I needed to know for my own mental well-being. I needed to know because if something does happen, I want to know if that baby is a boy or a girl. I needed to know because I want to pray for this baby by name. I want to say he or she. I want to envision all that life will be with this baby. I want to celebrate every tiny detail of this baby because the truth is, as we learned a year ago, it’s not guaranteed I’ll get to know this baby this side of heaven.
Parenting is hard.
Let me say it again. Parenting is HARD. I always read these cute memes and things that say something along the lines of “God made the first child easy-going so parents would have more kids and then the second child is a no-limits wild child.” That is not the case for me, Friends. My first one came six weeks early and has never slowed down.
Our oldest has climbed six foot privacy fences, fallen from our deck railing by trying to balance walk across it and of the six baby teeth he’s lost? Three of them were pulled by the dentist because he knocked them loose doing some antic. He moves constantly, everything is a weapon and even if he’s reading, he needs to be doing something with his hands or feet. You get the picture.
As my oldest gets older, he does all the firsts for me. First steps. First kid in a booster versus a five-point harness carseat. First kid to go off to school. First kid to read me a book. First kid to loose baby teeth. And as we’re venturing into this unknown territory of “big kid-ness,” I thought it’d get easier…but it doesn’t. The challenges just change; and because we’re being honest here, the challenges get harder. (Don’t worry though- you’re no longer sleep deprived so you have more energy to handle the harder challenges. Haha!) Instead of the big issues being the temper tantrum over the blue bowl because he wanted a green one or why he isn’t sleeping through the night, it becomes things like when do you have “the talk” with your child in a world where kids are becoming sexually active younger and younger? Or when do you allow your child to run to the public restroom by himself when you’re in Target? Or when do you let him start using a steak knife to cut his own meat? (Because y’all, my wild child with a steak knife gives me anxiety just thinking about it!) He’s entered this stage of development of seeing the world in black and white. Everything is either right or wrong. There is no gray area, and it can be so trying at times to explain the world isn’t black and white but full of color.
We’re at one of those hard places right now. We’re in one of those gray areas. Our oldest has been struggling to focus at school. He’s always had active tendencies. This isn’t new to us. His phenomenal teacher has been extraordinary in helping him find different ways to try and help him stay on task. He’s allowed to stand while he does his work. He’s allowed to fidget and move and be a boy. But while we have loads of tools in our toolbox for sensory processing disorder, nothing seems to be working any more. If you know me at all, you know I’m a natural, holistic, fix-the-underlying-problem type of person. We have done diet changes, supplements, occupational and behavioral therapy. But what if the underlying problem is something medication is needed for? And here is where we currently find ourselves. Because while I believe ADHD is wildly over-diagnosed in our country and boys need to be allowed to be boys in all their wild glory, I also know ADHD is a very real psychological disorder. I don’t want to be the parent who refuses to believe my child just might have that chemical imbalance that makes it hard to focus. I don’t want to do a disservice to him but making my preferred last resort his too. I don’t want him to become so frustrated with school that he develops anxiety or hates school or becomes depressed.
When our babies are struggling, it becomes all consuming. You research all the things. You talk to all the people- the teacher, the aides, the doctor, the naturopath, friends who’ve been there. You feel so helpless when your child is crying because he can’t focus on his math he’s been trying to complete for the last 45 minutes and begins telling you how “bad he is at everything.” You feel like you’re failing (honesty here, remember?). And so we pray over our Babies without ceasing. We ask for guidance and wisdom, and we hope in the long run, we made the right choices. We set aside worries about judgments and what others will say or think. We brush aside opinions not asked for and do what’s best for your child. Because isn’t that what we’re all trying to do in the end?
I don’t know if he has ADHD. I don’t know if we’re doing the right thing. I don’t know if we’ve been doing the right thing. I do know we’re doing the best we can. I do know we are exploring and will continue to explore all possible ways to help him. I do know no one will advocate for him as much as his father and I will. I do know that in all the gray areas of life, we’ll do whatever we can to make his world as colorful as possible.
When you take the time it takes, it takes less time.
About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to go through some amazing self-development training. Some training that forced me to dig deep. To look at why I do things the way I do them. To learn why I react to things the way I react. We worked with horses as we went through this life-changing training against the backdrop of God’s artistry in Wyoming. During our time there, this line was repeated- “When you take the time it takes, it takes less time.”
It’s a nice sentiment on it’s surface: if you take the time it takes to read an entire recipe instead of getting halfway through prepping dinner to discover you don’t have all the ingredients, it takes less time to get dinner on the table because you don’t have to scrap that and figure something else out. If you take the time it takes to properly potty train your new puppy through consistency, it takes less time because your puppy isn’t confused about what to do when it needs to go outside. But this quote? This idea is far too intense to let it just sit as a nice little saying.
We live in this age of instant gratification, instant information, instant food, instant anything really. We live in an era of everyone wanting something done and wanting it done right now. We live in this space where if something is taking too long or is getting too hard, we decide it’s not for us any more. We want the biggest and best without having to put in the actual time and effort to get those things! We want to lose weight in a week with a magic shake. We want to make six figures as soon as we graduate from college without having to work as an intern and do the grunge work while working our way up the ranks. We want to have that big house or that fancy car or the vacation home without putting in the years of saving and investing and time.
A child throws a fit because he doesn’t get his way, so you give them what they want because it’s easier and it’s hard to see them so upset. Then down the road, you try and change that behavior after it’s been established (or worse, you continue to give them what they want leading to an entirely different battle of entitlement, but we’ll leave that for another time). If you’d taken the time it takes to teach them right away “that’s not how you get what you want,” it would have taken less time (and your preschool years would have been a lot easier with established expectations for behavior!).
You start a business, and you’re excited and passionate and can’t get enough of it…but you aren’t successful overnight. It’s hard! It takes so much time and effort and blood and sweat and tears. It takes trying new things and making sacrifices. So rather than give all you have to your dream, you quit and move on to another business venture and start all over. Or worse yet, you settle for something that doesn’t bring you any fulfillment at all. Or you can take the time it takes so it takes less time to do something that feeds your soul.
