There’s Still So Much Work To Be Done

Having a public forum means that not everyone is going to like what I have to say or agree with me all of the time.

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But, if anyone read my post from yesterday and thought I was attacking the school behind the advertising campaign, then I want to set you straight.

Mercy Academy is a top-notch school. Though I didn’t attend, I know from other experiences (friends who’ve gone there, working closely with the school via the Admissions office of a local university, etc.) that Mercy produces intelligent, capable, hard-working, compassionate, talented women. They educate the girl- mind, body, and spirit, and when she leaves, she is a woman ready to take on the world.

That was never in question. So, if somehow what I shared about my dislike for the ad campaign made you feel like I was bashing the school, please know that was not the case.

After hitting the publish button on anything that might spark controversy, I often find myself sick to my stomach. But, I believe it is important to start the conversation. I’m entirely okay with others who disagree with me, as long as we can engage in respectful dialogue.

When someone challenges my viewpoint in a respectful way, I believe I must listen and, if necessary, do some more thinking, praying, and investigating.

So when my friend, Jill, suggested it, I went back and read every one of the ads. I re-watched the recruitment video and the USA Today video.

And you know what?

The message from my post yesterday and Mercy’s ad campaign have a very similar bottom line. We both agree that girls must be able to take care of themselves, think for themselves, and believe in themselves.

We both agree that girls must be prepared for the real world, not the world of make- believe that the whole of society (not just princess stories) sells them from an early age.

And so, with that part of the ad campaign, I wholeheartedly agree.

On the surface, the message is clever. It is a breath of fresh air in our self-centered culture. And frankly, I think that’s why it’s gained national attention.

But, I still have beef with the ad campaign. I’ve always seen the world from a slightly different point of view, though. If I pretend to agree with the mainstream when I really don’t, I am not being true to myself. Which, I believe, is a crucial part of the message from the ad campaign (no?).

I believe girls need to be empowered for sure. And an all-girls school is guaranteed to provide that. But, I also think telling a girl that she can “rule the world” is another fantasy not so different from her being a princess. That is a lie- one that my all-girls school also told me. A lie that our society tries to get all of us (not just girls) to believe.

But the truth is, we can’t rule the world. And we can’t have it all. And more importantly, we shouldn’t.

Just a few days ago, I wrote a post about allowing our children to be disappointed, and I think that goes hand in hand with all of this. As a society, we no longer let our children fail. We don’t let them be disappointed. We don’t teach them to delay gratification. We don’t let them make mistakes. We don’t teach them right from wrong.

We dote on them and spoil them. We teach them to be self-centered rather than selfless. We teach them to get ahead at all costs. We don’t tell them “no.”

And yet, we shift the blame and make excuses. Institutions are forced to swoop in and do the job of the parent. We complain until we’re blue in the face about the current state of our youth and our culture, but until we address the problem, get to the root of it, and solve it, our society is only going to continue to spiral downward.

If we wait until girls are in high school, it’s too late. If they’ve been spoiled and doted on by their parents their entire life, nothing is going to make them change.

And the girls who are going to thrive at the school, believe in (and embrace) the ad campaign, and live it once they are there, are the girls whose parents have already taught them they are not a princess and the world is not their oyster.

I know parenting looks different in a lot of homes. I know that from where I stand, I am the product of excellent child-rearing. I was given a great example and now I parent my children with a similar mindset. I know there are parents who didn’t have what I had. And don’t have what I have now. I am not so closed-minded that I can’t admit there are some things that are truly out of a parent’s control. There are some parents that don’t have the resources to be the parent they want to be.

But, honestly, that’s an entirely different issue. While it certainly needs to be addressed and those parents need to be offered resources and assistance, those aren’t the parents or the children I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the parents who can provide for their child’s every want, need, and whim. And do.

When, exactly, will we start requiring more of those parents? When will we raise our expectations for them? When will we, as a society, put pressure on parents to teach their children that the world doesn’t revolve around them? To let their children not only make mistakes, but clean up their own messes, too. To make them work for the things they want. To have higher expectations, stricter rules, consequences, and consistent follow-through.

Everything, and I mean everything, begins at home.

When will we, as a society, accept that and do something about it?

I applaud Mercy for making such a bold leap in the right direction. At least they are not sitting around complaining, and instead, are taking action against a culture of “me, me, me.”

