3 little things I want my kids to know about me {a guest post}

3 little things Editor's note: On many Fridays I like to share 3 little things that I love or are making me happy in one way or another. Today's post is a bit of a twist on that, as you'll see. I'm excited to welcome Katie, founder of Gadanke journals and blogger at Making This Home. Katie and I got to meet years ago at a blog conference and we both write for The Art of Simple. I'm thrilled to have this new mama here sharing her heart with you today.

THREE LITTLE THINGS
I want my kids to know about me
 

When I became a mom, I felt like I was prepared for the physical toll of it (as much as any of us can be!). You hear it over and over – sleep when baby sleeps. Say good-bye to any time to yourself and a clean house.

What I truly didn’t understand was the depth of the emotional experience of becoming a parent brings. The love is something fierce, isn’t it? I would do anything for my son, and my husband and I can’t believe how differently we look at all the aspects of our life these days. Our son’s happiness and wellbeing weigh into everything now.

Our son, Niklas, is 9 months old. When he looks at me, he thinks mom. He doesn’t think of the gal who gave a TEDxTalk about self love or the woman behind the Gadanke writing prompt journals. He just thinks Mom. And I love that!

But fast forward 30 years.

3-things-i-want-my-son-to-know
What do you want your kids to know about who you are right now? What do you want them to know about you besides that you’re Mom?

1. You’ll want them to know what you looked like.

When you close your eyes and think of your own parents, do you see them as they are now or as they were? It’s photographs that give us a glimpse back before the wrinkles and graying hair that we’re so familiar with today. If you’re like me, you’re taking all sorts of photos every single day. But I don’t know about you. If I look in my Instagram feed, I see plenty of pictures of my son, my creative projects, and Montana… but I don’t see me. I’m not stepping in front of that camera enough. Are you?

2. You’ll want them to know what made you jump out of bed in the morning.

Yes, the fact that they are up physically requires you to be up out of bed. But what’s deeper than that? I actually made She. – Gadanke's introspective writing prompt journal that addresses this very thing. The She journal helps you explore and document your inner self, your secret wishes, and your hidden hopes. It has easy-open rings to tuck in meaningful letters and photos. It’s a place for documenting who you are and what makes you feel alive.

3. You’ll want them to know how much you loved them.

One thing I remember about my mom is that she always told us, “You are going to have a good day.” Niklas can’t understand me yet, but I tell him this every morning as I lift him from his crib, too. You see, I used to think my mom just meant “You’ll have a good day at school,” but now I know that she meant more. We had her love, and if we fell, she was there to hug us and encourage us. She was our biggest cheerleader, the warmest lap, and a listening ear. Find a phrase that you can tell your kids every day, and slowly make it an encouraging habit.

The title Mom – it really is the best job ever, isn’t it?

If you like the look of the She. journal that Katie mentioned, you might also check out Seeking Grace, which I have, and these sweet mother/daughter (My Mom and Me) and mother/son (Between Mom and Me) journals-- I would love to do them with my kids when they're a bit older. Gadanke journals are unique and special! ~Nicole

Affiliate links included. Thanks for your support!

Nothing stays the same

nothing stays the same Parenting advice can be annoying, right? But one thing I'm never afraid to share with new moms (and remind myself about) is this:

Just when you get comfortable with a rhythm, routine, stage or phase, something changes.

(The same goes for rhythms, routines, stages, or phases you're uncomfortable in, too, They usually don't last forever.)

Some regions have a similar mantra for the weather: If you don't like the weather here, just wait five minutes. 

The weather is much more steady here where I live. It generally ranges from 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, all year long. Parenthood, on the other hand, sometimes feels like an ongoing series of transitions, and those steady plateaus in-between often feel too short for comfort.

I'm in one of those transitions right now. I had recently been extolling the glories of afternoon quiet time to some friends of mine. Summer had been great, an even more productive time for me than normal for writing and blogging stuff. We would play all morning and then after lunch the kids would each go in their separate rooms (Gigi in mine) for naps or Quiet Play Time. I would have a couple of (mostly) blissful hours to myself to do things like eat a complete meal in peace, surf Instagram, read a few chapters, or do some writing.

Then. We finally took Hallee's paci away last week (cue music of doom: duh-duh-duh).

Let's just say on the first day, after a pretty good night (surprisingly) when Daddy made the The Call, I texted him with the desperate, and dramatic, words: You killed naptime. 

I knew it was time. I wasn't blaming him per se. But seriously, my afternoons as I knew them, seemed OVER.