You discover marriage is hard. You discover living with another human being everyday means you committed to the good things and the bad things. It means learning to share your entire self with that person- hopes, dreams, feelings and frustrations. It means learning how to communicate and to not go to bed angry and not hold in feelings that build up. But that’s scary and hard, to let someone see your entire self, so instead you choose the easy path and walk away because that’s less work for you. But if you’d taken the time it takes, it takes less time.
You lose a baby at six weeks. You’re devastated but you hear “you can always try again” and “there’s always a reason for everything” so you make yourself “get over it” and pretend like it wasn’t a big deal. Until weeks later, all those feelings come flooding to the surface because you weren’t allowed to grieve that little life. If you take the time it takes, it takes less time.
You have these dreams and these goals and a vision of what you want your life to look like…but it’s taking too long. Instead of letting it take the time it takes, you try and make things happen faster or skip the important parts. The necessary parts. The growth. The learning. The valleys and the mountaintops. The recognizing it’s not always all about you. We don’t like that. We don’t like it when it’s not all about us. So we walk away from those things too and decide those dreams just “aren’t meant to be.”
But when we take the time it takes- If we continuously point our babies in the way they should go, they learn from early on that it’s not always all about them. We learn that the little things that seem so tedious and monotonous, done day after day, build upon each other to create an amazing business or career that ignites our passion. We learn that relationships get so much better over time if we take the time it takes to tend to them faithfully and learn how to do life with another person. We learn that if we take the time it takes to grieve losses, it takes less time to bring beauty from ashes. We learn that our greatest purpose in life lies not in living a mediocre life spent focused on ourselves but in an amazing life filled with purpose and happiness and joy that’s chosen and overflows to serve those around us.
We learn that when we take the time it takes to grow, to learn, to listen, to reflect, to take the hard roads, it takes less time. While the easier roads may seem faster, you have to travel and backtrack and turn around on far too many of them to reach the same destination. In fact, you may never make it there at all, and then you get to look back on a life of regret. On a life of giving up when you should have given it your all. On a life of quitting when you were on the brink of a breakthrough. On a life of just getting by instead of a life of thriving and passion. On a life wrapped up in your own wants instead of a life marked by making a difference.
When you take the time it takes, it takes less time.
My Dearest Clara,
Today is the day you should have been born. Today is the day, had you not decided to come earlier like your brothers, we would have had a C-section scheduled. Today is the day I should have held you in my arms for the first time, seen your sweet face, smelled your baby smell. This is the day our family should have been complete.
I’ve been dreading this day, Sweet Daughter. I’ve had this letter mentally written for weeks. When September rolled around, I got a pit in my stomach; and as this day has drawn closer and closer, every morning I’ve woken up wanting to puke. Because this day is not just the day you should have been born, but a reminder of the things that should have been, could have been, and likely never will be.
This day is a reminder that I should be holding you in my arms instead of typing this while sitting in a coffee shop with tears running down my cheeks. I should be anxiously awaiting your brothers to get out of school so they can meet you- a sister they were so excited to have. I should be feeling relief that you made it here safe and sound. I should be feeling contentment, that our family was complete and whole.
This day is a reminder that I will never get to watch you grow up. I will never get to see you twirl around in a princess dress and wrap your baby dolls up in blankets. I will never get to take you to get your ears pierced or put your hair in a ponytail. I will never get to have a girl’s day with you shopping. I will never get to hear about your crush or watch you go on a first date. I will never get to watch you fall in love with Jesus. I will never get to watch your Brothers be fierce protectors of their Baby Sister. Oh Clara, Wyatt had been praying for a sister since the day he found out you were in my belly. Before that even! He would have loved you so fiercely, the way only a brother can love a sister. I will never get to see you wrap your Daddy around your little finger or watch him walk his Little Girl down the aisle.
This day is a reminder that while I love your Brothers with all that I am, our family will forever feel like a piece is missing. This day is a reminder that, barring an act of Divine Intervention, I will likely never see that test say positive again, feel a baby move in my belly again, never experience the first cry again.
What would you look like? Would you have curly hair like me? Would you have your Daddy’s blue eyes like your brothers? Would you have been a whirlwind of energy like Logan or more reserved like Isaac? What would it have been like to have a little pink bundle in a house full of Boys?
I miss you, my Daughter. I sleep with a blanket with your name on it every night because it makes me feel just a little bit closer to you. Losing you was the hardest thing I have ever been through. But you make me braver, Sweet Girl. You make me stronger. You make me so grateful for what I have- your Daddy, your Brothers, our family. You give me the courage to fight for the things that matter in this world- quality time with those that mean the most to us and serving those who are hurting. You give me a passion and an empathy for others struggling, and you taught me how to not only give grace because we don’t know what others are going through at any given time, but to receive it in return when our world was falling apart. I never held you outside of my belly, Clara, but you changed my entire world.
So today, snuggle in a little closer in Jesus’ arms. Know that you are missed and loved oh-so-much. And I can’t wait to braid your hair and hear all about Heaven when I get there.
The school year is back in full swing, and I now have two in Elementary school (and one close behind in preschool!). Our evenings come with spelling words, activities and decent bedtimes. The Little Years are quickly coming to an end, and I find myself in this whole new stage of parenting without even realizing I’ve entered it.
During the Little Years, the days are long and often times exhausting. You’re depended on for every little thing. You need to kiss owies, get more Goldfish and help them learn not to throw themselves on the floor when they don’t get the things they want. Your days are consumed with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and wondering if you’re doing enough. You’re worried about if they’re walking on time and if they are learning to share and be kind. You’re working hard to make sure they learn manners, their letters and numbers, and are respectful of others. The Little Years are full of challenges, and for the last several years, that’s all I’ve known. But these last few weeks, I’ve realized just how much my Littles are becoming Big Kids.