And while I think, some of their ad campaign still has that “me, me, me” mentality repackaged and spun more positively, I think they are on the right track. And although, they missed the mark for someone like me (and let’s face it, I am a consumer here, too), they hit the nail on the head for others who really needed to hear that message.

This might have to be a time where some of us must put our differences in opinion aside and work together for the common good. Our society is in desperate need of change.

And there’s STILL so much to be done.

Life happens when we work together to change the world.

In Our House, “Princess” Is Not A Four-Letter Word

I stumbled upon two articles this week that targeted (of all things) princesses. And by stumbled upon, I mean “saw them plastered multiple times across my Facebook feed.”

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It didn’t help that one particular article lavished praise upon an all-girls Catholic high school in my own neck of the woods. So, pretty much everyone I know in town shared the news about their “revolutionary” advertising campaign with slogans like “life is not a fairytale” and “don’t wait for your prince” and “be able to rescue yourself” and “you’re not a princess.”

And while I feel the need to disclose that I went to a different (somewhat rival) all-girls Catholic school in the same town, it truly has nothing to do with my feelings for my own alma mater. If it had been my school, I’d feel the exact same way.

The other article was a blog post that took several Disney movies (mostly princess/fairy tales) and ripped them apart one ”stereotypical and static” character at a time.

Both posts rubbed me the wrong way. And I had a really hard time putting my finger on why, at first.

Then again, I let my daughter dress up as and pretend to be various princesses. We watch the Disney movies, especially the princess ones. She’s fascinated by them and I have no problems with that.

In our house, “princess” is not a four-letter word.

I’m not concerned one bit that watching fairy tales or pretending to be princesses is going to make her grow up to be an entitled, dependent, selfish, stupid, silly little damsel in distress, in constant need of rescue.

Seeing the bare midriff of a cartoon character is not going to cause her to dress that way when she’s a tween.

She’s no more likely to grow up still believing in fairy tales than my sons still believing in superheros.

And, there’s nothing wrong with make-believe, so long as there’s some actual parenting alongside it.

My daughter may dress up like a princess, but she’s still required to do chores. She’s expected to do her best. She’s learning obedience and respect. She’s learning manners, to do the right thing, to tell the truth, admit when she’s wrong, and apologize.

As a member of our family, she’s learning the importance of teamwork, how to get along with others, how to adapt and adjust when things don’t go her way, and how to be helpful.

She’s learning that there are consequences for her actions.

There are no gender barriers in our home. My daughter doesn’t get let “off the hook” because she’s a girl. She’s expected to play and get dirty and to do things whether or not society deems them for “boys.” And at the same time, she’s allowed to express her innate ability to mother and nurture by playing with dolls, playing kitchen, pretending to clean, and even taking care of her own baby brother. She’s allowed to be feminine, too. Because femininity is a beautiful thing.

I fully expect my daughter (and sons) to leave our home knowing how to properly hang a picture on the wall, cut the grass, change the oil in the car, and do the dishes and laundry. They will be able to bake a pie from scratch and bait a hook and lots of tasks in between.

There’s no self-entitlement in our home because my husband and I aren’t afraid to be parents. We aren’t afraid to say no. We’re not afraid to let them be disappointed. We have high expectations and strict rules.

Furthermore, she’s learning there is a one, true God who created her for a unique and specific purpose. He made her body perfect as it is. He gave her specific talents, a spirited personality, and a mind of her own in order to navigate this crazy, mixed up world. It’s her job to discover her own purpose as she grows- be it an executive, a mother, or some combination in between.

When it comes to girls growing up unable to take care of themselves, the “princess phenomena” is less to blame than helicopter parents who bend over backwards and do everything for their children.

When it comes to girls growing up too fast, dressing scantily clad, and being obsessed about their size and shape, Miley Cyrus is more of a threat than Princess Aurora.

When it comes to her future, I pray that we will have given her the skills and confidence to take care of herself. And yet, I pray that she’s not so independent that her heart is closed off to a man she can share her life with. Even though she won’t need it, sometimes it’s nice to be taken care of.

I’m hopeful that through our example, she’ll come to understand that true love is not the stuff of fairy tales, but the every day, ordinary love that stems from a life of giving and self-sacrifice.

It is our job as parents to be on the front lines teaching our children, guiding them, leading them, taking care of them, and (as the ad says) preparing them for real life. It is up to us to provide them with a moral compass, instill in them strength of character, and model respectful, mutual, sacrificial love.

