Practicing Contentment

It’s currently naptime and I was really debating whether or not I should take a nap myself.  Unfortunately, the days of all four boys napping at the same time are becoming fewer.  And while I love to get a quick catnap in to refresh myself for the rest of the day, I also enjoy the peace and quiet of a still house.  So today I’m choosing to unwind by writing.

It’s a Discipline

In different seasons, I have attempted to teach my boys what it means to be content. I’ve learned that this is a difficult concept for the boys to understand.  We’ve talked about being grateful for what we have and not always wanting more.  I’ve tried to teach them to slow down and not always wonder what we’re going to do next.  And we’ve discussed not being jealous about what others have.  It seems simple enough, but the discipline of contentment is tough for all of us and it’s one that needs to be practiced.

I think contentment is often confused with complacency or settling for less than what we desire or deserve.  But this thinking is so flawed.  Settling for something brings bitterness and disappointment, while contentment brings joy and peace.  Instead of drowning ourselves in despair because we are never going to have as much as this person or look as good as that person, we can have peace knowing that God is constantly working in us and through us.  Even, and especially, in those moments when He asks us to be still, the Lord is at work.  We can be confident in knowing that God has our best interest in mind even when we don’t see prosperity in our future.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

The Secular Influence

We live in a society where we always want the latest and greatest technology.  We want to go on vacations right now.  We compare what we have to what others have and become jealous and greedy.  It’s that ugly part inside all of us.  I think a lot of times it comes out in our insecurities and the desire to make up for what we lack.

But contentment is not about “playing a part” to make it look like we have everything together.  It’s not about giving up or quitting because we’ll never have what others have.  It’s quite the opposite!  Contentment is about realizing that this is what’s best for us RIGHT NOW.  It’s not about changing our dreams, but about adjusting our expectations.  It’s about realizing our purpose in this season.

Just Be Content

By teaching my sons to have the right attitude and perspective of what it means to be content, they can experience freedom to look forward to what’s next without being consumed by it. At 3 and 5 years-old, this means being content with the lunch they were given instead of asking for more.  It means that the moment we step in the door from playing outside, they resist the urge to ask what we’re going to do next.  It means accepting a “no” or a “not right now” for an answer without becoming upset or disappointed.  This is not an easy concept to teach them, but it’s one I choose to work on with them while they’re young because I know how much it will help them as they grow up.

Another way that I’ve found helps my boys understand contentment is by being intentional with the words and phrases I use around them.  When my oldest asks to go outside but it’s not a good time responding, “that’s a great idea and I’d love to take you outside, but right now I need to put the baby down for a nap,” is better accepted than, “no.”  Validating kid’s requests and desires is important as it teaches them how God values every one of our thoughts and desires.  It lets them know that they are being heard even if their request isn’t met.

Practice

Personally, I’ve gone through plenty of seasons of discontentment.  Some were shorter than others.  Coming out of those seasons is tough.  It ALWAYS happens not when all my desires were met, but when I change my attitude and allow myself to be still and trust God.  It’s when I choose joy and hope instead of despair.  It’s when I choose to live instead of sulk.  It’s when I pray and seek to find my purpose in the present.  And it’s when I choose to wipe off the smudges on my glasses that are clouding my view to experience life more vividly!  These are the lessons I hope to teach and model for my sons now.  By planting these seeds, my prayer is that they’ll practice this discipline daily and find freedom and joy in being content in the Lord.

Let’s raise His mighty warriors TOGETHER!

Parenting from the Deep End

I love summer!  I love that my husband has a few weeks off so we get to spend more time together as a family.  I love all the seasonal fruits and vegetables.  I love lounging by the pool, going to parks, roasting marshmallows over a campfire, and wearing flip flops (although living in California, I get to wear flip flops year-round)!  And swimming has always been one of my favorite summer activities.

I grew up going to our family cottage as well as other beaches and spending all day in the water.  But now that I have kids, gone are the days of mindlessly floating in the middle of the lake for hours. Instead, I usually have one baby in my arms and I’m close by the others who are still learning how to swim. Pool days are a little less relaxing and a lot more splashing!

The Deep End

It’s actually the very picture that sums up my life these days.  As a mom, I’ve traded in my personal time and space for being called on at all hours of the day (and night) and being followed around by my littles.  My time has become their time, and that’s a tough inner-battle to fight.  I naturally want to give all of me to my husband and my children, but I also want to have enough left for myself.  And it’s not a selfish thing to desire, but often guilt creeps in and makes it feel as if it is!  If you’re like me, you know what I’m talking about.

But I can’t keep parenting from the deep end.  I can’t allow myself to constantly feel as though I’m treading water as I attempt to keep up with our busy schedule.