Ever since the school year has started, Wyatt has inevitably forgotten something at school. Whether it be his jacket, his lunch box or his KIT binder (which contains his spelling words and weekly Bible verse! He always seemed to forget this on Fridays too so we were scrambling over the weekends!) something was always left behind. My frustration was starting to grow. I’ll be honest, my instinct was consequences. Take away his Kindle time if he forgets his binder again? Lose some of his monthly allowance? I was still mulling this whole situation over. Then on a Thursday morning, I went to get his snack bags to get his snacks ready for the day…and they were not in his backpack. That’s it! went through my mind. What can I do about this?! But then I had this huge realization: if I didn’t write things down in my planner, I’d forget pretty much everything I need to do. How can I punish my child for something I struggle with myself?! While Wyatt was brushing his teeth that morning, I got out a sticky note and wrote “Do you have…” along with a list of the items he needed to bring home each night. We took the sticky note to school and his teacher taped it to his desk where he can see it every single day. Guess what? He hasn’t forgotten a thing since that day.
Isaac has been having a rough transition to full day school. He went Tuesdays and Thursdays for full days in pre-k last year, but now it’s full time. Monday through Friday. That’s been tough on him. The first week was great. It was exciting and new. The last few weeks, not so much. He’s cried most mornings because he doesn’t want to go to school, and when you ask him why, he says “It’s just so long!” We had a discussion about how if he doesn’t go to school, Mommy and Daddy get in trouble with the police, and it’s not really an option. That seemed to help… for about a week. Yesterday when I woke him up for school, it was the worst meltdown yet. My heart broke for him. I tried to talk to him, but my emotional Little Bug, when he gets that worked up, there’s no talking to him. I racked my brain. He was getting help with schoolwork and handwriting. He was making new friends. When I picked him up from school, he was happy and excited and went on and on about his day. The issue was only in the morning when getting ready for school. So at dinner (when we weren’t in the middle of a meltdown), I asked him again, “Hey Buddy, how come you don’t like going to school in the mornings?” His response (and yes it took all of me not to laugh) “I just need something to get me pumped up and excited for school in the mornings!”
So this morning, I woke him up. I told him to hurry up, make his bed and get dressed then come upstairs for breakfast because we were going to have a dance party! I had an entire play list of upbeat songs just for the kiddos. When he came upstairs, “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was blasting from my phone, and I was dancing up a storm. Isaac giggled, Logan busted out some preschooler-hip-hop moves and Wyatt gave me the “you’re-weird-mom” look (yes, we’re entering that stage), but had a smirk and was soon picking songs with the rest of them. Music played all through breakfast. The Boys were ready in record time for school. All smiles. No tears. It was awesome!
As I thought about the whole experience this morning, I realized my parenting role was slightly changing. My role isn’t so much to fix things for them any more, but to help them figure out how to deal with obstacles and situations. Wyatt didn’t need consequences to help him remember to bring his things home each night. He needed me to help him figure out how to remember to bring his things home. There may still be underlying issues with Isaac and school (that we are working through with Occupational Therapy), but he needed me to help him figure out how to have a positive attitude and get excited, even when it’s not something we necessarily want to do.
I want my Boys to be respectful, kind, caring men. I want them to learn to process and deal with their problems and obstacles, not blame them on others or expect others to fix them. I want my boys to learn that when they work hard for things they want, when they finally get them, they are so much sweeter. I want my boys to take responsibility for their actions, to help others out the of the goodness of their hearts and always have a positive attitude. And these are the years to instill those values. Right now, when their problems are little, and I can help them solve them. Right now, when their biggest obstacles are forgetting lunch boxes and not being a morning person. Right now, before the problems get bigger and harder and more complex.
I have thoroughly loved the Little Years, and I’m clinging to Logan’s last one like nobody’s business. I will forever wish my Babies were little again and will forever wish I had rocked them one last time. But I’m also realizing that these Big Kid years are just as rewarding. They are reading and learning new skills. They can rationalize and start naming their emotions. They still have the innocence of the Little Years, and just like I’m soaking up every last bit of Logan’s last Little Year, I’ll cling to these Big Kid years too.
Because more than anything, I want my Boys to know I love them unconditionally. I love them with the fierce love that my Savior has for me. I want them to know that their little feelings of not wanting to get up in the morning matter so much to me, that I will throw an epic dance party to help them start the day right. I want them to know that I can help them solve forgetting their binder at school so that they trust that I can help them solve bigger problems when the time comes.
The world is full of complex issues. Real-life problems are so much harder than a simple sticky note, and it’s our job as parents to prepare them for that. So we start small. We start with giving them confidence in the little things so that when they face the big ones, they feel adequately prepared and know that we are always there to help navigate those issues…and have an epic dance party if needed.
A few weeks ago I shared in our Rustic Posy Community group (found here http://www.facebook.com/groups/rusticposyboutique) a few of my favorite cookbooks for meal planning…and I got loads of questions on how I meal plan, where to start and plenty of people who commented they wished they could stick to a meal plan. I planned to write this post at that time, but then my auto-immune issues cranked it into high gear so I’ve been in survival mode.
Even in survival mode, we stuck (mostly) to our meal plan, and I still managed to get groceries ordered and dinner made. The thing is, since my auto immune issues have worsened, I’ve had to adjust my meal planning strategies! I realized, this post needed to come in two parts. This first part is going to be the basics. It will be followed by a second part that’s going to be a little more detailed on how I plan for my auto immune diet, which can easily be tailored to planning any kind of special diet (ie- gluten-free, weight-loss oriented, etc.).
People tend to feel the need to meal plan for two main reasons- to save money and simplify the meal making process. It’s the never-ending question at 5:30pm- what’s for dinner?! I feel like I need to make one other disclaimer at this point- what works for me, may not work for you. Like all things when it comes to simplifying and organizing, there’s not a one-size fits all method. It’s trial and error, tweaking and changing until you find the perfect fit for you and your needs. You need to meal plan around your budget and your family’s needs and not anyone else’s. This is a great place to start, but you may find you need to make a few adjustments to make it work for you!
