged moms to make sure they were spending their 936 pennies well.  That idea stuck with me, so when I saw this book, I knew exactly who had written it and I snagged it!

I would classify 936 Pennies: Discovering The Joy Of Intentional Parenting as memoir/encouragement for moms.  Erin shares a lot of her own mothering journey and ways she has learned to "spend her pennies well" over the years.  She doesn't get preachy or tell you what you "should" do, but instead presents her personal experiences as an encouragement and challenge to parent intentionally, with the passing of time in the forefront of our minds.  Her kids are about the same age or perhaps slightly younger than mine, so while there were certain sections that I no longer struggle with as much, I could deeply relate to 95% of the book.

There were a couple little quibbles I had here and there with how she worded certain things, but I can definitely say this book is solid doctrinally and is thoroughly grounded by biblical truth and the gospel.  She doesn't just focus on superficial suggestions to make our days smoother or more fun, but she digs down deep into what it means to parent our children with not just 936 pennies but eternity in mind.  I especially enjoyed the chapters toward the end about memory-making and keeping (something I spent some time writing about last fall), and about how we can gain some time back by using technology well.

I highly, highly recommend this book!  I found myself so encouraged to invest in my kids and put some of my own strategies in place to use my time with them in a way that will matter for eternity.  I also think this would make an excellent baby shower or first birthday party gift, along with a jar of 936 pennies, of course.  If you are a mom, check this one out!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Why I Won't Be Sorry To Turn 30


(Note: We took a trip to the beach recently - vacation recap coming soon - and I got this dress from Pinkblush just in time before we left!  They sent it to me for free in exchange for the feature I am including in this post, but I totally used it as my dress for an unofficial 30-year-old photo shoot on the beach!)

There is something about those decades skipping by that seems a little more of a big deal than normal birthdays.  Some of us mark the 10 year increments with bigger birthday celebrations (that's me!), but I think for a lot of people there is a twinge of sadness or anxiety in growing older.



In less than a month, I will be turning 30, and I'm not bothered by it.  Not even a little bit.  Here's why.

1. Growing older means more experience.  

You all know I'm a talk radio fan (honestly, I listen to way too many shows and podcasts), and Rush Limbaugh often says how he is never sorry to grow older, because it means he has more experience and knows more than he used to.  I have to say, I love that.  I've adopted his attitude over the years, and especially as I've been surrounded by wise older people.  Some of them are decades older than me, like my parents or grandparents, some are people just a few years further down the road of life (ahem, like my husband), but I always look at them and think about the experiences and growth that they've walked through and I haven't yet.  So the passing of a year, even a big year like 30, is just another year that I've grown and matured and learned more.

2. Let's be honest, 30 is not that old.  

We all like to joke about how old we are getting when these decade markers pass us by, but really, the early 30's are still relatively immature.  We all think we know more than we actually do.  Just watching the people in my life who are approaching 40, I see the difference even that one decade makes in maturity and wisdom.  I'm not naive enough to think I have no more growing to do.  Thirty is still very young (maybe not always in a good way).

3. I'm surrounded by people who love me (and vice versa).

It is not lost on me how much of a blessing it is to enter my 30's with my own family established, and surrounded by family and friends who love me.  I think maybe the hardest part of getting older is not being quite where you thought you would be, whether that's professionally, relationally, or personally.  Being surrounded by the people who are most important to me, feeling like I belong somewhere, was always one of my biggest hopes for 30, and so my heart is full. When I look to the years ahead, I can expect a continuation and maturation of the fun I've already been having with my husband and kids and family and friends, and that's a blessing!

4.  I've figured out who I am.  

Maybe this is just me, but I've always had these arbitrary marker years in my head, ages that I look ahead to and think "Wow, when I'm that old, I will have arrived."  Well, I haven't really arrived because every time I reach the magical age there is another marker age on the horizon.  But 30 was one of those years for me.  When I thought about 30, I envisioned having figured out my own identity and style, and feeling confident in who God made me to be and what He wants me to do.  And maybe it's just the power of suggestion, because of the mental picture I've developed surrounding the age of 30, but I do feel like I've figured out who I am.  I just think 30 is going to be good.  (The next marker age is 36, in case you were wondering.)