We've had lots of crying. Poor Hallee is hoarse (I think she and Gigi are naturally prone to a raspy voice, especially during bouts of lots o' crying). And I'm praying her through this, and trying to focus on the nice, cuddly moments, instead of on the throwing-board-books-at-the-door moments.

psalm 27

It's been a week now. We're still in transition. But things are improving. I may or may not have bribed my kids to have a good quiet time today. Desperate measures, I'm telling ya. Because my kids are different people when they get the rest they need. And today we needed a restful reset.

(I keep telling myself that if I had to suddenly alter the way I'd slept for my whole life, it would be a bit of a shock. That helps me be more compassionate and have more grace with her.)

So here we are, coping with the new normal. Which will, naturally, change again soon I'm sure... probably in the next few weeks when we go camping and road-tripping, or in a month or so when school starts.

Of course, we all know how fleeting childhood is, so none of this is really surprising to me. It's just another one of those reminders to take a deep breath and remember it's just a season, which, in turn, reminds me that the sweet, beautiful moments are fleeting as well.

So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. ~Robert Frost

On food, community, and kids

alice waters on education  

Sometimes raising a child can seem so complicated.

There are different styles, and priorities, and methods, and... sometimes it's nice to just stop and take a simpler look.

When we look at life skills we want our kids to learn by the time they leave the house, I think this quote by Alice Waters really sums things up pretty succinctly: “Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education.”

Even Jesus lived out these two priorities; just look John 6: 1-15 when He feeds the five thousand. Feeding Himself (and His disciples) and serving (and feeding) the community are at the center of this story.

kids in the kitchen

If we can give our kids the skills to feed themselves, and instill in them a sense of community, then they will be generously equipped to serve and love others as they live out their lives. 

I have to remind myself of the value of these moments when I'm in the kitchen and my littlest one drags in a chair, as she always does. It's easy to get caught up in the tasks, and shoo her away, but then what am I teaching her?

Welcoming my kids into my cramped, cluttered kitchen so they can observe, learn and soak in the skills and the kitchen culture is one of the best ways I can prepare them for the rest of their lives.

And letting them help me feed others-- whether it's cookies for the local firefighters, a meal for a new mom, or friends joining us for dinner-- is one of our family's favorite way to live out this education.

What are ways that you teach your kids to be able to "feed themselves" and "live in a community responsibility?'"

From infertile to fertile: a letter from an adoptive mom who got pregnant

tired boy A dear friend of mine just had a baby. Not only is she one of the prettiest little babies I've ever seen, but she's also a real miracle baby, born to two people who were told there was basically no chance of getting pregnant. After a period of grieving, researching, and praying, this couple had moved forward with the adoption process, not unlike David and I, after I experienced secondary infertility.

Before their portfolio could be shown to any birthmothers though, my friend Sarah found out she was pregnant. God opened her womb! And while she was thrilled, it was also a bit of an adjustment to shift her heart from adoption mode to pregnancy mode. The response from those around her didn't help this challenging heart shift.

Those of us who have experienced infertility (even after having a baby), made a plan and moved forward with adoption, and then were surprised to get pregnant and deliver a biological baby, have often been met with comments from people who seem to think that it was inevitable to get pregnant because we were relaxed, or our minds were off it, or because it just seems to happen.

Sarah wrote this letter as a response to those people (often strangers or acquaintances), reminding them that it is God alone who opens the womb. Infertile people who adopt are not bound to get pregnant. It does happen, but I've also seen him open the womb of friends who were infertile and went through years of IVF to have their first babies (rather than adoption), only to have a surprise pregnancy later. I've also seen people who adopt, and never conceive again.

God is bigger and more powerful than we could ever imagine. I hope my thoughts and Sarah's letter help you to better understand the heart of those who have both adopted and conceived a baby. We don't love those babies any differently, they are both ours, and they are equally special parts of our family.

a letter from an adoptive mom who got pregnant

An open letter to those with friends who got pregnant after adopting, or starting the adoption process:

I have been putting off writing this because I am worried I won't get it right. But I need to say it. This is from my heart as someone who has dealt with infertility and has gone through the grieving and letting go process.

It may seem strange that I still identify with infertility now that I am pregnant but it doesn't go away. Not when you have so vividly gone through the heartbreak of being told how unlikely it is that you will become a parent biologically. Not when you have gone through months of grieving and giving it up to God after hearing said news. Those months don't just disappear when you get pregnant (or adopt.)