I meal plan once a week. I know there are people out there who plan two weeks at a time or even a whole month at a time (props to you amazing women!). Planning once a week is what works for us. I generally know what my next week is going to look like, know what produces will still be good in my fridge, etc. In general, I don’t plan my sides, just my main dishes. We have a pretty standard set of sides that go with most meals including rice dishes, various vegetables, breads, potato dishes, etc. I do all my planning the day before my weekly grocery pick-up (thank you Wal-Mart grocery pick-up! If you still need to try it out, use this code for $10 off your first pick-up order: http://r.wmt.co/jGBtG ). Currently for me, my planning day is Wednesday. Now because I’m one of those weird people who get a crazy high off of organizing and planning, I love meal planning day. It’s usually relaxing for me. I also love to cook, so searching for new recipes to try is very leisurely for me. Don’t overcomplicate it! Yes, there are some amazing printables out there, but my planner works just fine. In fact, I used to just write it out on a sticky note and stick it in my planner! When I got my new planner, I customized it to include a meal planning section. It’s where my life schedule is so for me, it makes sense to have my meal plan there too.
Everyone should have some go-to recipes. If you don’t like cooking or new recipes, I’d suggest coming up with 20 or so basic recipes that you can rotate between. If you’re like me and love to try new recipes, I have roughly 10-15 basic recipes I rotate through and then add three or four new recipes to try each week. Some of our rotated recipes include: spaghetti (a kiddo fav), sausage and eggs (because you can eat breakfast anytime!), taco bake or tacos, chicken alfredo and baked chicken.
When I sit down to meal plan, I do two things before I even start. First, I check if there are any meals from the week before that didn’t get made. Those automatically move to the week’s meal plan because I have already purchased the ingredients for those particular meals. Second, I go through my freezers, pantry and fridge and note what proteins I have and any produce and perishables that need to be used up. We are so incredibly blessed to get a large majority of our proteins from Greg’s parents on the farm, but around this time of the year, we start to run low on all of our proteins so I make darn sure I’m using the proteins already in my freezers. (Another tip- when the budget is tight, I highly recommend planning a couple meatless meals during the week. Greg is a huge meat-guy, but I’ve managed to find a few meatless meals even he enjoys!)
Once I have those lists I go my cookbooks and Pinterest and look for meals that would use up my current produce, perishables and meat. I have some amazing boards on my Pinterest page. Feel free to check them out here: https://www.pinterest.com/rusticposy/ Now here is where people can get frustrated with meal planning: you plan an amazing week of meals which is great, but you forget to account for what your week holds. I know that on Monday, my son has taekwondo from 4:45pm-5:15pm. If I plan a meal that requires a lot of hands-on prep plus a 40 minute cook time, that’s simply not going to work. I’m going to end up ordering pizza and be frustrated because my meal plan “didn’t work.” So look at your schedule and plan accordingly!
As you’re making your meal plan, make your grocery list. Check your pantry for ingredients you may already have so you’re not buying items unnecessarily. I tend to make a grocery list and star the items I need to check on so I’m not constantly getting up to check my pantry. What I love about picking up my groceries is that I don’t get lost in Target-land and put unnecessary things in my cart! Haha! I also love that I can see my total before I checkout. I can see if I’m over budget and if there’s anything I can wait to get until next week.
To keep my pantry stocked on my basics, anytime something is taken out of it (a new bottle of ranch, olive oil, etc.), it immediately goes on my grocery list. This way, I’m never out of something I use on a regular basis, and I don’t have to make quick trips to the grocery store down the street in the middle of the week (and pay double the price!).
Below are some of my fav cookbooks (missing are the Whole30 cookbooks!). We try and eat a very “real food” diet with as little processed foods as possible. Partly due to my auto immune issues and partly because it’s just healthier for you 😉
Weekdays are busy and hectic with school and running to various activities so I make sure my weekday meals are easy prep and quick. I work from home, so I’m able to start my meal prep earlier than those who work 8-5, then have to pick-up kids and get home and start dinner. For you guys, I’d highly recommend some sort of meal prepping on the weekend, even if it’s just chopping your veggies, pre-measuring them out and putting them in labeled containers or bags for quick retrieval!
Because I really enjoy cooking, I tend to plan meals for Saturday and Sunday that involve a little more time. I involve my kids and let them help measure, prep meat, etc. They love getting to use kitchen tools and pour liquids, I get to teach them basic life skills and we get to spend quality time together. These are the meals that can bake for an hour in the oven or cook for 6 hours in the slow cooker and make the house smell amazing. (PS- if you’re willing to do a little extra prep work one evening or on the weekend, crockpot freezer meals will save you sooo much time!)
Below is a sample week of my basic meal plan. I never used to plan breakfasts or lunches because I work from home and would just eat whatever I found to make. But as I mentioned above, with my auto immune diet, I had to tweak that so we’ll cover that more in Part 2! I currently meal plan on Wednesdays and pick up my groceries on Thursdays.
H- Ham Casserole
F- Twice Baked Potatoes (See! Meatless meals!)
S- Italian Dressing Grilled Chicken
S- Stuffed Cube Steak
M- Sausage and Eggs
T- Chicken Alfredo
W- Baked Shells with Ricotta
Here’s the thing though- life happens. You can have a perfectly set meal plan but sometimes things come up, you get home later than planned, you just simply don’t feel like cooking (if this happens to me, it’s usually on Friday evening!). So here’s the other thing I want you to do: stock up on a few quick items. Have frozen pizzas and extra chicken breasts on hand. Keep extra canned or frozen veggies and rice dishes on hand for these nights. I can make a quick chicken meal that has five minutes of prep, bakes for a half hour and dinner is on the table! If you’re making a casserole or spaghetti or soup, make a double batch and freeze half for these types of nights. Don’t beat yourself when you have these nights! Life is not about perfection, but we can be prepared for the things that pop-up, not get too stressed out, stay on budget and still feed our families. And when all else fails, make eggs and toast 😉
So there’s the basics! How I meal plan, how I’m able to stick to my meal plan and all the details! As I mentioned above, I recently had to change up my meal planning strategy due to my auto-immune diet. In Part 2 of this post, I’ll focus on how I plan for my breakfasts and lunches and also how I do a little more detailed planning for dinner (because I promise my kids are not going to eat the roasted peppers, onions and tomatoes that come out of the oven!). In the meantime, if you have any questions or struggles with meal planning, I’d love to help! Comment here or contact me! Blessings to you, Friends ❤
I’ve been a little quiet on the blog front lately. With summer dwindling down, I found myself jealously soaking up every extra minute I can with my boys before they go back to school. We had a mini family vacation and more lake weekends. We’ve had zoo fun and pool dates. Loads of family time and loads of chill time. This fall, for the first time in seven years, I will find myself alone at times during the week as all three boys will be in school in one form or another.