(Speaking of style...I think one of my favorite parts of this age is that I've figured finally figured mine out.  I like to try new trends, but I fit them in around casual and feminine basics - this dress from Pink Blush is a good example!  PinkBlush is my go-to for maternity clothes, but I love PinkBlush's non-maternity clothes too because they are the right cut for my grown-up, post-baby body, with tons of flattering options.  Thirty means abandoning the juniors section for good, and finding brands that look good on my figure, and with options like Pinkblush I'm okay with that!  You can check out the dress I'm wearing here.  It's a perfect beach dress, right?)


5.  Each year I live on this earth brings me closer to Jesus.  

Each year I live is that much longer I have to grow in my walk with the Lord and learn to serve Him better.  Life on this earth is only an incredibly small sliver of eternity, and for those of us who have trusted in Jesus for our salvation, we have eternity in Heaven to look forward to.  And anything good that we experience here will be magnified and perfected there.  Really, how can I be sorry to grow older when I think about that?  Every year I spend here is one year closer to when I'll see Jesus face to face.  As a believer, there are only good things to look forward to when you take the long view.

Was 30 a good year for you, or was it hard to leave your 20's?  Or if you are in your 20's, do you look forward to or dread turning 30?  

Comment below, I want to hear!




Happy Baby - Georgie At Five Months



Well, this month's update is about two weeks late.  Whoops! My sweet girl is now well past 5 months old!

This month has felt like a bit of a whirlwind, and I'm not really sure why.  I just know that I've been exhausted with everything on our calendar and have been intentionally trying to slow down.  The last few weeks I've been telling Georgie that she's my little stress reliever, because her sweet cuddles and big smile instantly lighten my mood!  I'm so happy she's my baby.

Growth And Eating

We're still struggling along with the nursing, and my supply isn't increasing at all - but I'm hanging on, because I'm not quite ready to give it up.  She's mostly on formula now.  I'm also happy to report that she's chunked up some even since her last monthly update.  Her little legs have the hint of rolls now, and I just love her round little cheeks when she smiles!  Her hair is starting to thin - I've figured out that babies' hair reaches the peak of baldness at six months old before it starts to grow back in thicker.  She still has hair, but I can tell it's changing texture.  She is gumming everything and drooling a lot, so I feel like some teeth may poke through soon - or we may have to wait another 3 months, you never can tell.

Sleeping

I actually told Derek the other day that I feel bad for everyone in the world who does not get to be Georgie's mom (ha!) - first, because she's just so sweet and happy and delicious, and second because this baby is the most incredible sleeper I've ever heard of.  She's STILL sleeping 12 hours at night, plus a 2-hour nap during the day!  I'm getting so much sleep, I have no reason in the world to be exhausted.  When I'm tired, everyone assumes it's the baby - no, it's my own fault.  I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop...it is just so nice to have a fifth baby who sleeps!  Georgie totally spoils us.  I told her the other night that she's the kind of baby who tricks you into having a sixth!

Firsts

Shortly after Georgie's 5th month birthday, we celebrated Easter!  It was Georgie's first on the outside, and she looked pretty cute in her dress that matched all the girls.  We also put her in the gumbo seat for the first time, and sometimes she likes it, and sometimes she hates it.  No other firsts yet, but I think we'll be adding a few in the next month as we look ahead to starting solid foods.



Personality

She is still the cutest, happiest little thing!  She greets me with a smile each morning, smiles when I kiss her cheek, smiles when I talk to her.  She loves her siblings and will just grin at them if they give her any attention.  

She's obviously very easygoing (see above), but she tries to assert herself when she's hungry.  Even then, her cry is just not that loud or disruptive.  If she has to cry more than a couple of minutes before I get to her, her cries turn to this hopeless wail, like she's upset that no one ever takes her crying seriously, and it's so sad and pathetic and cute-sounding. 

She definitely likes me best right now, and will just watch me when someone else is holding her, then she grins when I finally take her back.  She likes to talk, and has the cutest little cooing voice - I'm looking forward to when she adds more consonants to her repertoire!



---

Sweet Georgie,

My darling girl, you are such a blessing to me!  There have been many times over the last month when I was feeling stressed, and I sat down to feed you and your smile just melted all the chaos away.  If I look you in the eye while you are eating, you'll grin at me around your bottle and give me a cute little "hum" sound, and I just feel like laughing every time you do it.  What a joy you are! Your personality is so sweet, and I just can't wait to watch it develop more as you grow.  I thank God every day for giving you to me.  I love you, darling.