But, it’s also important to cherish their innocence, encourage their imaginations, and let them partake in the enchantment and magic that make up a childhood. There’s a fine line between pretending to be a princess and becoming spoiled and selfish, between believing in fairy tales and refusing to grow up, between praying for a good man and waiting for someone who doesn’t exist.

In a society that is constantly looking for someone or something to blame, Disney princesses and fairy tales have become the latest target. In reality, though, it’s the parents that can make or break who their little princesses become.

And I guess that’s what rubbed me the wrong way about both articles. They both wrongly assumed that my daughter has a one way ticket to fantasyland because she loves all things princess at age 2 and a half. And because watching all those fairy tales will have taught her nothing about real life, she’ll need a school to set her straight.

But, I’m not buying it. If my daughter becomes a selfish, helpless, dependent, damsel in distress with no clue about the real world, I assure you, Cinderella is not to blame.

Life happens when we take responsibility for our children.

My Theme Song: Overcomer

So, I had a really tough time last week. As a mother, it was probably my worst week ever. And I’ve had some pretty rotten weeks over the past five years, so that’s saying something.

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On Wednesday, I lamented how trying things had been, and then things went and got worse.

Like, “I lost my wedding ring” worse. No worries, though! I found it. I will totally give a prize to the first person who correctly guesses where I found it. Just leave a comment. If you already know, shhhhh!

At Thursday morning preschool drop-off, I stopped by my sister’s classroom to tell her about my lost wedding ring adventure. She said, “Oh my. You need a nap. And some prayers.”

Amen.

And if the week weren’t hard enough, Mike left Friday morning for his annual weekend at the lake with his childhood best friends. As he was leaving, he joked, “So, this seems like a really great time for me to leave you alone with all three kids for four days.”

And then (sensing that I might actually fly off the handle), he called his mom to see if she would come over to to give me some time to myself. I really needed it, and I’m very grateful that she came over yesterday!

As I was running a few errands, the song “Overcomer” by Mandisa came on the radio. Lately, I’ve been listening to a local Christian station because it’s uplifting in a way that the stations blasting “Blurred Lines” aren’t. I’ve heard ”Overcomer” before, but at that particular moment, I felt it was written specifically for me.

Sure, life knocked me down a little bit, but it’s time to pull myself back up and get it together. I can do it because I’m an overcomer.

Of course, then I watched the video and realized that my piddly problems pale in comparison to many people fighting bigger battles. And at the same time, I believe we are all fighting battles in our own unique ways.

So, I’ve sulked and pouted. I’ve cried. I’ve complained. I’ve yelled. I’ve pouted some more. And I’m ready to gain control back. I’m ready to smile and be positive. I’m ready to get up in the morning and give it my best go.

Perhaps you’ve been feeling down, too? Or you’ve been carrying a burdensome cross? Or you’ve been dealing with pain or frustration or anger?

Listen to this song (or at least read the lyrics below). Be encouraged. Feel the warmth of God’s love. Overcome.

Life happens when we overcome.

Overcomer by Mandisa

Staring at a stop sign
Watching people drive by
T Mac on the radio
Got so much on your mind
Nothing’s really going right
Looking for a ray of hope

Whatever it is you may be going through
I know He’s not gonna let it get the best of you

You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when He reminds You
That you’re an overcomer
You’re an overcomer

Everybody’s been down
Hit the bottom, hit the ground
Oh, you’re not alone
Just take a breath, don’t forget
Hang on to His promises
He wants You to know

The same Man, the Great I am
The one who overcame death
Is living inside of You
So just hold tight, fix your eyes
On the one who holds your life
There’s nothing He can’t do
He’s telling You

Thoughts On Motherhood From A Sleep Deprived Existence

It’s been a rough week, friends. And it’s only Wednesday. But, even in my sleep deprived, lethargic state, I’ve come up with some pretty genius revelations on motherhood, I think.

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*Whoever implemented Daylight Savings Time was clearly NOT a mother. Extra hour my foot.

*I want to see an episode of Caillou where his mom and dad lose their cool at him during one of his incessant and annoying whining escapades. That would be more realistic and something my kids could actually relate to.

*You know how God gives mamas amnesia so that we’ll forget the pains of pregnancy and childbirth? I think He also gives us amnesia to forget the horrors of potty training. So that we’ll do it again.