You know the feeling?  It’s exhausting having all your energy depleted as you make meals, do the dishes, grocery shop, keep up with laundry, make deadlines at work, schedule doctor appointments, plan birthday parties, respond to emails, return phone calls, save time to bathe the kids before bed, and so much more!  And yet, what joy, if any, are we experiencing if that’s what our days have become?  And even more, what joy are we sharing with our kids if all they see is the mom who has a strict agenda to keep?

I’m over here raising my hand right now because I know I am so guilty of this. I’m guilty of telling my son I’m looking at what he drew only to have my eyes on my phone.  I’m guilty of standing in the kitchen triple-checking my to-do list instead of spending time on the floor with my baby.  I’m guilty of turning the TV on for the boys so I can fold a load of laundry without little hands unfolding what I just finished folding.  I’m guilty of yelling more times than I’d like to admit in a day because I’m taking my feelings of being overwhelmed out on my sons.

I’m sure we all go through seasons like this.  And it’s so difficult to keep the guilt from turning to shame.  But we can’t let ourselves go there.  Allow yourself to have an off day, week, or season.  Recognize it for what it is, give yourself some grace, and move on.  But don’t let yourself get stuck in that place!  Lean on your mom, sisters, or friends to help you through those times so that you don’t allow those seasons to define who you are as a mother.

Plans Change

When we returned from vacation a few weeks ago, I found myself in one of those seasons.  I was trying to play catch up after being away for a few weeks, and my to-do list was growing by the second with grocery shopping, paying bills, and cleaning.  Emotionally, I was down after leaving family and I found myself being very short with my boys.  Unfortunately for them, my frustration was coming without much warning or explanation. At the end of the days, I was frustrated with myself for yelling throughout the day and not showing them much patience.

After sharing my frustrations with my husband, I decided I’d plan a fun day with them and not worry about my to-do list.  Originally, I had planned to take them to the mall for Build-A-Bear’s “Pay Your Age Day,” but because that was a bust (luckily a woman in the mall parking lot told me not to even bother going in because of the long lines), I let them pick out a park to go to instead.  Everyone was having fun at the park until I heard my two year-old crying going down the slide.  I picked him up and held him until he started to relax.  But when I went to set him down, he started crying even harder and wouldn’t put any weight on his injured leg.  I knew immediately something wasn’t right.  Long story short, the x-rays showed a spiral fracture in his leg and into a cast he went.

While having a toddler with a broken leg has created many challenges for our family, it’s also slowed us down.  And frankly, we needed that right now.  My husband is back at work, my oldest is about to start kindergarten, and we just needed to relax for a bit together and have fun!  I’m not celebrating the injury, but I am celebrating the opportunity to slow our lives down and refocus our priorities.  In these last 10 days, I’ve been able to snuggle with my two year-old so much!  I’ve been able to help the older two boys be creative in finding games and activities to play with their injured brother.  We’ve gone on more walks which is something I had been wanting to get back into.

Taking Hold of Him

Luckily it doesn’t always take something traumatic to pull us out of a rough season.  Sometimes it’s something we read or a conversation we have.  Other times it’s a song we hear or an event we experience.  But in each circumstance I am confident that God is the orchestrator.  He sees us in the seasons we are proud of as well as the seasons we feel guilty about.  He sees us losing energy, treading water in the deep end as we try to do it all alone.  And He throws us a float.  God gracefully offers us a way out so that we can stand on firm ground, confident in who we are as a mother.

When we allow God room to work in our heart, we can fully experience the joy that comes from resting in Him.  What better gift can we give our children than the gift of sharing the joy of the Lord with them?  This comes by giving them our full attention when we say we’re listening, by having a good attitude about playing with them even when the timing is not ideal, by using a kind tone when we speak to them, and by loving them through their own daily battles.

I find that on the days when I choose to seek the Lord’s joy throughout the day, my sons are better behaved, I feel more energized, and everything else falls into place.  It doesn’t mean the day is perfect or that my sons do no wrong.  But it helps me see everything through a new lens and, therefore, find the beauty and good in each circumstance.  I’m able to laugh more and love better.

A few years ago, someone shared this quote with me, “Let go of the day you planned and embrace the one you’ve been given.”  What a wonderful change in perspective not only for a particular day, but also for particular seasons of life that aren’t going quite as we envisioned! My prayer is that we can all recognize where we are in this season and make necessary changes to allow God’s joy to overflow in us and radiate to others!

Let’s raise His Mighty Warriors TOGETHER!

Taking (Four Children) to the Sky – Part 2

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In my last post, I shared our extensive itinerary of a typical travel day to Nana and Papa’s house.  I promised to share in Part 2 ways of keeping children occupied on the flight.  I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work, that is, for our boys. So here’s a list of some of my traveling essentials (specifically for airplane travel, but many would also be great for long roadtrips):

Food

When we travel, we travel fully equipped with food.  I’m not just talking about some snacks.  The night before our travel, I make turkey sandwiches and put them in divided storage containers I pick up from Target.  The boys each get one so when it’s time for a meal, I hand them their container and add a little fruit, fig bars, and crackers in the other slots.  This keeps everything clean-ish, organized, and fun.  The boys like having their own “plates” which we then reuse for other snacks throughout the flight.