I’m a little sad this chapter of my life is coming to an end. (OK, let’s be real, my Mama-heart is breaking!) The Little Years are quickly fading from view as my Middle enters Kindergarten, and my Littlest ventures into half-day preschool (way more ready than his Mama is!). But as sad as my Mama-heart is to watch them enter their own new beginnings of childhood, it also bursts with pride at the tiny people God is shaping them to be, and a minuscule part of me is curiously excited. What will I do with this time? Certainly devote more time to my business, yes! Exercise more, yes! But what about those things I’ve wanted to do, but never seemed to have time for because my time was completely monopolized by my Babies?
Don’t get me wrong- I have loved 97% of being a stay-at-home mom turned work-at-home mom. (The other 3%? Well, we all have our off days and see the grass as greener on the other side sometimes. Am I right?) But I have on my horizon, some form of time I haven’t had in a very long time. So I’ve been reading (and writing!) more. All those books I’ve put on the “when I have time” list. They started coming to the lake with me, or I spent time in them when I was up before the boys, coffee in hand, with no school to rush off to. I read personal development books (if you have not read Girl, Wash Your Face go download it or pick it up right now!). Books about learning to rest, not quit. Books about doing what makes you happy and choosing joy, being passionate, chasing Jesus, and learning to find your own form of beautiful instead of chasing someone else’s.
I’ve tried really hard over the last seven years to embrace the whole “Sorry the house is a mess, but there are kids making memories here” thing. And while it brought me some comfort during the chaos of the “three little boys ages 3 and under” time of my life, it also caused me a ton of anxiety and stress. My personality just doesn’t do well with clutter and mess. In fact, it stresses me out like none other. But it’s hard enough to simply clean your house during the Little Years, let alone keep it neat, tidy and organized, and I learned to give myself grace.
So here I sit reading my latest book, A Simplified Life. The author talks about simplifying (imagine that!) and decluttering and organizing to make your house a home, and it dawned on me that I finally have that time! I finally have the time to systematically go through every closet, cupboard and drawer, and I am giddy at the thought! (Greg thinks it’s funny that I get this crazy sort-of high off of organizing and cleaning, but everyone has their thing, right?!)
Over these last eight and half years of marriage, we have accumulated So. Much. Stuff! When we added kids to the mix, our stuff became mountains of things. We did a little bit of decluttering last spring and had a rummage sale, but this time it’s no-holds-barred. Everything is getting a home (no more junk drawer!), and things that haven’t been used but kept around because “we might need it someday” are going out the door. It’s going to be glorious and magical and all the things. But it begs the question why?
I mean, I’m getting all sorts of good feels out of organizing and decluttering my house, but I also don’t want to spend this precious time on frivolous things either. Is this type of massive overhaul worth the time and energy I’m going to expend on it? I seriously reflected on this question over the weekend while I was sitting by the lake. I have no desire to live a minimalist lifestyle, but a simpler life? Absolutely.
In an age and generation of pure consumerism and materialism, so many people are looking for a simpler way. So many people buy more stuff to make themselves feel better rather than invest in quality time with their family or go out and experience the world. Our houses fill up with more and more things, and we sit among our “treasures” and wonder why they’re not precious like treasure should be. I don’t want a house filled with “things.” I want a home filled with precious memories and simple objects that bring warmth and beauty into the space where we make those memories. When friends and family come to my home, I want it to feel inviting and spacious, not cluttered and chaotic. And to be quite frank, when there is so much clutter and stuff everywhere, my personal anxiety aside, you simply can’t focus on the treasures right in front of you.
You can’t play the board games with your kids because the table is always covered with mail and magazines and this or that. Your kids exclaim they’re bored because they have so many toys they literally can’t decide which one to play with. They’re overwhelmed with options! You can’t find your flashlight when the power goes out because all FIVE of your flashlights are never where they’re supposed to be (yes, this happened to us!). You can’t figure out how the bigger house with all the storage space you bought a few years ago suddenly feels cramped and the storage spaces are overflowing.
So, yes, for me, the time and energy that’s going to be expended on this adventure are going to be well worth it. I know it’s going to take a while, and I know some of it is going to be hard. I mean, we become emotionally attached to our stuff for some reason. Disconnecting ourselves from the habit of feeling like you have to have the latest and greatest, of feeling like every space needs to be filled with something, that takes time and grace. But the rewards and fruit of that labor that I can foresee are going to be so worth it.
A decluttering and organizing of my house is going to be just the start of my “simpler life” journey. I’m excited to slow down and enjoy more date nights with my husband, more family game nights, more evenings with friends. I’m excited to not fill every second with activities. I’m looking forward to figuring out how to simplify our mornings so they don’t feel so hectic and how to maximize my time during the week so that I can focus on making memories on the weekends. I’m super motivated to figure out how to simplify our spending so we can give our boys more experiences instead of more things.
And I invite you along on this journey! Because while this post and this journey starts with simplifying my home, this is really a journey of discovering true passion and the beauty of life as you leave behind the “stuff” and focus on the treasures. Some of my posts on this journey will be more practical (how I decluttered my kids rooms, how I organized my kitchen, etc), and some will be more soulful as I let go of some dreams and close doors to make room for others. But all of it will be beautiful because it’s part of my story, and I hope you discover nuggets of advice that help make your life simpler and truth that resonates with your soul as you tag along on this journey that make your story more beautiful too.
A year ago at this time, we were in the process of trying to sell our house. We were making good money with our business, these larger homes were beautiful, and we were sucked in. Oh, it felt amazing to know we qualified for such gorgeous homes after living so tight since we began our life together. Suddenly we felt like our house was tiny, and we needed more room.
We were in no way prepared to sell our house. In fact, it was a whirlwind operation that stressed me out to the max. Once we got it clean and picked up enough to go on the market, the task of keeping it that way with three little boys seemed impossible. In addition, because of my self-employment income, the process to secure the mortgage required much more paperwork that kept me constantly running. Add in trying to run my business, and my stress level was about at it’s limit.