*Want to stop a five-year-old from arguing with you over everything? All you have to do is stop letting him. The answer is NO! Because I said so! End of story. {Mom high-five!}

*Want to stop the madness of toys being strewn across every square inch of the house? First, purge. I mean, massively purge. Let go of any sentimental feelings you have for that toy that annoyingly sings the “ABC’s,” and get rid of it. Then, lock the rest up in a cabinet. Make the kids ”check out” a couple of toys at a time. It will take a little bit of effort to check toys in and out, but WAY less effort than cleaning up 4002 toys a day. WINNING!!!

*It is pretty much impossible to tend to multiple children singlehandedly. And Murphy’s Law of Motherhood clearly states that when one needs something, they all need something. Unfortunately, someone has to wait.

*Motherhood doesn’t mean having all the answers. And it definitely doesn’t mean having all the right answers.

*Three hours straight may be the world record for how long a two-and-a-half-year- old can scream at the top of her lungs in sheer defiance and strong will. What, say you? Some can actually scream louder and longer? My ears/heart/nerves couldn’t possibly stand one second more.

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*Little baby giggles and coos are only slightly more adorable than tiny baby feet. And they can turn an otherwise horrible day into an intoxicatingly wonderful one.

*Sometimes motherhood means locking yourself in the bathroom (or closet in my case this week) and sobbing in anger and frustration and sheer exhaustion.

*No matter how much we yell at them out of frustration or how mad we make them by saying “no” or how many toys we take away from them or how upset they get when we discipline them or how early we make them go to bed or how many answers we get wrong or how many minutes we take to compose (and take care of) ourselves, we are their world and they need and love us more than anyone else on Earth.

How do I know?

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Because after Caroline’s three hour scream fest where I screamed back at her (because I really was at my wit’s end) and I thought she’d hate me for it, she cried for me to hold her. And she fell asleep in my arms.

Because Lucas told me that when his teachers asked him what he was thankful for, he said, ”my mommy.”

Because when I hold that sweet baby James in my arms and cuddle him close, he stares into my eyes and refuses to look away.

Sometimes we have hard days (and nights). Sometimes we have to tell them “no” and stand firm. Sometimes we must discipline them. Sometimes we are physically (and emotionally) unable to tend to them. Sometimes we lose our temper at them. Sometimes we are too hard on them, but more often than not, we are too hard on ourselves.

There’s no way around the difficult moments, but we must keep muddling through, chins up. Our kids need us and love us- tempers, dark circles, wrong answers, and all.

How’s that for profound? Take that, Daylight Savings!

Life happens when we remember how much we are needed and loved.

Making the Most of Disappointment

A few days before Halloween, my neighborhood decided to move trick-or-treating to the following night. There was some bad weather predicted including heavy winds and rain. Tornadoes loomed on the radar, as well.

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I certainly agree that safety should always come first, especially when lots of children are involved. But, the change still rubbed me the wrong way.

It wasn’t just that only a few individuals made a neighborhood-wide decision without consulting our Homeowners Association or the rest of the neighbors, but that certainly aggravated me.

It wasn’t that Mike had taken Thursday night off to go trick-or-treating with the kids since he’s missed the last two Halloweens and vowed last year to never miss it again if possible, but that was surely a bummer (since he had to go in on Friday).

It wasn’t even that the Halloween fun suddenly crept in on the holiness of All Saints Day. In fact, I’m sure the saints were enjoying their own Heavenly party alongside the trick-or-treaters, regardless of when they went.

What bothered me most was the common theme on our neighborhood’s Facebook page. And on the news. And from lots of parents.

We have to reschedule trick-or-treating! We can’t disappoint the children!

My knee-jerk reaction to that was, “Why can’t we?”

Why can’t we disappoint the children? Every now and then, at least.

As it turned out, dozens of neighborhoods and surrounding counties rescheduled Halloween, so our neighborhood’s decision was warranted, I suppose. But, I just couldn’t shake my annoyance at the issue.

Why couldn’t we have just planned for trick-or-treating on Halloween if the weather permitted. And if it didn’t? Oh well. Life goes on. Halloween will be back again before we know it.

If the latter happened, would kids be disappointed? Of course. But is that such a bad thing?