New Coloring Books

In our house, we do a lot of sharing and passing down of toys, clothes, bikes, etc.. But when it comes to flying, I always make sure I take a trip to Target and Dollar Tree to pick out some NEW coloring books, crayons, etc.. I don’t let the boys see what I picked out for them until we are on the plane.  It makes for a little fun and excitement when they’re starting to get bored.  I’ve heard of some people wrapping up new books and small toys in wrapping paper but 1) I just don’t have time for that and 2) it sounds like a mess of wrapping paper and I don’t love messes!

Aside from basic coloring books, which are great, we also buy these Crayola Mess-Free coloring pages.  They are great for toddlers who don’t know how to keep the marker on the paper, but they are also great for preschoolers! I will add that toddlers sometimes get a little confused by these coloring books because the color from the marker does not appear immediately after coloring.  It’s a very short delay, but my kids have seemed to be a little confused by it until they were old enough to understand how it works.

These Melissa and Doug notepads are also super fun! The boys have loved these and they’ve lasted us multiple uses. The tube of the “paint brush” fills with water so even if a little spills out, it’s not a mess.  And anytime the “paint” magically appears with no mess it’s a huge win, right?

Snacks

My boys love to eat! So sandwiches just don’t cut it.  I also bring applesauce pouches, fruit such as bananas, strawberries, and blueberries, crackers, string cheese, fig bars, popcorn, and chips.  We usually try to space out the snacks in between activities, but there is definitely more snacking on travel days than there is in our usual day at home.

Dry Erase Board/Doodle Pad

I found this Crayola Dry-Erase Travel Pack on Amazon and the boys really seem to like it.  It folds up so it’s easy to store in the boys’ backpacks. This along with the Crayola Double Doodle pad have kept the boys occupied over many flights.  Magna Doodle boards are fun as well, but make sure you buy the smaller version so that it easily packs away in a backpack or carry-on. The bigger version takes up too much space.  As a sidenote, we keep these items stored at our house and ONLY take them out for flights.  Unlike coloring books, I’m not going to buy new activities like these for each flight (plane tickets cost enough, right?) so the boys know that they only get to play with these while they fly.

Treats

Have I mentioned that we love to travel with nourishment?  Well, we also love to travel with some treats! I’ve learned to save these treats til after the boys take their mandatory naps on the flight, and I’m not above “bribing” them with that treat in order to get them to take the said mandatory nap. (I know, bribing/rewarding with food is not a good life lesson and we usually try to avoid this.  But if you’ve ever flown with kids, you understand that sometimes we like to make exceptions.)

I usually pick out treats that are either new to our boys or that they don’t get often.  Again, it just makes it a little more exciting and keeps everyone’s morale high 🙂 I’ll pick out items like Skittles, fruit snacks, fruit strips, Scooby Snacks, etc.. I try to choose mess-free snacks to help keep me sane, but crumbs happen whether you like it or not.

Tablets

Screentime is a hot topic and many parents have strong feelings one way or the other about screetime.  Honestly, I’d say we fall somewhere in the middle.  We set limits for our sons with their screen time, but we do not ban it altogether. And when we’re flying, those limits go out the window.  If my boys are sitting quietly and playing a game or watching something age-appropriate on their tablet, I’m fine with it.  I’m actually surprised by them because more often than not, that’s one of the last activities they choose from their backpack.  And they usually don’t watch/play for more than 30 minutes.  But they are nice to have as an option.

Books

Board books or soft books are great for babies on flights.  The boys like to page through the books I bring for them as well, but will also grab the magazine out of the seat-back pocket and be perfectly happy skimming those.  They aren’t picky about which books I bring, so I usually find a couple that won’t take up too much space and that aren’t our favorites in case they get wrinkled or torn pages.

Travel Pillows and Blankets

When it comes to those mandatory naps my husband and I require of our kids, neck pillows and travel blankets are helpful.  Although we haven’t used them, I’d consider inflatable pillows from a space-saving standpoint.  Comfort is never a luxury of flying outside of first class, but at least these items can help.

Toys for Infants

It’s no secret that infants will put anything and everything in their mouths.  Now, I’m not a first-time mom anymore so I’m okay with exposing my child to germs and not sanitizing everything (except we do sanitize the seats, tray tables, etc. to do our best to be sure our son with a peanut allergy is as safe as possible).  But I would rather have my baby chew on baby toys from home than on the seatbelt or whatever else he can find on the plane.  I’ve found teething toys, Cuddle ‘n Tags Blankies, or even the small toys that attach to car seats and strollers help to keep my babies busy and happy.