What I want to write to you about is the phrase that people think is helpful or comforting or that is somehow gives hope to those in the midst of infertility or adoption. That dreaded phrase of, "Oh, you'll get pregnant once you adopt," or, "Once you stop trying you'll get pregnant"-- there are many variations to this phrase. It's meant as an off-hand encouragement, but in reality, it's not.

I want to try and bring some light as to why this phrase is oh-so-unhelpful and in fact, sometimes hurtful.  I did not ever plan on writing this before I got pregnant but since I did I suddenly worried people would use our story on their friends struggling with infertility or going through adoption.

I wanted to instantly forbid anyone from ever saying, "well, our friends Rob and Sarah thought they couldn't have any kids and as soon as they were approved for adoption she got pregnant-- you'll totally get pregnant!"

I'm glad I didn't write this letter when that's all I had to say. Because I know now that that is just another post called "What not to say to…" And as helpful as those can be they don't always try to explain the heart of things. 

I had this happen to me when we decided to not pursue fertility treatments but instead pursue adoption. A well-meaning friend told me of a story of his friends who got pregnant after adopting and pronounced that we too would get pregnant. Although most of what I want to say is from the heart I will give you one statistic; only 5% of couples who have dealt with infertility and have gone on to adoption have gotten pregnant. So why does it seem like it happens to so many more?

Because no one goes around telling the other stories. "I had this friend who struggled with infertility and went on to adoption and never got pregnant." It's not sensational and for some, it seems sad.

I had come to a place in my heart where I was okay with this becoming my story. In fact when we found out we were pregnant I was so confused and even let down a little. I had come to peace with plan I thought God had set before us and then He changed it on me. I was annoyed, too, because now I was going to have to hear over and over that which I have heard many times, "Oh, that always happens!"

Here's why this response hurts and why I hope you choose to say something else next time. I won't try to speak for other women or couples so I will try to just pull from my own emotions (not hard I am pregnant after all!) For me it was two things.

First, this response says that adoption is second best. When you say "adopt and you'll get pregnant" it seems to insinuate that pregnancy is the end goal. Can't get pregnant? Try adopting and it will cure all your infertility issues and then you'll get the child you really want. This hurts me because I was passionate about adoption before we even had fertility issues. I knew someday I wanted to adopt. I am also passionate in the belief that love for a child is the same no matter what; adopted or biological. 

Second, this response gives a false hope. This is the one that in my grief probably made me the most mad. I wanted to scream "YOU don't know if I'll ever get pregnant. YOU don't even know all the fertility issues we have! YOU don't know the plan God has for us!" It was like everyone wanted me to keep holding out hope for something that really might not ever come.

For me there was no closure in that type of thinking. Yes, I had to trust that if God wanted to open my womb He could, but in that hard time, I could not just keep on hoping. I need to move on and look to a new future. And when I did, I loved that future!

I didn't want people to keep bringing up what I had used to envision for us. That was old news. God had a new and exciting plan for us and I wanted to focus on that. Why couldn't everyone else? When I said, "We're adopting!" why couldn't people say "Wow! That's so exciting! Tell me all about it!" Or "How is that going? Can I help in any way?"

I loved it when people would focus on our new future with me. When they would ask me for updates regularly. Cheer with me when paper work went fast. Hug me when I realized how long our wait might be. These people didn't focus on the future that couldn't be but on the one that was right in front of us! Those people rock!

encourage you to do that for your friends. Be with them in their current situation. Help them focus on the future that is.

If someday they do become pregnant by the grace of God celebrate with them but don't focus on what could be or might be.  Rob and I still plan on adopting. In fact I may have cried a few tears that we wouldn't get to meet "Little T" (our future adopted child) as soon as I thought.

I continue to anticipate May 2015 when we can get back on the waiting list. Not because the child growing in me now is less than, but for a long time Little T has been more real to me. I worry that in the excitement of the child due to be born soon, people will forget about our other child that will grow inside another lady.

I pray that my friends and family will continue to support the future we see before us, not the one that might be.

In love,

Sarah

I'm so thankful for my friend Sarah communicated what was totally on my heart after I got pregnant with Hallee when Brody was just five months old. My story and my infertility was a little different as I had had four miscarriages before Hallee (I always say that getting pregnant wasn't our problem so much as staying pregnant). But now I always say that that was just the road God took us down to bring Brody to our family. You can read all about our adoption journey here.

Related: when your friends do adopt, use this awesome video as a guide of what not to say to them.