The days ticked by as our house sat on the market, and the expiration on the contract for our “dream house” came closer and closer… and then it passed. I cried that morning knowing that house was gone. We took our house off the market and decided we wouldn’t put it on again until we did a few projects to update a few things. By this point though, we were set on moving! So we continued to look at houses. A lot of them. And we found a house I loved even more than the first. It had a HUGE backyard complete with a beautiful patio and fire pit. The basement was perfect for our business. It came with Greg’s coveted larger garage and an amazing walk-in closet in the master bedroom. So much room for clothes! Let’s not even talk about the master bathroom! It was the kind of house where you walk in and just know this is the one. And this whole whirlwind process started all over again.
Our house went back on the market. My stress level rose. Again, the days ticked by. Again road block after road block arose. Until finally one night, as I lay awake (because sleep was rarely seen that summer with all my worry about the financing and the showings and losing that gorgeous home along with a devastating miscarriage we suffered during that time) I begged God to DO something, to make it clear if this was His plan. I was so tired. I was emotionally drained. I was at my tipping point. In the still dark of my room that night I felt Him whisper, “I am doing something, my Daughter, but you’re not listening.”
Greg and I talked it over the next morning. It all seemed so crystal clear as I sipped my coffee and took a good hard look over that past two and half months. There’s something to be said for perseverance and digging your heels in when pursuing something you know to be true and right. There’s also something to be said for moving on when a door is repeatedly shut. Most importantly, though, is having the ability to recognize which camp your current situation is resting. I realized that morning that we were at a crossroads. We were looking at two choices, and whichever way we chose would greatly impact what our future would hold.
One the hand, we could continue to pursue this home that I absolutely loved. It was in a quiet cul-de-sac neighborhood in a beautiful part of town. This gorgeous home where I could watch my Babies grow up and make memories. But while I could certainly make that house work in our budget, there would be little wiggle room. If things got rough for more than a few months in a row, that’s about all we’d be doing…watching the Babies grow because an emergency fund can only fund for so long.
OR. Or we could opt for experiences. We could stay in our current home. We could not worry one bit about having enough to send our kids to the school that fits our family’s current needs perfectly. We could put money towards vacations and family memories (I so want to take our kids to Disney!), pad our emergency fund even more, work towards the debt-free lifestyle we dream of.
As you might guess, at this point, the whole situation seemed ridiculously obvious. I had been praying for God’s will the entire past two and half months thinking He would move mountains to get us into our “dream home” when the fact was He was moving mountains to make sure we stayed exactly where we are. As I called our Realtor (who is one of the most gracious people I know dealing with this whole chaotic process) to have her take our house of the market for the second time in less than two months, I physically felt the weight lift off my shoulders.
Over the next few months, we struggled to keep that choice front and center. We’d see beautiful homes pop up on the market. I would even look at some of the listings online. I constantly had to bring myself back to why we chose this path. We told ourselves, “let’s just get a few updates done so we can get more for our house next summer” thinking this would fix my financial insecurities. (I’m big on having a LARGE emergency fund, and I’ll suffer through a lot before I dip into that fund. Yes, we’re also big Dave Ramsey people.)
So this spring, we started remodeling our kitchen. This was a project we’d talked about doing since we moved in. We took an entire wall down, built an island, purchased new appliances. We started repainting the entire upstairs. As we went about this process, I looked around and just saw so much…stuff. Why did we have so much stuff?! In the midst of the remodel, we purged the entire house. Broken toys went straight to the trash despite objections from the Littles. Toys that hadn’t been played with in the last six months went into rummage sale boxes. Kitchen items, decor, knick-knacks…toys. So many toys. (When asked for birthday or Christmas ideas for the boys, we actually ask for gift certificates to go bowling or go towards a zoo membership or something other than toys now.) We decluttered and decluttered and decluttered. If it hadn’t been used in the last year, it was gone. If an object was just there to fill space, it was gone. (We also made a nice chunk of change at our rummage sale last weekend thanks to all that decluttering!) I organized until there was nothing left to organize. (Seriously, organizing makes my heart soooo happy!) And the craziest thing happened…
Our house got bigger. I’m completely serious. I feel like we gained a ton of square footage, and I think to myself why did we ever think our house was too small?! And as medical bills rolled in for the miscarriage and subsequent surgery last spring, as we have another kiddo entering into our private school system, as we planned a fun mini-vacation next month, I’ve been able to take them all in stride- because we chose experiences over our dream house. Because we chose to stay in our smaller home to make memories and watch our Babies grow. Because I finally let go of what the world expects us to do (get into the biggest house you can afford, buy this and that, drive the nicest vehicle you can, upgrade, upgrade, upgrade!), we can say yes to the other things- the swim lessons, the t-ball, extended weekends at the lake, ice cream dates.
Our kitchen remodel is close to completion, and I can’t imagine moving at this point. We’ve put so much work into that project. We’re making this house ours. While we still desire that walk-in closet and larger garage, while I still peek at listings every once in a while, the truth is, I’m perfectly content right where I am. Here, in this place, I know how to keep materialism at bay. I don’t care about the next big thing. Experiences win the day in our house. Days at the zoo, family vacations and date nights take priority over the new phones, a nicer vehicle and more square footage. Investing in our kids’ education takes the cake because that’s where we are called to have our boys enrolled right now. Being able to show our boys selfless giving and what it means to serve others when the Welcome House needs bread, milk and sugar or when a family faces tragedy and a GoFund me account is created? That’s worth giving up our “dream house” any day.
I feel like it needs to be said right from the get-go that Greg and I are firm believers that if you commit to something, you see it through. Wyatt finished out his summer soccer season last year even though he strongly disliked it after the first week. Baseball would be no different for Isaac. Now Isaac doesn’t necessarily hate baseball…he’d just rather play in the dirt than pay any attention to what’s going on. But, he wanted to play baseball, so we signed him up (and paid the money!), so he will finish the summer season out.