Backpacks

Like I’ve mentioned, we keep all of these items in our backpacks.  Our two oldest boys carry their own backpacks and my husband puts some of the overflow into his. My own backpack holds the other essentials: the diapers, wipes, nursing cover, spare clothes (must-have in case of inevitable accidents or spills), and medications.  I also pack more diapers and wipes than I would normally need in case our flight is delayed or cancelled.  I only bring one extra set of spare clothes for the older boys, but I usually throw in a couple extra outfits for the baby.  (All of our food/snacks/treats are carried in a reusable shopping bag :))

Not Perfect

I could probably add more and more to this list.  Off the top of my head I can think of flashcards, Spot It games, and headphones for in-flight music and movies.  And my list seems to change every time we fly.  But these staples have gotten us through many flights and have proven to keep our boys entertained.

Let’s just say that I always prepare for the very worst, and am usually pleasantly surprised by how the trip goes. Yes, we’ve experienced diaper blowouts, cranberry-apple juice spills, crying babies, and more.

But at the end of the day, our flights have all been manageable thanks to a lot of prayers for safety, health, and peace before, during, and after our travel.  These prayers help me to keep an appropriate perspective on traveling with kids.  They help remind me that I don’t like sitting still very long as an adult which gives me more patience with my sons when they become restless.

Are our flights perfect? Nope. Are our boys perfect angels while traveling? Far from it. But they do stay relatively occupied and are beginning to understand what we expect from them when we travel.

Let’s raise His Mighty Warriors TOGETHER!

Taking (Four Children) to the Sky – Part 1

Many people have asked me about traveling with four kids.  To be frank, I don’t love flying at all, let alone with four boys, five years-old and younger.  Up until recently, my ears were always sensitive during both the ascent and the descent to the point where I was often in tears.  For whatever reason, the pressure changes haven’t affected me in recent years for which I praise God!

I am also not very patient sitting on a plane for more than an hour at a time.  I do not fall asleep easily, I’m not a big reader, and I just don’t like being confined to a small place.  I feel like I need to be ever so careful not to accidentally nudge the person next to me, I don’t want to inconvenience anyone by asking them to move so I can use the restroom, and I really don’t want to spill my beverage on my neighbor as it’s handed to me (I recently had a in-flight drink spilled on me and wet jeans are the worst).

Traveling with Young Kids

As you can imagine, traveling with kids is even less appealing to me.  There is just so much that goes into planning for both the expected and unexpected.  But in the past five years, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work, that is, for our boys.

Traveling with four young children can be very overwhelming. But sometimes, I know that the attitude I CHOOSE to have about the situation makes a world of a difference in the outcome of the event. Being cognizant of the fact that my boys most likely enjoy being stuck in a seat for four hours even less than I do, can help me to understand the emotion behind their behavior. And once I’m aware of that, I’m able to better prepare for the trip.

Before I lay out how the course of our travel day typically goes, I want to say that part of the preparation of traveling for us includes preparing our boys for what to expect. Obviously our baby and toddler are not able to understand what’s about to go down, but our 3 and 5 year-old get it. So leading up to our trip, we discuss the long car rides to and from the airport, the shuttle bus that they’ll ride, the airport experience, and the flight itself. We let them know how they need to help us throughout the day and what we anticipate their responsibilities to be. This not only prepares them for the inevitably long day, but it also helps them gain excitement for the steps leading up to seeing our Wisconsin family.

The First Car Ride

When we travel, specifically to visit my parent’s in the summer, our day starts early in the morning with a nearly two hour drive to the airport. More often than not, we are able to schedule our flights around non-commuting traffic times so our car rides go fairly smooth. If we book a morning flight, we usually end up having to wake the boys up and buckle them in the car, still in their pajamas. If we’re lucky, they go back to sleep for a little while, but that’s not always the case.

The car ride can get a little long, but the excitement of starting our journey to Nana and Papa’s house definitely helps temper the frustration of being strapped in their car seats.

Luggage Drop Off

Over the past five years of traveling as a family, my husband and I have fine-tuned our travel preparation and it’s been a better and better experience each time. Last year, we decided to try something new. Instead of all of us going to park the car at an offsite long-term parking lot and then shuttle over with our luggage, strollers, etc., we decided to have my husband drop me and the baby off at the airport with everything except the boys’ backpacks. I’m usually able to find a stray luggage cart (so I don’t have to pay for one) and then get in line to check all the bags. I’ve been able to check all the bags under my name and the kids’ names.

After dropping me off, my husband and the older boys park the car and take the shuttle over to the airport to meet me. My husband just has to go up to the ticketing counter to show his ID, grab his boarding pass, and then we’re all off to head through security.  We most often fly Southwest because it’s a direct flight to Milwaukee so I don’t know if other airlines would allow us to check-in this way.