Photo of Sarah by Alexander Pavone.

Finding grace in the chaos of motherhood

Is it possible to pursue spiritual disciplines during the trenches of motherhood?

This is a valid question, and one I've often wondered. Motherhood is so all-consuming. It's not a job we go to and then come home and forget about; it's a 24-hour a day, 7-day a week kind of gig. As our kids get older and we add more to our brood, we see our personal me-time get squeezed out to the margins more and more.

One of my biggest takeaways from the Embracing Self-Care series, was how important my spiritual self-care is though. The better I tend to my soul, the better mom I am and the more at peace I feel. I wasn't surprised by this revelation-- it makes sense to me-- but I was encouraged to make my relationship with the Lord more and more of a priority.

Mom Seeks God: Practicing Grace in the ChaosLast week I shared a few books that have been teaching me about self-care more and one of them is Mom Seeks God by Julia Roller, which documents the author's journey of pursuing ten different spiritual disciplines over the course of a year. I went into it knowing that God had been pressing on my heart the need to be more disciplined and consistent in my prayer life.

"When Julia Roller discovered that her spiritual growth had been stunted by the busyness of life with her toddler, she embarked on a yearlong journey through ten spiritual disciplines: prayer, fellowship, submission, study, simplicity, silence, worship, fasting, service, and celebration. As she focused on each discipline, she discovered practical ways to observe them—even in the chaos of her every day."

I knew God wanted to grow me in the area of prayer, so I wasn't surprised when He spoke to me through Julia's book:

"So many of us spend more time feeling guilty about not praying that we actually spend praying. What if, every time we thought about God or prayer, instead of feeling guilty about not doing it more, we just prayed?"

So that's something I'm trying to incorporate into my days. More falling into prayer in the rhythm of daily life, and more praying and less thinking and talking about praying.

The thing I loved the most about Mom Seeks God was how real Julia is with her readers. She lays it all out there. It's not a book that documents only her successes and lessons learned well, it's a testimony of someone who's broken, who fails, just like me, someone who swims along with me in oceans of grace, and embraces that this motherhood thing is a journey where God shapes us.

motherhood as a spiritual tool

As I read through her book, I felt like I was having an authentic conversation with a fellow mom friend. I wasn't being preached at; I was walking alongside the author through her ups and downs, through the real life stuff of seeking God in the midst of life.

And of course, the biggest takeaway I had was that it's not just about adding spiritual disciplines to our life, bogging ourselves down with more than we can handle or restricting ourselves from everything "fun."

"Motherhood is a privilege and in itself a way of enriching my relationship with God. If I sit around all day worrying about not having enough time to study the Bible or to pray in a quiet place, I completely miss the point. My spiritual life is right here in the dirty diapers and the school lunches and the sleepless nights. God is using all this stuff to form me, and motherhood in itself is about as effective a spiritual tool as I know."

Ain't that the truth? I know for me, God is definitely using the challenges, and the blessings, too, to draw me closer to himself. It's always nice to know we're not alone. If you're in the trenches of motherhood and trying to find space for your relationship with God, I'm with you, mama, and so is Julia, in her book Mom Seeks God.

The wonderful thing about God is simply that He meets us right where we're at. We don't have to clean up our act (or our house) before we invite Him over. He's right with us, with His ministering truth and His abundant grace.

How has motherhood affected your walk with God? Has it challenged your spiritual life? Made you stronger? I'd love to hear a snippet of your story.

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 Affiliate links included. Thanks to LitFuse for the review copy of this book!

3 Little Things {4.25.14}: Embracing Self-Care edition

The self-care series was so good to write, and it's so where I'm at and what I need right now, that I couldn't just leave it be without sharing a few resources that I've enjoyed lately, and who knows, maybe I'll keep coming back to this topic. ESC_GGH

And as I've settled on the magic number three, it only seemed fitting to link these up with Amy this week, as they truly are three little things making me happy this week, as I reflect on self-care and how beneficial of a discipline it is.

These all came to me for review, during this same season when God has been teaching me about taking care of myself so that I can take care of others. Coincidence? I think not.

3 books to read now for self-care

1. Notes From a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider

I wrote a bit about this book (and quoted it) in my first post in the ESC series. Because at the core of self-care is living intentionally in a chaotic world-- that's Tsh's book's tagline and it's basically a description of what I want my life to be. My life and my family are quite chaotic at times. But I can choose to be intentional about how I spend my time and money, what daily life looks like for our family, what we eat and do, and how I meet my own needs so I can meet the needs of my family and friends.