If we always coddle and reschedule and swoop in to ensure our kids are never disappointed, how are we preparing them for life? Isn’t life filled with cancelled events and stormy weather?

How can they learn to adjust and adapt and make the most of crummy situations if we never allow them the chance? How will they learn resiliency? Or to smile in the face of disappointment?

I’m honestly not judging anyone who took their kids trick-or-treating on a rescheduled night. In retrospect, if Mike had been off work, we might have done the same. And I enjoyed the flood of trick-or-treating photos on my Facebook news feed Friday night.

Rescheduling Halloween is just one scenario. Change the name and the date, and this kind of thing happens all the time. And I really wish it didn’t.

I’d already made up my mind that we would not be participating in the rescheduled trick-or-treating. Not only would Mike be at work, but I’d be watching one of my nephews, as well. There was no way, I was wrangling them all by myself.

Mike and I decided that we’d play Halloween by ear. If the weather was decent at any point that evening, we’d go to my sister’s neighborhood to trick-or-treat. If the weather was bad, we’d bring our Jack-O-Lanterns inside, watch silly Halloween movies with the kids, play some games, and let them go trick-or-treating inside with the candy we would have given out.

When I broached the subject with Lucas, I was curious to see how he’d react. I explained that it might storm, and we might not be able to go trick-or-treating. I saw a flash of disappointment cross his face, but only for a moment.

I asked him what he might want to do instead to celebrate Halloween if it was too rainy to go outside to trick-or-treat. He came up with a laundry list of ideas and was nearly as excited about them as anything else. When I mentioned trick-or-treating inside the house, he was so excited he could hardly sit still.

In the end, there was a calm before the storm early in the evening. We took advantage of it and had a great time trick-or-treating with my sister and her family. But, I know that if we hadn’t been able to trick-or-treat on Halloween, my family would have made the best of it, disappointment and all.

As much as I love to see my children smile, as much as I want them to be happy, I also want to prepare them for the inevitable disappointments they will face in life. Learning to face those disappointments with grace and a positive attitude takes practice.

That’s why I’m not afraid to let them be disappointed every now and then. Even when there’s candy (for me!) on the line.

Life happens when we make the most of disappointment.

Apple Tree Craft

I kind of felt like Supermom yesterday. Or at least Super cool mom. Despite my germaphobe tendencies and my disdain for crafts that make messes, I was determined to do something fun.

Perhaps it was cabin fever from being mostly indoors with a sick little girl for three days, or maybe it was the scent of Lysol going to my head that gave me the courage to let my big kids do this:

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Aren’t you proud? I even gave Lucas (almost) complete control over his. I traced his hand and cut it out for him, but he colored it, cut out the circle (that I’d traced for him), glued it all together, and painted by himself. I’m glad I let him do it because it gave him both practice and confidence.

Caroline had just as much fun. I let her color the “trunk” of the tree, but I cut and glued it all together. Then, I helped her paint her thumbprints (apples) on the tree.

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This craft was so simple and could be done a variety of different ways, I’m sure. I love that the trunk of the tree is their hand and arm, and the apples are their thumbprints. A keepsake for sure!

Best of all? It cleaned up in no time. My kind of crafting!

When I see other people doing over-the-top crafts with their kids (or on their own), I feel inferior. I’ll never have the time, patience, or energy for all that. But I discovered something as my kids and I did this classic and embarrassingly easy project together.

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that are the most fun and make the best memories!

Wouldn’t you agree?

Life happens when we get crafty!

Do you know of any other low maintenance crafts with a Halloween or fall theme? I know my kids would love a Round 2.

‘Tis the Season(s) {7 Quick Takes}

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Have you ever read a blog post and thought, “Wow! It seems like that blog post was written just for me?”

That happens to me all the time, except the one I read on Monday really was for me! I reached out to Kathryn at Team Whitaker and asked her if she would do one of her awesome “How Do You Do It” posts on routines with small children.

Not only has she lived through those years with lots of littles at home, she also has life together way more than I ever will! I loved her advice and suggestions, and I took away some valuable new nuggets of truth to help me during this tiresome season of my life.

Perhaps the greatest takeaway was the solidarity. In a few words, she comforted me, made me laugh, and encouraged me in my mothering journey.