I usually have time to feed the baby before they arrive back at the airport, and my husband gets the boys dressed in the car and feeds them a quick breakfast (usually yogurt, a banana, and a breakfast bar) while they’re riding on the shuttle over.

TSA

Going through security can seem overwhelming, but it usually isn’t too bad. There have been a few times when the boys have been asked to go through the metal detectors one at a time and they are on the other side before us. We quickly learned that my husband needs to go through first, then the older boys, and then the baby and I. This way, we don’t have one run off before we’re able to collect all of our belongings.

We never bring liquids through security, except bottled water for the baby (which is allowed once tested). Some airports will test some of the food and others just browse through the bag. It’s nothing too painful as long as you’re not in a rush. As they’re testing everything, we are usually getting shoes back on, organizing kids and strollers, and making sure we didn’t leave anything behind.

Another thing that has helped our older sons cooperate throughout this process is making them responsible for their own backpacks. At this age, they enjoy having a “job” to do, and they like to know they are helping us. Because I’m a numbers person (a trait I inherited from my mom), I’m always counting our backpacks/carry-on items to make sure we always have all of our stuff. It helps when I can see the two boys each wearing their backpacks.

The Flight

The flight itself is so long! That’s why Part 2 of this blog post will be coming soon to cover this topic separately. But I will say that remembering that our kids are kids and allowing them some leeway in being antsy, goes a long way! We do our best to not allow them to kick the seat in front of them, to use inside voices, and to not argue with each other. Aside from that, we let them have fun and make the most of being crammed into seats for four hours.

When I prepare myself for the worst, I’m always thrilled with everything that does go well and I’m not shaken by things that could have gone better. After having changed more than one blowout diaper in the tiny lavatory with a miniature changing table that might only be big enough to hold a small mouse (sorry Baby, don’t mind your head being halfway off the table while I awkwardly try to put a diaper on your booty that’s sliding off the other end. Oh turbulence? We’re fine!) , I’m unfazed by much else.

While the older boys engage in all the activities we packed for them (see part 2 of post), I usually feed the baby, let him nap, feed him some more, let him play, and feed again. It’s not the most appealing way to spend a flight, but a well-fed baby tends to be a happy baby so we make do.

The Final Car-Ride

Upon landing, we take time for a bathroom break and then gather all our luggage. The only thing that separates us from the airport and my parent’s house is a little less than a two hour drive.

This last trip home, we were blessed to ride in Nana’s new minivan that has a rear entertainment system. The boys were able to watch a movie and crash for a bit. This was a huge help because this last leg of the trip is usually the most difficult for everyone because we are all just done and want to be there already!

Once we take the final exit, we all gleam with excitement to finally begin our vacation with family!

Timing

Timing is everything while traveling with littles. Over the years, we’ve learned it’s important to give yourselves plenty of time without having too much time at the airport. Idle time at the airport with kids is not fun, which is one reason why flight delays are such an inconvenience. We try our best to always allow enough time to get our bags checked, make it through security, change diapers, use the bathroom, and grab the gate check tags for our strollers and car seat without leaving more than about 30-45 minutes before boarding begins. Again, flight delays can completely derail this plan, but it tends to work for us.

Note: If you find yourself delayed, check to see if there is a children’s play area in your terminal.  Many airports have these now and, when they aren’t too crowded, they can be a life-saver for you and your children!

The Lesson

I feel like I now laid out for you every detail of our typical travel day, but if it can help even one person have a less stressful travel experience with kids, it was worth it. We by no means have this all perfected, but we have learned a lot along the way and made improvements to how we travel with our boys. As our family has grown, our travel experiences have actually become less stressful because our system has improved.

While I do not necessarily enjoy flying or the busyness of a long travel day, I do feel blessed to be able to give our sons this opportunity at such a young age. If we lived closer to family, they most likely would not have been on a plane at all by now, or at least significantly less times. These travel days give us the chance to challenge our boys to be good listeners, great helpers, and awesome leaders. We rely on the older boys to use the lessons we teach at home in responsibility throughout our journey. They also are required to be patient on the flight, courteous to the flight attendants and those around them, and gracious for the ability to be able to take an airplane to go visit Nana, Papa, and their cousins.

I wouldn’t consider it fun, but I do love watching our sons adapt so well to the expectations we set for them. And I feel it teaches them life lessons on how to work cooperatively and be flexible.

How do you travel and what tips would you share with others looking to travel together as a family?  I love reading about the experiences of others 🙂

 

Let’s raise His Mighty Warriors TOGETHER!