If you've read this or are reading it now, Tsh is leading a casual book club on it in a Facebook group.

2. Mom Seeks God by Julia Roller

I'm going to give a full review of this one next week, and hopefully I'll have finished it by then. But it really goes hand in hand with everything else I've been learning lately. Its subtitle is practicing grace in the chaos, and yeah, wow. (Did I mention my life is chaos?) It's speaking to me all right. Each chapter is a spiritual discipline that Julia is attempting to pursue amidst life, work and motherhood.

3. Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine

I knew this book would be a good fit for me when I read this on the cover: "9 simple strategies to stress less, sleep more, and restore your passion for life." I didn't know it would coincide so perfectly with our self-care series.

"If you feel overwhelmed, tired, stressed, and stretched to the max, burnout is a legitimate threat." Almost every day I feel some combination of those emotions-- and I know I don't want to burn out, not in motherhood, my work, homeschooling, my ministry. So now having finished Crystal's book, I'm going to take some time to go back through each chapter and try to put some of her advice into practice.

"When you start taking steps to live your life on purpose-- saying yes only to the best, setting boundaries and saying no more often, being conscious of how you spend your time and money-- you run less of a risk of breaking down."

The biggest things Crystal addresses that I need to change in my life are goal-setting (I'm still plugging away at April's goals, which was a first start for me), and really figuring out what rhythm works best for me as I balance my life's priorities. It was very easy-to-read with lots of little glimpses at Crystal's life and journey, which I like, as story always makes how-to more personal and meaningful.

A few more self-care resources

-- I think I'm going to put these on a permanent page that I can add to here on the blog, because as I come across more encouraging books I know I'll want to share them with you. In the  meantime, here are a few more to inspire you.

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle actually includes a whole category of self-care, which again, I didn't know about (when the self-care series was planned) until I received my bundle. But I was thrilled to see these books in there.

I'm really excited to read all of these; I'm starting with Equipped. Because we have been made to live on purpose... with intention.

Side note: The good news is that God has already predestined the works that we were designed to do, and that gives me hope. I don't have to drum up all this intentionality on my own.

Don't forget, these books are part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle-- a collection only available until Monday, the 28th. The cost of the Self-Care category alone is almost equal to the cost of the whole bundle, which of course includes loads more resources and bonuses.

Do you have any suggestions for my self-care resources page? Which of these books looks like it would speak to you where you're at the most?

 Disclosure: there are affiliate links in this post. If you buy through them, I will earn a commission. Thank you for your support! And thank you to BookLook Bloggers, Thomas Nelson and Litfuse for the review copies. 

Embracing Self Care: Finding & making time for rest

We've come to the last week of our Embracing Self-Care series, and I must say this has been one of the best series I've taken the time to think through and write, as I've really had to take a good, hard look at my life and figure out if I'm putting myself in a place to be the best wife, mom and friend that I can. ESC_GGH I've seen areas where I'm doing pretty well, but I've also seen areas where I need to make some changes. Following through with a series in and of itself feels like a pretty good accomplishment for me as well.

I probably would have fizzled it out if it weren't for the friends who have been working through these topics with me. It really has been a community project as we've encouraged each other in the comments and been inspired by each other's visions for taking care of ourselves so we can better take care of others.

finding and making time for rest: part of the Embracing Self-Care series

This week, we're tackling the last topic of the series, which is all about rest and relaxation. Do those words sound more like figments of the imagination to you?

I'll be honest, I can make changes left and right to try to take care of myself, but I'm not going to get to being my "best self" if I'm still exhausted. The deeper I get into motherhood, the more value I see in making sure to give myself time outs to rest and rejuvenate.

Scheduling in rest

A little while back, I read on a friend's blog that she schedules in an hour of reading time for herself every afternoon. Reading really does revive me, so since then, I've made it a point to take a bit of time, even just 20-30 minutes during the day to read.

Reading is something that I really value, so I need to make it a priority to not let it get pushed to the edges of my day when I'm too tired to enjoy  more than a paragraph or two.

The more I think about it, I realize that if I don't intentionally plan to rest and try to relax (turning off the mental to-do list is hard, but it can be done with enough distraction), it simply will not get squeezed into my day. Problems arise, messes get made, play dates go long, etc., etc.  I'm not a napper, but relaxing with a book can have the effect of a power nap on me, so it's become a vital part of my rhythm.