This morning though, this morning as I was drinking my coffee having some quiet moments with Jesus (because my house was still quiet at 7:30am!), I started hearing this whimpering that escalated to wailing. I wandered down the hall to figure out which Little needed consoling so early in the morning. (Let’s be completely honest here- I was
mildly pretty darn irritated that I was already having to deal with a meltdown. I mean, no one had even come out of their room yet!) I figure out it’s Isaac, go into his room, ask him what’s up and get… “I don’t want to to go to baseballllllll today!” We chatted (or I tried to chat, he continued to whine at me about not wanting to go) back and forth for a minute before I just turned and walked back to the living room, leaving him to whine.
You see, I had this conundrum going on. On one hand, I didn’t want him to think that by whining about something so atrociously, he would get what he wanted. On the other hand, I’d noticed all three of my kiddos had been acting out lately. Way more than normal kids being kids things. (Last night, we ran errands and it…was…awful.) Even at home, just the general disobedience and attitudes had escalated in the last week or so. Isaac seemed to speak in an incessantly whiny voice. Wyatt was pushing buttons and picking on his brothers. Logan was literally losing his cool over every little scratch he got. Consequences had become more frequent and stronger. My patience was wearing thin. My Mama-soul was tired.
But yesterday I read this post by an acquaintance of mine on Facebook. She and her husband have adopted three of their five children. The adopted Littles were adopted from overseas and spent some agonizing time in orphanages. She had written a post about how one of them reverts to his behaviors that stem from his orphanage trauma every once in a while through no fault of his own. This particular day, this had happened…and she had wanted to punish him for his unacceptable behavior- have a time out, lose a privilege, something! Instead though, she took him for some one-on-one time. She loved on him. For him, it was quality time that showed him unconditional love.
There is much, much more to the story than this short little blurb, and I can’t pretend that this even remotely relates to what that sweet boy goes through, but Jesus used that post to speak to my mama-heart in a very real way. I realized these last two weeks, we’d been running a lot which means I’d been having to squeeze work in in-between all the running. My stress level was higher which means my patience was thinner. All day yesterday, I thought about that post. All day it was on my heart. My quality time with my Babies was lacking, and they were letting me know the best way their little hearts could.
So today, we skipped baseball. While the boys played, I secretly packed up a lunch. We made a stop at the Welcome House to drop off some milk, sugar and bread we had picked up the night before which led to an amazing discussion on serving others whenever we can. Then, I surprised them with a day at the zoo. I mean, the entire day. And we went at their speed. Every section of the zoo became a world they “battled” their way through in some imaginary game they had started at home. We made multiple trips back to the bathrooms which led to going through the same exhibit multiple times. We had lunch by the camels. We rode the train. We had ice cream. I let them run. I let them have their adventures. And I will never forget when we’d been there a few hours. The boys were playing on the playground, and Wyatt came running over to me and put his arms around me. He just sat there like that for a while, turned and looked at me and said “I love you, Mom” and then he was back to looking for some gopher (bad guy) that had gone into his hole by the swans.
Mamas, don’t blink! Our time with our Babies is so, so precious and so, so fleeting. Don’t underestimate the simple things. It doesn’t have to be a big spectacle or a meticulously planned vacation. It just needs to simply be. I know we hear this all the time, but I feel like the more we hear it, the more it begins to fall on deaf ears. Since losing Clara, I’ve made conscious efforts to be with my kids more and to cherish that time. I’ve made it a point to use my time more wisely so that I don’t miss out on these little years with my Babies. While there are times the days seem so, so long, these days are also such precious gifts. These are days we are blessed to have.
I needed that quality time just as much as they did today. Today I saw the best behavior, the best attitudes, the best listening I’ve seen in weeks. Today I had the most patience I’ve had in weeks. I wasn’t annoyed by the little stories I’ve heard over and over…and over. Today my tone was softer. Today I didn’t worry about work, finances, life. Today I was present with my boys at the zoo. Today I watched from afar as the three of them played on a bridge, and my entire soul smiled.
Today was one of the best days ever.
Last Sunday, I did it. I went back to church. If you know me at all, you know I’m a Jesus-lover, worship-dweller, service-oriented person. So this topic may seem kind of silly at the onset, but bare with me.
I haven’t been to church since we found out Clara’s heart had stopped beating. Not because my faith was questioned. Not because I was angry at God. Quite the opposite actually. I leaned harder into my Savior than ever before with the loss of our Baby Girl. I proclaimed His Truth and His Grace and His Mercy over and over because there was no way I was letting Satan take even more from me at that particular moment in time. I knew God would take the tragic loss of our Baby and bring beauty from those ashes, and He has proven faithful in that time and time again over these last two months. Being open about our loss has allowed me to serve others who are silently suffering, not ready to share their loss. We’ve started a little project called Clara’s Grace to serve others who are struggling and hurting. I’ve seen Him move in big ways and little ways, and I’m anxious to see what beauty He brings about next.
So why the hiatus from my church family? Why this break from worship? My church family lifted us in ways I couldn’t imagine when we lost Clara Grace. They made sure we had meals for the next two weeks. They sent care packages. Our pastors reached out to us and offered prayer and services. Our volunteer dates in the kids ministry were immediately covered for the rest of the year without us having to lift a finger. Oh yes, our church family served us with the humbleness of Jesus. It was beautiful and humbling and filled out hearts with so much gratitude.
But the truth of the whole matter is- I wasn’t ready to face all the people. I wasn’t ready for the sad hugs, the questions, the physical “loving on.” I wasn’t ready to answer the questions of how I was doing or politely reply to the well-meaning words of those who said the wrong thing not knowing what to say. (PS- there is nothing you CAN say in situations like these. Simply saying “I’m so sorry” is all that’s really needed ❤ ) I wasn’t ready to face those who may not have heard yet that our Baby Girl had passed. With our past two miscarriages, no one really knew. They were early, and we hadn’t shared we were expecting with many. But it’s different when you’re 16 weeks along and starting to show.
I wasn’t ready. And that is perfectly ok. Grief knows no timeline. It’s an endless ocean of calm and waves. Sometimes the tidal waves come out of no where, and sometimes it’s a beautiful scene of remembrance. Grief is forever unanswered questions and constant faith in a forever God. I knew I would know when the time was right for me. I knew I would know when I was ready…and so did God.