When I Grow Up

I’m Back

After taking a break from blogging while traveling with my family, I’m back! We returned last week, but it took me a while to settle back in and help the boys readjust as well. Remember those tantrums we talked about a few weeks ago?  Well after returning from a long vacation, they are at a high!  The whining, the bickering, and the tantrums have all led me to hand over the boys to my husband for a few minutes and find a quiet place (my bedroom) to steal away and write.

Every summer, we are blessed to be able to travel home to see my family in Wisconsin. We spend a few weeks at my parent’s house and catch up with aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. These are some of my favorite weeks of the year, and I think my husband and sons would agree!

As lucky number 7 of 8 kids, I’ve always enjoyed being a part of a big family. I enjoy it even more now than I did when I was growing up, probably because I no longer live in the same house as my siblings. As an adult, I love watching my brothers as dads, I look forward to spending time with my sisters, I adore my in-laws, and I love catching up and playing with my nieces and nephews. Watching my sons interact with their cousins is amazing and priceless! I long for the day when we live closer to family so that they can spend more time with their cousins throughout the year!

But my favorite thing about going home, is being able to spend time with my parents and for the boys to have time with their Nana and Papa. It’s the best! They spoil us rotten and ensure we have the best vacation every single year. I could brag about my parents for days because they are some of the most generous and kind individuals I know.  They are generous with their time, their talents, and their resources. I cannot remember a time in my life when they weren’t intentionally seeking opportunities to serve others.

My Mom

After this most recent trip, I’ve decided that when I grow up, I want to be just like my mom. My dad is incredible too so this is not to say I don’t want to be like him. As my mom would say, “her compliment is not his insult!” And actually, growing up I remember telling people that I wanted to be my dad’s secretary some day so that I could work with him. But now as a mom, I want nothing more than to be just like my mom.

I call my mom almost every day, sometimes more than once in a day, and she never sounds annoyed or bothered. She listens to me complain and grumble about things, she counsels me when I need advice, she encourages me when I’m frustrated, she cheers me on when I’m doing something right, and most importantly, she prays for me! I didn’t realize how much I needed those prayers until I was an adult. I appreciate every single one of our phone calls and love that she’s willing to be my sounding board.

Not only do I want to be just like my mom as a mother, but I also hope to be just like my mom as a grandma someday! My mom goes out of her way to make countless special memories with her 17 and counting grandchildren. She takes them on fun “adventures,” lets them make messes they don’t have to clean, gives them Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast every morning, and takes them on night walks. They think she’s the coolest and I’d have a agree with her!

A Tradition of Values

It’s no secret where my mom gets these qualities from. She got it from her momma of course 😉 My grandma is equally as amazing as my mom and I’m so blessed to continue to spend time with her loving, witty self each summer. I feel so grateful that my grandma passed these values down to my mom and that her mom passed them down to her.  I’m grateful that I grew up with so many godly female role models in my life including these women as well as my other grandmother, my aunts, and my older sisters, sister-in-laws, and cousins.

The focus of my blog is to discuss ways to raise our sons and daughters to be mighty warriors.  Part of my passion for this topic comes from the gratitude I feel for the home I was raised in.  While I may or may not someday have a daughter to pass these lessons down to, I have four sons who I pray seek wives with these qualities.

So why do I want to be like my mom, my grandmas, my aunts, my sisters, and my cousins when I grow up? Because I want to share the love of Jesus in a kind, compassionate way. I want to pray for and encourage others, meeting them where they are in that moment. I want to be accepting of everyone and seek out opportunities to get to know others who aren’t like me. I want to be intentional in generously serving those around me. I want to listen intently to those who come to me to be heard. I want to put everything else aside to be in the moment with my family and love them fiercely. I want others who haven’t had the same experience as me as a daughter/granddaughter/niece/sister/cousin to know what it’s like to have a loving, caring cheerleader in every season of life.

Going Forward

My prayer is that I become more like these women every day.  I pray that my sons place value on these qualities as they (in the very far-off future) begin to date.  I pray that girls who do not have a female role model in their own home are able to find one in their community to lead them in His ways.  And I pray that I NEVER take for granted the beautiful women I’m surrounded by who have prepared me in my role as a wife and mother, especially my own mom!

And now, I’ll wait for a call from my mom saying how embarrassed she is that I posted all of this about her, because did I mention that she’s also incredibly humble?!? I love you, Mom!

Let’s raise His Mighty Warriors TOGETHER!

When the Nest is Attacked

The Story

A few weeks ago, I noticed a mother and a father bird building a nest in our pergola.  I had a front row seat to their cooperative effort as I watched from our kitchen window whenever I was doing the dishes.

Let me interrupt this story for a second to let you know that I prefer an empty sink after each meal.  This means that I either load the dishes into the dishwasher or hand-wash the non dishwasher-safe items (which I try to limit these days) after breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It’s just my routine and I prefer not to step out of it.  I note this to relay that I spend a lot of time at the sink throughout my day.