Love Always, 

Mama

Don't Be Like Bob

(Four of my blessings.)


"Ah, you're Callie.  I've heard of you.  The one thing I know about you is that you have a lot of kids...so I guess I also know that you're insane."

Hardy, har, har.

Believe it or not, someone who was also a fellow Christian, by the way - we'll call him, Bob - actually said this to me once.  I gave out an incredulous "ha!" and then sat there in silence.  This is where I wish sometimes that I was a little quicker on my feet.  What I wanted to say was, "Oh, nice to meet you, Bob.  I guess the one thing I know about you is that you haven't read Psalm 139, where it says children are a reward from the Lord, and a blessing.  Buh-less-ing!"

But of course, I didn't say that, because that would be rude (hint, hint, Bob).

The reason I bring this up is because I saw a sketch on Facebook yesterday that made me laugh (you can see it here).  A stick figure family with six children and one on the way have their mouths hanging open, while another stick figure man says "You know what causes that, right?" Underneath it says "This is Bob.  Bob does not recognize blessings.  Don't be like Bob."

Apparently there are a lot of Bobs out there.  

Of course I thought it was funny because of my own experiences, so I shared it.  And then I sat there and remembered the story I shared above.  And then I had a startling realization.

Sometimes, I am also a Bob.  Because sometimes, I don't recognize blessings.  

Isn't that what discontentment is, after all?  We forget to recognize and thank God for the blessings we have.  We think what we have isn't good enough, or isn't enough, period.  We want more...more excitement, more recognition, more experiences, more things (even good things) - and when we focus so much on what we're missing, we forget about the things that we have.  The things God has so graciously given us.  

Maybe we don't actively ridicule those blessings like my Bob did, we're just overlooking them or minimizing them.  Those are two different things of course, but in practice, isn't it the same thing?  We're an ungrateful people, and whether with derision, or indifference and greediness, we snub God's good gifts as spoiled children would.  And when I say "we", I mean me.  So when I say this next part, it's a challenge to me more than it's a challenge to you.

Don't be like Bob.


Creative Contentment | A 100 Days Project


One of my unspoken goals for the year has been to get better at budgeting.

Recently I was reminded of why I need this so much when a friend mentioned a deal she found on some new clothing items.  Did I need new clothing?  No, but it didn't stop me from browsing the internet in search of a similar deal.  I have three new garments to show for it, and though I stayed within my budget to buy them, and they were good buys that will fit into my wardrobe nicely, it still makes me a little unnerved each time I look at them.  Because I know they were bought from an ugly place.  A place of discontent.

2018 so far has brought to light my personal discontent in ways I didn't expect.  The budgeting and finance issues are just one aspect - at various times over the last few years I have felt discontent with my schedule, discontent with our food, discontent with our house.  I have felt discontent with how ordinary my days are, how little I accomplish in a day, the quality of the books I'm crossing off my to-be-read list, the number on the scale.  I've felt discontent with my homeschool community (or rather lack thereof), and discontent with my walk with the Lord (because I wish I had more time and was better at making it a priority!).  

Basically, I'm tired of being discontent.

I recently saw that the #100daysproject is starting up on Instagram, and I mulled over the idea of joining in.  I did 31 Days Of Writing last October and loved being able to focus my posts around a certain theme on this blog, and I liked the idea of doing it again.  

As I was sitting there, running through different topics or activities that wouldn't be too burdensome in my current stage of life (and also wondering if it's cheating somehow to write about the project on my blog instead of Instagram), I remembered my blog friend Cassidy doing a 31 Days project on contentment a few years back.  Many blog friends have participated in these challenges over the years, but for some reason Cassidy's series stuck with me.  Perhaps because contentment is something I struggle with off and on too.  

Then it came to me: creative contentment.  If I was going to do a 100 Days Project, that's what I'd like it to be on.  Thinking outside the box when it comes to practicing contentment - figuring out strategies to help myself rest in contentment, and improving my circumstances and attitude where I am right now, with what I have right now.

I think I'm just going to go for it.  Will I write every day about this on the blog?  No, but I am hoping to seriously think about and practice contentment in different areas of my life every day for the next 100 days, and write something related to this topic at least once a week right here (and maybe occasionally on Instagram too).  That counts right?  That's my plan.

So consider this the first installment, and expect more on Thursdays or Fridays for the next few months!