He started planting that little seed a few weeks ago so that when I found out my Boys would be celebrating the end of VBS in church last Sunday, my heart was ready to go. God orchestrated this beautiful return of allowing me to slowly see our dear Friends in Christ each night as we brought the boys to and from VBS (which ironically, or not so ironically, was the perfect theme- Shipwrecked) so that when Sunday came, I could simply focus on worshipping the Lord.
I feel like this post is all over the place, and I had a hard time writing it but felt like it needed to be said. Healing after a tragedy can only be done with grace and time. I knew if I rushed back into “normal,” it would catch up with me all too quickly. As I’ve navigated these waters steadily with my eyes fixed on Him, I’ve found He’s put me right where I need to be when I need to be there. So whether for you that’s church, a Mom’s group, a volleyball team, a family reunion, a book club, or something else, take your time, my Friend. Grief knows no timeline. Whether you’re feeling tossed among the waves, like you’re drowning in the tide or sitting on the beach remembering all that was lost, your grief is part of your story…and your story’s not over.
I ugly cried in the shower today. Not a few tears or tears streaming down my cheeks. Ugly, sobbing, couldn’t catch my breath crying. The kind of crying you do when you simply can’t think of anything else to do. When things seem so far out of your control, you feel like your only recourse is to cry. I’m a fairly emotional person and find I need to ugly cry every few months or so. The ugly cry comes when I’ve been doing my best to keep it all together, stressed beyond words with multiple things expected of me. The ugly cry makes my eyes and my head hurt, and while I feel so much better afterwards, today I thought to myself while I know women just need to cry sometimes (I totally get that), why does it take getting to this point for it to happen?
Sometimes the Ugly Cry has good reason. The last time it happened was when we lost our Baby Girl. We found out her heart was no longer beating on a Monday evening. To be honest, I had little emotion. I had had this weird gut feeling for the last few days that something was wrong, but was trying to write it off as being paranoid from previous miscarriages. All I could think of was what was next. Tell family and friends. Check. Call the doctor Tuesday morning. Check. Ultrasound and doctor appointment. Check. Discuss options and schedule surgery. Check. It wasn’t until Tuesday evening when I was in the shower (that’s where I prefer to do my ugly crying), that I completely lost it. This was a justified Ugly Cry. Heartbreak deserves ugly crying.
But what about other times? How do I let myself get to this point? Since losing Clara, I’ve been making it a point to spend my time on things that matter to me, not others. I make time to do the things that bring joy to my soul. I literally schedule time to bake, go to the gym and make sure my kids are getting plenty of mommy-time. But this last week? I’ve felt pressure from all directions that took some of that time away from me. The stress of finances while we wait to see if workforce insurance is going to cover my husband’s back injury has me moving savings around to cover his six days of missed work and overtime. The stress of needing to make my work quotas to ensure I get my monthly bonus. This last weekend, I had a lot of places I was supposed to be, but I also had cranky kids, have been battling an ongoing stress headache (remember I said this last week has been tough) and it was Father’s Day weekend. I finally realized I had to choose, and I couldn’t do it all. I prayed for grace for the things I decided to opt out of. My hubby lovingly let me go the gym after a busy morning of serving my amazing customers on Saturday, knowing that working out is a huge stress reliever for me. Sunday, we spent some amazing family time together and did yard work but still didn’t get it all done.
This morning, as I looked at my to do list, realizing how far behind I was, it all culminated into the Ugly Cry. I’ve been working really hard on being ok with it when the vacuuming doesn’t get done the day I planned to do it. I’ve been learning to be ok with it when I don’t check off everything on my to-do list for the day because I chose to go to the zoo with my kids instead. But as I write this and stare at my sink full of dirty dishes (and cupboardless kitchen cabinets because life has kept us from completing the project by the time we wanted to), I can’t help but think of all the women just like me. The women who strive to do it all and chide themselves when they don’t get it all done. The women who work hard to please others and feel guilty when they fail or don’t do what others think they should do. The women who try as they might to keep their stress levels down find themselves ugly crying in the shower because her checkbook makes her nauseous right now and she’s cut everything from her budget that month that she possibly can and she has to pay for her dog to get fixed tomorrow because he’s started marking everything in the house.
To my fellow Ugly-Criers, you are Daughters of the King. You are loved and your value and worth is not derived from how much of your to-do list you get done or how many people you please on this Earth. Take a deep breath, and take a good look at that to-do list. Will the world end if the laundry doesn’t get folded today? Will things fall apart if you take an extra day to get those bathrooms cleaned? Will your Friends disown you if you decide to go MIA from Pinterest night? Don’t ever, for one second, feel guilty about taking the time to do the things that make your soul happy. Don’t ever, for one second, feel bad about choosing family time over other’s expectations of you.
When we found out Wyatt had Sensory Processing Disorder, we had to be stricter in some areas and experiment with different therapies until we found what worked for him. I know we were judged harshly by some for some of those decisions, but my child’s well-being was far more important than what somebody thought of my parenting. My Friends, your well-being is no different. Say “no” to the things you don’t need to do, even if you disappoint others. Heck, say “no” to the things you don’t want to do! When you look back on the years, you will never once regret saying no to something so that you could do something that made your soul sing or your children smile from ear-to-ear. Schedule that time at the gym. Schedule time to read on the deck with a glass of wine. Skip the yard work for a day and go to the zoo. To be clear- I’m not saying abandon all responsibilities. I’m one of those people who get super stressed out by a disorganized home so keeping it orderly is a priority for me. What I am saying is don’t get so focused on the to-do lists and expected activities that you miss out on the things that make you happy. Choose joy, even if it means you take your kid out of one of their five activities so you can enjoy more time as a family. Give yourself grace to to do those things.
And sometimes, you just need to ugly cry. Sometimes, you need to scream and let all those emotions out. Then you get to look at the world through those tears and realize you are right where you’re meant to be. You have so much to be grateful for. You have no need to worry because Jesus holds the world in His hands, and Sisters, He has your back.