Back to my story…

I found it endearing to watch the mother and father “nest” and couldn’t help but think about each time we prepared to welcome one of our sons into our family.  So much time is spent making sure our hearts and our home are prepped for a little one.

Once the nest was completed, the mother rested and laid the eggs and the father came and went to check in.  In the meantime, my sons and I affectionately named the birds.  I chose Harriet for the mommy and they picked T’Challa (after the superhero Black Panther) for the daddy.

Like a dream, the eggs hatched on Mother’s Day.  I’ll be honest and say that I was somewhat obsessed with checking in on the family at this point without bothering them.  Other than my husband grilling a few times, we stayed out of the backyard to give them their space.  Cute, right?!

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve watched Harriet care for her babies so gently.  She only left to find food to bring back to the nest, allowed her babies to nuzzle under her wings, and kept a watchful eye on anyone or anything that she saw as a threat.  Again, this scene consumed me a little more than I’d like to admit considering I’m not especially an animal person and usually don’t like to be too close in proximity to birds.  I even went as far as Googling questions I had about birds in general.  Ask my husband, I love to Google, but even this was a little extreme for me.

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Meet Harriet and her babies (who are camouflaged in there). Please excuse the poor quality of the photo. I didn’t want to get too close to the nest so I zoomed in quite a bit.

This morning as I was washing the breakfast dishes, I gazed and daydreamed about watching the mother release these little birds to fly off.  I wondered if she would ever see them again and if the siblings would stick together.  (Yes, I know I’m crazy at this point). It was all so sweet….

Until it wasn’t.  This evening when I was making dinner, I realized that the birds were gone and the nest didn’t seem intact.  And there was a stray cat in our backyard next to some feathers.  I didn’t shed a tear, but I was pretty angry with the cat, who we can all assume is the suspect in this disaster.

I no longer would be able to witness the baby birds learn how to fly or see their happily ever after. We gently told the boys what we think might have happened (they seemed more intrigued than sad), and went on with our night.

But I can’t stop thinking about it!

Attacks to our nest

So where am I going with this depressing story?  Well, unfortunately, we all experience attacks on our nests.  The focus of these attacks are on our marriages, on our parenting, and on our relationships with others.  The attacks come in the form of comparisons on social media, bullying, and insecurities.  They come from our discontentment in a world where the Jones’ always seem to be doing something bigger and better.  They come from advertisements and media that desensitize us to sex and violence.

Before we even bring our babies home from the hospital, we dream.  We dream about what it’s going to be like to have a new son or daughter.  We dream about who they are going to be friends with, where they will go to school, and what hobbies they will enjoy.  We dream about taking them on their first trip and introducing them to our favorite places.

When we finally bring them home, we realize that these dreams seem so distant.  Because in the present, we receive opinions from everyone and their best friend, spoken and unspoken.  We see what other parents are doing as we scroll through Facebook and Instagram and begin to feel inferior about the choices we are making.  Are we doing too much?  Are we not doing enough?  Are we becoming THAT mom?

My kids are still young, but already I have the fears of when they begin to be more influenced by their friends from school.  And don’t even talk to me about when they get to the age of having their own phone or social media accounts!  There is so much yuck out there for them to be exposed to!  (I already have lots of conversations with God about these concerns of mine so that He can be prepared for my crazy when these days arrive…and so that I can work on laying my worries at His feet in the meantime.)

And, like I mentioned, it’s not just our parent-child relationships being attacked.  It’s our marriages because we no longer make time for each other.  It’s our families because we spend so much time passing each other by on our way to and from activities.  Our priorities slowly shift over time and before we know it, we’re all just roommates!

Self-Defense

So how do we fight these pervasive battles?  How do we prevent our nests from being torn apart?

We begin by tuning out the opinions of the world and focusing on the opinion of One.  The One that matters.  The One who sees us trying our best on the little sleep we’re getting.  The One who knows the child we are dealing with because He created that child and chose us to be the parents.  The One who equips us with everything we need to care for our children.  And the One who gives us grace in every moment to reset.

We do this by surrounding ourselves with other parents who we respect.  We find and rely on our mom tribe for care and support.  We turn off the TV and put our phones down to enjoy a family game night.  We find a babysitter and schedule a date night, or have a date night at home after the kids go to bed.  We monitor what our children are watching.  We intentionally seek out relationships with people who will encourage us in our walk.  We equip ourselves with Scripture to intentionally fight the attacks.  And we pray…a lot!

It’s worth fighting for

Our homes are sacred.  Our marriages are sacred.  And this is exactly why they are being attacked.  Can we make a pact to fight together for our homes, our marriages, our families, and our relationships?   Instead of focusing on the agendas of the media, opinions of others, and the expectations of the world, can we promise to focus on what’s best for us and our families, seeking first His will for our lives?