Large Family Q&A - 5 Kids Under 7



People are curious about large families.  Curious enough to ask awkward questions of strangers (I speak from experience).  I don't blame them - I am even curious about families that are bigger than mine!

With five kids, I suppose we officially fall into the "large family" category, so I had a little fun with it recently and did a video with some common questions people seem to have about big families.  Now you don't have to ask me awkward questions, because I answered them for you here!  Watch the video (or scroll down for the short answers!).





1. How many children do you have? 
Five!


2. What are their ages? 

7, 5, 3, 2, 4 months.


3. What is your family structure? 
They're all our biological children.


4. How old were you when you had your first baby? 

Twenty-two, and I'd recommend young motherhood when possible. I got all five of my babies in before I turned 30!


5. Were they all planned by you and your spouse, or do you leave it up to God? 

We had to try a bit for the first two, and the last three were surprises (sort-of).


6. What is your favorite reaction to telling someone how many children you have? 
My favorite reaction is when someone tells me how blessed I am, because that's how I feel!


7. How do you usually handle negative comments? 
Um...I don't really notice negative reactions most of the time. One of the benefits of being non-observant. Still looking for a good one-liner for the (thankfully very few) times we get a negative comment.


8. What does it cost to feed your large family? 

Well, our monthly grocery budget is currently $650, but most of the kids are pretty little and don't eat terribly much. It'll probably go up in the next few years.


9. Do you plan to have more children?  
I believe we're done, but hey, I'll never say never! Derek and I have talked about leaving adoption open as a possibility if the Lord calls us that way.


10. What is your family vehicle? 

Minivan, baby!


11. Do you ever eat out?  
Not very often, and if we do, it's usually fast food.


12. How much milk do you go through in a week? 
Two gallons? We probably could go through more, but we drink water more often than milk.


13. How many rolls of toilet paper do you go through each day? 
I don't even know!


14. What is your favorite go to meal? 
Burritos or some sort of noodles.


15. How do you spend one on one time with each of your children? 
I usually take one of them with me for the beginning-of-the-month grocery shopping trip, though we still need to get back into that since Georgie has been born. Homeschooling is also giving me some one-on-one time with the older kids while we do their work, and I totally count that. We bond over math.


16. How do you manage the clutter? 
We do pick-up times at designated times of the day, but let's just say I've become a lot more laid back about messes.


17. Do you homeschool, private school or public school? 
Homeschool!


18. How do you manage the chaos? 
By getting used to it?


19. What do you do IF you get free time? 
Blogging, dabbling in doing these videos, and reading.


20. What is your #1 tip for other large family moms?  

I don't know! I don't think I'm far enough in to give advice. Someone give me some tips!



If you have a large family, feel free to grab the questions and let me know where you answered so I can check it out!


Let's Talk About Easter Baskets



(Affiliate link below. Also note that I received the book mentioned in this post for free in exchange or a review. This is my honest opinion!)

Alright, I'm just going to get straight to the point - what do you put in your kids' Easter baskets?

Easter is less than a month away!  There have been years when I put a lot of effort into picking things for the kids' Easter baskets, but since we've had a fourth and fifth baby I've toned them down quite a bit.  Last year's baskets were definitely thrown together last minute.  This year I'd like to make them at least thoughtful, since they won't be elaborate by any means (five kids, remember)!

Here are some things I've included in the past:

Summer shoes - Why not go ahead and buy something I'm going to need to purchase anyway?
Swimsuits - Same reason.
Umbrellas - My kids loved these.
Sunglasses/hats - Are you noticing a theme here?  Easter feels like the official kick-off to spring, so I lean toward warm weather essentials.
Books - Of course.  I'm actually kind of doing the book gift early this year with this book from Tommy Nelson.






If anything can get you in the mood for Springtime, it's the cute illustrations in this book!  A Very Happy Easter Prayer is part of a series, so it's written in a similar style as some of our other books, with little poems on each page thanking God for some part of the season.  I like how this one incorporates Jesus's resurrection on the last page too.  It's adorable for my little ones as a transition into the Easter season, and gets us all looking forward to Easter!  If I hadn't already given the book to my kids I would probably stick this in one of their baskets, especially for my younger kiddos.