If you have young children, you don’t want to miss this post. But, even if you don’t have a house full of littles, stop on over and check her out anyway. She’s funny, down-to-earth, and faith-filled. She has an entire “How Do You Do It” series (that I’m working my way through) and she throws some amazing parties to boot. She’s also pregnant with baby #6, so if nothing else, hop on over and tell her “Congrats!”

Thanks again, Kathryn. You’ve given me some new things to think about and do to help me embrace this season!

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It’s finally starting to feel like fall around here. We went to the pumpkin patch last weekend in shorts and t-shirts! It didn’t feel right picking pumpkins while sweating! I do love summer and am sad that it is gone, but I also love fall and all that it brings!

The leaves are slowly beginning to change colors. The mornings and evenings are chilly, but the sun is still warm in the afternoons. We have pumpking carving (or shaving as Lucas says), trick-or-treating, and lots of other fall activities on the horizon!

I am enjoying the season!

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However, my sweet Caroline came down with hand-foot-and-mouth disease this week. I knew she wasn’t really herself the past few days (and nights), but she didn’t exhibit any concrete symptoms until yesterday.

Let’s talk about keeping an active 2-and-a-half-year-old quarantined in one place away from her big brother (who she loves playing with) and her little brother (who she loves kissing, cuddling, and mommy-ing).

Or the amount of laundry I’ve done.

Or the cans of Lysol I’ve already gone through. I’m not even thinking about how bad Lysol is for our bodies and our lungs. Just get this virus out of my house!

Never mind. Let’s not talk about it. I’m exhausted!!!

‘Tis the season.

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My littlest one is already 2 months old! Can you believe it? He’s starting to smile and coo and laugh! He makes the cutest faces and is starting to look around more and more. He’s even starting to bat at the objects on his playmat. He’s always on the move- flapping his arms and kicking his legs. And he’s a master at rolling over.

He also sleeps really well through the night. His doctor joked with me at his 2 month check up and said, “I probably wouldn’t mention that to anyone, especially other moms.” You don’t have to tell me how lucky I am. His excellent sleep habits are exactly why the only zombies at our house are inside the T.V. when my husband watches The Walking Dead.

Anyway, James is sweet as can be. And he still has that new human smell that is so intoxicating.

I completely forgot how much I love this season!

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Do you have a favorite show? I honestly don’t watch that much T.V. (aside from The Disney Channel). The only show I watch faithfully right now is How I Met Your Mother. Since this is the final season, I’ve been trying to find a new show to take its place. I’ve been enjoying watching the new fall line-up, but I don’t know if any of those will actually make the cut. I also borrowed seasons 1-3 of Downton Abbey from a friend, but I haven’t started, yet. I really hate jumping on bandwagons, though. I guess I’ll have to get over that if I want a new show to watch. Any suggestions?

For now, I’ll just enjoy my favorite show’s final season.

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I’m already thinking about Christmas presents for the kids. I’m not trying to be materialistic, though! Just the opposite, in fact. I don’t want to go overboard on presents they don’t need with money we don’t have, so I’ve been really trying to come up with a few ideas that they would love. I think this will be a great year for us on Christmas morning. Lucas and Caroline are both big enough to appreciate it all and still little enough to get excited over pretty much anything.

For Caroline, I think I’ve decided on a doll house. I’ve waffled back and forth on which kind to get her, but I think I’ve finally decided on a wooden one that she can continue to play with as she grows. Have any suggestions on where to find a nice one (that’s not too expensive)?

Lucas is a little tougher because what I want to get him doesn’t exist anymore (except on eBay for a lot of money!). He’s really in to Hot Wheels. I wanted to get him some kind of city set (remember those?). Most of the Hot Wheels/Matchbox sets I’ve seen are cheaply made and fall apart easily. I want something that is sturdy and will last. Any ideas or suggestions?

Of course, we’ll remember the real reason for the season, and we’ll celebrate the many other holidays and seasons that come first. I’m just trying to get ahead of the game for once.

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Lucas and Caroline have really started to play and interact together lately. They might fight a lot. Lucas might try to use his big brother status to control and Caroline might be overly dramatic and stubborn in return, but they have some melt-your-heart moments together, too. They’ve always loved each other, but it’s only been lately that I’ve witnessed the bond they share. Lucas helping Caroline down from her bed. Caroline hanging on her big brother’s every word. Both of them caught up in a game of pretend- their laughter echoing through the house. I truly hope they are friends forever.