Poor Harriet didn’t have a fighting chance once her nest was attacked because she was alone.  She did the best she could to care for her babies.  But luckily for us, we are not in this battle alone.  We have a sovereign Father who is with us every step of the way.  And we have others around us who want to help us protect our nests.  Take heart knowing that when we look to the Lord and do the best we can do with what we have, we’ll be just fine.

I’d love to hear from you on how you protect your nest.  I enjoy hearing your experiences and trying out new things in our home.

Let’s raise His Mighty Warriors TOGETHER!

A word on social media:

I love social media for many reasons.  Living so far from my extended family, it’s a great way to “stay in touch” with relatives and friends, sharing pictures and stories.

But I also try to be aware of when it’s affecting me negatively.  When I notice I’m starting to compare myself to others and discontentment is creeping in, I take a break.  I highly recommend doing the same if you notice those feelings in yourself.

Who, Me?

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Tantrums

Tantrums.  Can we talk about tantrums for a second? That moment when you say no to a snack ten minutes after your child finished eating their breakfast, and now their world is falling apart?  It’s literally crumbling before your eyes as your toddlers throws himself on the floor and begins the most pathetic scene, screaming and crying and making every weird noise known to man.

I’m very familiar with this drama.  I’d love to say I only see it from my almost two year-old, but I’d be lying.  More often than not, my three year-old and five year-old throw these fits and it’s just too much for me.

I’ll be honest

Now I am NOT a parenting expert, nor do I claim to be!  I do have a masters degree in psychology, but if I’m being honest, a lot of the theories I learned in my schooling get thrown out the window when I’m in the midst of a parenting battle.  Like many of you, I’m a mom who is trying to do my best to, along with my husband, to raise our boys to be men after God’s own heart.

Easy, right?!? Bring them to church, pray with them, read them stories from the Bible, and that’s that.  I wish!  Those things, while still important, are relatively easy to check off the list.  What I’ve found to be the hardest part, is teaching them through my own actions.

Sometimes, my kids hear me yell at them.  It’s not my best example of kindness.  Sometimes, they see me roll my eyes at my husband.  That’s not the way I want them to treat their future spouse.  It’s not uncommon for me to be “busy” doing something and only half-listening to something they are trying to tell me.  I definitely don’t want them to respond that way when God is speaking to them.  I could go on and on.

My point is, so often we look at how we can change our kids.  We seek to find the problem in them and search for a way to fix it.  I do it too.  I’ve spent hours reading parenting books and Googling answers on how to combat whining.  But what God always points me back to, is myself and my own heart.

Wait, what?

Ouch, that’s a tough one to swallow.  It’s tough because I need to be reminded of my own attitude and character every day.  Actually, many times each day!  How I respond to my children, how I speak to my husband, and how I interact with strangers all set the stage for how my sons are going to respond in situations.  I have little eyes and ears on me at all times and trust me, they are watching and absorbing everything!

Every once in a while, I’ll hear my oldest son say something in a tone that I know he heard from me.  It stings!  But, it’s a learning opportunity for both of us.

So where’s the hope?

The hope in all of this?  God’s grace.  Knowing that He will use all of my mistakes for His good gives me peace at night.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have to give my fair share of apologies to my boys throughout the day, but it does mean I can have peace knowing that God is with me through it all and directing my paths as well as my sons’ paths.

I recently read a prayer for parents in this book that not only asked God for grace when we fall short as a parent, but also that our children forget our harshness in those moments.  I loved this prayer because kids seem to remember EVERYTHING!

“I often find myself on my knees in my kids’ room after they’ve fallen asleep on a “yelling day.”  Not only do I ask forgiveness from God for mistreating the beautiful gifts He has given me, but I also pray that my kids will forget my harshness.  I know that it’s only by God’s grace that I’m a parent, and I have to rely on that grace every day” (Mary in Turansky and Miller, 2017).

Bringing it back to the kids

Some of you might be wondering about those tantrums and other difficult behavior kids demonstrate.  Does this make it all okay?  Absolutely not!  It doesn’t let them off the hook for their misbehavior or excuse their disobedience.  That’s not at all my point.  We most definitely need to address our children’s heart issues and disobedience.  But we also need to look at where they might be learning it from and make some changes.

Again, I’m not an expert on this topic.  I’m only five years into this parenting role.  But I enjoy sharing my experiences and what God continues to show me through it.  I’d love to hear from you on what lessons God has taught you through your kids!

As always, let’s raise His mighty warriors TOGETHER!

NOTE: I would highly recommend “Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character…In You and Your Kids” by Scott Turansky, D. MIN and Joanne Miller, R.N., B.S.N..  The book is incredible and gives practical advice for changing bad habits in you and your kids. Check out the book here.

Turansky, S & Miller, J. (2017). Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character…In you and Your Kids. New York: Waterbrook Press.