As I'm considering what to include in Easter baskets though, I'm at a bit of a loss.  I would kind of like whatever I put into their baskets to have some connection with spiritual growth and pointing my kids back to Jesus, because more than any other holiday, this holiday is really about Him!  In a lot of ways Resurrection Day is an even more important celebration for our faith than Christmas.  On Christmas He was born, and He was born that He might die to take the punishment for our sin.  While Christmas is happy (because we celebrate the long-awaited arrival of the Savior!), it's looking ahead to something sorrowful.

Resurrection Day, on the other hand, is pure joy.  He suffered and died, but then He showed His power, proved He is God, and conquered the grave! Without the resurrection we are still in our sins, but because He rose again we can be alive forever with Him!  It's triumphant in a way that even Christmas isn't, and I want to make sure that all doesn't get lost amidst lesser things.

And I don't think it necessarily will get lost because we'll be talking about the Resurrection and everything that means in all the days leading up to Easter - but I don't know, I'd like it reflected somehow in their little gifts on Easter morning.  Or maybe I'm just expecting too much from a present for this age group (0-7 years)?  Any suggestions for me?

What do you put in your kids' Easter baskets (if you do them)?

A Tiny Thing - Georgie At Three Months



The last month of our lives have been rather crazy, and a lot of that craziness is surrounding my sweet Georgie Bea.

Growth And Eating

In late January I finally took in Georgie for an overdue two month checkup.  I was excited to see how much she had grown!  She seemed like such a tiny thing, I was curious to see her percentages.  Nevertheless I was still surprised to learn that she had only gained 11 ounces since her two week checkup.  

In case you are not familiar with the weight gain curves that doctors use, that is not so good!  She had dropped completely off the chart, below the first percentile.  In the week leading up to our appointment I noticed she still seemed so tiny and delicate, but she seemed healthy and content, and she was hitting all of her milestones. I honestly didn't realize she hadn't been gaining weight.  I still feel a little guilty about this.

Enter "Operation: Fatten Up Georgie".  For the next week I fed her every two hours and topped her off with formula at least twice a day.  Whatever I did seemed to work, and a week later when we went in for a weight check she was up to 10 pounds, 2 ounces at 3 months old! She's still tiny, but her weight is moving in the right direction, so that's good.  

In retrospect, I think her not gaining enough weight can be attributed to a "perfect storm" of a few different factors:

1. Georgie sleeps about 12 hours at night.  This is completely amazing for obvious reasons, but it was not helping her in the weight gain department.
2.  Because she sleeps so long at night, my supply had been dwindling.  However, this was so gradual that I didn't notice it until the last couple weeks when it became a problem.
3. My milk wasn't letting down properly.  I have five kids, and it's hard to find a quiet time to feed Georgie where we won't be interrupted.  I think this was making it hard for me to relax enough for my milk to letdown, which contributed to my supply issues.
4. On a normal day, Georgie is an extremely content baby, and she just wasn't letting me know when she was hungry.  I was feeding her at three hour intervals or so, but she needs more than that right now.  We now officially have her on a timer.

We'll have another weight check in the next couple weeks, but I am very confident that she is gaining weight happily now.  Her face has gotten notably rounder, and she even has a double chin.  She's even chubbed up since her three month pictures that I recently shared on Instagram!  Unfortunately my supply continues to dwindle, and I just don't have time or motivation to add pumping into an already packed day, so we've been giving her 2-3 bottles of formula each day.  We didn't make it as long as I wanted to with exclusively nursing this time, but c'est la vie. I'll just be happy if we can at least partially nurse until six months at this point.

As you can imagine, it's hard to keep up on things when you have five kids to take care of and one of them needs to be fed every two hours, hence why this post is late.  Aside from her weight, Georgie has been changing and growing in so many ways this month!



Sleeping

As I mentioned, Miss Georgie is an amazing sleeper!  She goes 12 hours at night, and I intend to enjoy this as much as possible.  I'm fairly confident she will stop sleeping through the night around four months because all of my babies have gone through a growth spurt at four months.  She also takes one afternoon nap during the day (having only one daytime nap is my tradeoff for a full night's sleep - I'll take it!).

Firsts

The day we found out Georgie wasn't gaining weight (January 25th), she laughed at me.  I can't tell you how comforting that was to me - right when I was beating myself up for not realizing she wasn't growing on track, she blessed me with sweet baby giggles.  It's a cute little belly-chuckle sound. She's mostly just laughed for me so far (and once for Derek), when I tickle her tummy.  I got the best video of her laughing at me repeatedly for a minute straight, and I rewatch it sometimes when I need a grin.  I just love her laugh so much!