I can’t wait to see how the dynamic changes as James grows. I’m sure it will include more fighting, more chaos, more laughter, and more love.

This season of life often tests me beyond my limits, but I know how blessed I am to be here. I’m doing my best to savor each sweet moment of this season before it’s gone.

Life happens when we embrace the many seasons of our lives.

Have a great weekend, friends! I hope yours is more germ free and relaxing than mine!

For more quick takes, head on over to Jen’s!

Evolution of Pumpkin Picking

Since Mike and I started dating in the spring of 2005, we’ve been on the move. We love being active, trying new things, and having fun. Over the years, some of our favorite dates quickly became yearly traditions. Some of those traditions have fallen by the wayside, but one tradition we’ve clung to is our annual trek to the pumpkin patch.

As we went for the 8th year this past weekend (we skipped 2008 because I was nearly 9 months pregnant and wasn’t feeling it), with three kids in tow this time, I couldn’t help but get emotional about it. I am so very blessed.

I love creating memories with my family. And I love that something Mike and I started all those years ago, when we weren’t even sure where life would lead us, is now an integral piece of childhood for our children.

2005

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2006

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2008

Growing our pumpkin instead of picking one!

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 2009

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2010

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2011

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2012

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2013

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Things to note:

Life was much easier with no littles in the picture! Literally.

It is hard to get everyone in the picture sometimes.

The odds are pretty slim that everyone will look in the same direction.

There’s pretty much a 1% chance that everyone will smile.

Just getting out to the pumpkin patch these days is a challenge, never mind actually picking a pumpkin!

Despite it all, I wouldn’t trade this tradition for anything in the world. I’m already looking forward to next year!

Life happens when we make memories as a family.

P.S. I know ”they” say you shouldn’t carry your baby facing out like I am, but trust me, it was the best I could do for the moment. And it was for less than 20 minutes. And I know I shouldn’t have to explain myself, but I’m sure someone was looking at that picture and giving me the judgy eyes, so it makes me feel better to clarify.

I’ll Never Wear Skinny Jeans (And Other Truths I’m Okay With)

When skinny jeans became the next best thing, I didn’t love them. In fact, I hated them. Over the years, I’ve come to not only accept them, but kind of sort of maybe want a pair of them.

I’ve tried many different styles for many different body types from many different stores, and I’ve just had to face the fact that I will never be able to wear them.

From the outside looking in, I’m sure they look fine. But for me, staring at myself in the mirror, I do not feel comfortable in them.

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I’ll also never be able to fix my hair beyond a woefully unfashionable ponytail or a mediocre straightening job. Not because I don’t care about looking presentable, but try as I might, I can not come close to mastering even the most basic of styles.

I’ll (likely) never have the latest version of something techy, such as the iPhone. My three-year old 3G phone still does the job for the most part. It may be cracked and the apps no longer work and my friends and family tease me about it, but I’m mostly okay with that.

I’ll never make it through a sappy movie without crying, even if it’s one I’ve seen a million times and/or is super hokey.

I’ll never (if I can help it) see the movie before reading the book. Period. End of story (ha!).

I have a dry sense of humor. What makes me laugh doesn’t always make everyone else laugh.

I’ll never be able to listen to Martika without grieving the loss of two of my cousins (one by death and the other by sad family drama). What? You’ve never heard of Martika? Prepare to be transported directly to the 80′s!

I’ll never be able to stop loving Martika, even though I’m only one of three people who’ve ever heard of her.

I’m not all that great at small talk, and I’ll probably never be.

I’m terrified of public speaking.

I will always be an INFJ. I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs a dozen times through the years, and my personality type has never changed.

I sometimes lack common sense. I could possibly be labeled “ditzy.” And by “sometimes,” I mean more often than not. And by “could possibly be labeled,” I mean I am.

I truly wish I could solve the world’s problems. I spend many hours, lots of sleepless nights, many prayers, and lots of tears agonizing over how to ease the pain of those who are hurting and suffering. I try to do anything in my power to help make things right for them- be it the children of the world or my broken-hearted best friend.

I’ll always feel frazzled and stressed out when I’m super busy.  And yet, I’ll always feel most alive when I’m super busy.

I’ll always be a procrastinating perfectionist. Oxymoron, perhaps, but I’m living proof that they do exist!

I will always be Catholic. I’ve tried to run away, but I always come back home. I’ve tried to resist, but I’m more at peace when I comply. I’ve tried to stop believing, but I can’t not believe.