She also discovered her hands.  One day I had her laying on the bed in my room while I got ready to go somewhere, and I looked over at her and she was just starting so intently at her hands.  I always find this phase so funny!  It's so cute to watch her little quizzical expression as she tries to figure things out.

We also celebrated our first New Year's with Georgie, and went to the stock show together for the first time as a family of 7.

She still rolls over both ways, but only occasionally.  However, she's such a strong little thing!  Her head support is pretty good for her age, and she pushes up with her arms really well when we do tummy time.



Personality

As I said, Georgie is mostly a very content baby, though since we've been feeding her every two hours she has gotten a little more vocal.  I think she finally realized she likes to eat.  She has the sweetest little grin, and she smiles much more quickly now than she did a month ago.  Her dimples are just the best thing ever!  I can also tell she's getting a little more attached to me - When someone else is holding her she will just stare at me and follow me around with her eyes.  She doesn't talk too often, but when she does it's the cutest little cooing/sighing sound.  If you want to hear her talk you have to stare right into her eyes and talk to her, and then she'll wait for a break in the conversation to coo back at you.  

---

Georgiana Bea, 

You threw me for a loop this month!  I can't believe how tiny you are, but your sweet little grins and baby talk reassure me always that you are doing just fine.  You are such a happy baby! Your grins light up my whole day, and I'm a tiny bit obsessed with your dimples.  I sit with you sometimes and just try to get you to smile over and over so I can catch a glimpse of them.  And don't even get me started on your laugh.  Your baby giggle puts both your dad and me in stitches - we just can't help but laugh along with you!  What a sweet little joy you are.  I can't imagine our life or family without you, my little lady.  You live up to your name.

I love you always, 

Mama



My Firstborn At Seven



Wyatt Boy, yesterday you turned seven years old.

Your birthday could have snuck up on me this year except for the fact that you have been reminding me about it for the last few months.  You are big enough now to sit down with a calendar and figure out how many days there are until things, and you were counting down the days.  This is also the first year that you had plans for you own birthday, and I tried my best to fill all your hopes with what I had.  You were so sweet and enthusiastic, in your quiet, shy way, about everything we ended up doing.

We took you to the Nature and Science museum, and walked through the gem section with you.  You are fascinated by the idea that such beautiful things can just be waiting beneath the earth for someone to come dig them up.  We took you to the gift shop and bought you some rocks for you "gem collection", and I loved seeing your face light up.  You wanted to know all the technical names, and how the gems were formed, and whether they were "real rocks" or manmade.  You are my thinker, and you love to just know things, especially anything related to physical science or biology.  You can stare for hours at books filled with birds, insects, and animals, and you always want to know how things work.

This year whenever you were asked what you wanted to be, you always replied with "a farmer and a worker".  You have been scoping out land as we drive places, trying to figure out where you could buy a farm.  But over the last month you've been talking more about being a "worker".  You want to build things.  We bought you a bunch of Legos this year, and seeing your how creativity grows is amazing.  You and your dad have built several things together, and I know that's one of his dreams for his kids come true, to sit and do Legos together with his son (and also go to a college football game together, which you also did this fall!).

We started first grade this year, and I don't think I expected to see you grow so much when we first cracked the books last summer.  You are learning so much!  It's so fun for me to see things start to make sense to you, to see how much you are learning each day.  You actually love to learn, and in that I see myself in you again.  I expect many years ahead of bonding over biology and zoology textbooks, since you seem to especially enjoy that subject just like I do.



One thing I love about you is your desire to do the right thing, and your desire for people to know about Jesus.  At Christmas time you made a little card in your Sunday School class that you were supposed to give to someone to tell them about Jesus.  If it were me, I would have completely forgotten about it, but you carried that card around in your pocket, scanning the stores to see who you might give it to.  You finally gave it to our cashier at the mall, and I'm pretty sure you made her day.  But I saw the serious look on your face as you asked her if she knew about Jesus, and my heart melted a little.  My sweet boy, I love the desire you have for others to know the Truth.  I pray you will never lose that.

Do you know how incredibly proud I am to be your mom?  You are a joy to me, Wyatt.  I love you so much, from that first moment I laid eyes on you seven years ago, and more every day.  It's a privilege to call you my son.