I will love deeply and with my entire heart always. If I can’t love you with my entire being, I can’t love you (though I’m trying/learning to).

I have lots of grand ideas and action plans, but usually lack the follow through on them.

The thing is, we all have things about us that make us who we are. We have different personalities and body types and ways of looking at the world.

Maybe you can fit in skinny jeans! That’s awesome! Rock them with pride! Maybe you’re always first in line for the new iPhone or latest gadget. That’s great! Technology can help you move mountains!  Maybe you love wearing the latest trends, trying new hair styles, and putting your eyeliner on just right. Embrace that talent (and puhlease come help me!).

We are who we are for a reason, and it’s time we start appreciating all the little quirks that make us tick.

Maybe one day I’ll actually feel confident in those skinny jeans. Or maybe one day the “just rolled out of bed” ponytail will be all the rage (not the fake messy one, but the I literally just rolled out of bed to feed my three children and now I’ll never be able to shower because I have three kids one). Or maybe one day (by the grace of God), I’ll be standing in front of a crowd, speaking calmly and with poise.

I’m likely to change a million times through the years.

Until then, I am at peace with who I am, right now, in this moment. I’m hopeful that you are in the same place, but if you are not, I hope that you will be someday.

Life happens when we make peace with who we are right now.

Pray For Others

I have been blessed with the opportunity to stay at home with my children for the past two years. I worked until my oldest was three years old, though, and I’ll likely go back to work at some point in the future. I’m savoring these sweet moments for as long as I can.

When I left my teaching position two years ago, I knew we’d be okay financially for the most part, but we still had some serious adjusting to do. I hoped to continue contributing financially by tutoring kids in the afternoons.

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I lucked into several tutoring jobs early on, but as time has passed, I’m down to only one kid. And he’s been with me from the beginning.

He’s a very sweet kid, but he struggles a lot. I’ve helped him with reading, math, writing, and basic skills. He really benefits from the one-on-one attention I can give him, which led me to tutoring him two hours a week rather than one.

In the beginning, we worked really well together. We still do for the most part, but like all relationships, we’ve sort of hit a point where we’re almost too comfortable with each other. He doesn’t listen as well as he used to. I get more frustrated with him than I did before.

But, I love tutoring him. Much as I love my kids and being at home with them, this two hours a week allows me a different challenge, a change of pace, and a chance to use my dormant teaching skills (above the preschool work I do with my kids). And, of course, it benefits our family financially. It isn’t much, but it sure helps out!

I want to make sure I’m giving him the time he deserves and the help he needs. And I also don’t want to lose him, since he’s the only student I have at the moment. So when I found myself losing my patience with him recently, I realized something needed to change.

I tried switching up how we did things during our sessions, which helped a little at first. But, it didn’t take us long and we were back in our same rut.

I’ve been completely open and honest with his parents, and they face similar challenges and frustrations when working with him at home. We are all in agreement that he needs tutoring twice a week, and thank goodness, they still want it done by me.

One night as I was saying my prayers, he came to my mind.

I don’t know why it never occurred to me to pray for him before. That night, I said a prayer for him, for his family, and for success during our time together.

At our next tutoring session, he was still the same kid. He struggled to focus. He struggled to complete the work. I still found myself frustrated a time or two. But, each time my frustration mounted, I was able to take a deep breath and offer up a prayer for this little boy.

Now, I try to take a minute or two before he comes over to pray for our tutoring session. It really does bring a sense of peace to our time together, and it definitely calms me. I also remember to include him in my daily prayers because he really does struggle so much. I believe this simple prayer for him each day has changed the way I view him during our tutoring sessions. He’s a little boy in desperate need of someone to teach him, help him, and encourage him.

I encourage you to think about someone who’s in your life that you’ve never considered praying for before. Maybe it’s another mom who helps with carpool or a coworker a few doors down. Maybe it’s a neighbor you only wave to in passing. Or a far-flung cousin you haven’t seen in years. It might even be the person who delivers your mail!

Maybe, like me, it’s someone you interact with on a weekly basis. Maybe you struggle to get along with her. Maybe you get frustrated with him. Or maybe you don’t.

Whoever it is, take some time and pray for him or her today. Because can’t we all use an extra person praying for us?

Life happens when we pray for others.