Love Always,

Mama

Finding Christmas Joy As A Grown-Up




The kids have been asking me every day how many days are left until Christmas.  I have to say, it brings back memories of my childhood, when it felt like Christmas would take so long to arrive.  The anticipation was almost too much!  Ah, childhood.  We made paper chains the other day for the countdown, so I haven't had to answer the questions as often.

I've mentioned before how Christmas is usually filled with more stress than joy for me as an adult, but this year feels different.  After six years of Christmas as a mom, nine years of Christmas as a married lady, this year I finally feel like I'm figuring it out.

Being due with our fifth baby so close to the Christmas season definitely has had something to do with it I think.  Not only did I get started on Christmas to-do's earlier, but I have overall put less pressure one myself to do everything this year, and I feel the difference.   So, I have to write down what is working for me, so hopefully repeating it next year will bring about the same results of less stress, more joy!  

Buy presents early.  

I bought all of the presents early this year because I wanted to finish all my shopping before Georgiana was born.  I don't think I realized how much stress present shopping causes me when I save it for December.  It has been so nice to not be out and about so much so far this year, and I feel less stressed about finances since most of the purchases are already made.

Do all the Christmasy things as soon as I feel like it.  

I used to feel like I had to save all the Christmas activities until December, and that they had to be made into a big production.  This year I am spacing things out a little more and doing all the Christmas things as the mood strikes.  Example: Christmas cookies.  If I feel like baking Christmas cookies with the kids early in December, we'll just bake whenever the mood strikes and freeze them for later.  If we feel like wrapping presents and listening to Christmas music in November, why not?  It's more fun to do Christmasy things when we feel like it, instead of "saving" the Christmas fun to the point of procrastination and then getting stressed out when we have to squeeze it all in.

Take the family picture early.  

I'm continuing my strategy of taking a family Christmas picture before our actual Christmas gatherings.  If I get everyone dressed up in their Christmas clothes and get some good pictures on a low-stress day, then I don't feel like I have to try to wrangle everyone together for a family picture on days when we are actually going somewhere.  I can just enjoy being present and not worry about it, since I know we already got a good picture of the family at Christmas.

Cut out the non-essentials.  

I don't know why it took me so long to realize that I don't have to do all the Christmas things.  I'm learning to be a little more particular about what we choose to participate in at Christmas time, because it's a lot easier for me to enjoy the Christmas season if we have more days when we aren't doing anything specific.  When we all have more room to breathe, the Christmas fun happens more naturally, and it's a lot less stressful on me.  

I also think one of the reasons I have had a hard time enjoying Christmas is because I rush around so much, trying to make everything perfect, and I don't allow myself to have time to just relax and reflect on why we are celebrating in the first place.  Having a newborn this year has given me the perfect excuse not to do things. I am enjoying Christmas so much more since deciding to say no and allowing myself enough mental rest to reflect on our Savior.  Which brings me to my last point.

Prioritize Advent.  

It's tragic really, how often I let this get overlooked in previous years in favor of all the more commercial aspects of Christmas.  I think having the shopping done before the season started has really given me the space I needed to focus less on things and more on our Savior.  He is the reason our family celebrates Christmas in the first place, after all.  

I am doing this advent devotional, and listening to my favorite Christ-focused Christmas songs, and I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on why He came (to seek and save sinners) and my part in that (the great commission).  Of course I did advent stuff in years past, but I think the fact that so much of my other Christmas prep is already done this year has left me more space to keep advent in the "because I want to category", instead of the "I have to do this or my kids won't remember that Christmas is about Jesus" category.  I am convicted that I even let the Lord get relegated to the "have to" category during Christmas.  If other things have to take a backseat for our family to have the time and space it takes to focus on Jesus, well, that's what we'll do!  It's as it should be, even especially at Christmas time.  

As I've guarded my time a little more this year, and given more of it to the Lord, I feel the joy that I've been missing in years past coming back a little.  It makes sense.  He is the only true source of Christmas joy, after all.  Everything else ends up being a disappointment eventually, but in the gift of Jesus's birth and sacrifice for us - that's where the joy is.  

And it only took me nine Christmases as an adult to figure that out.


















Do you do anything to guard your time at Christmas?  How do you make sure the focus stays on Jesus during Christmas season?
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