Tale as Old as Time

This past Saturday we took our girls to see the new Beauty and the Beast. We were so excited, and the girls had been looking forward to it for a long time. The movie was everything I thought it would be and more. The cast choices were perfect, the storyline held true to the original and a few extra details were added so that we discovered some things about both Belle and Beast that weren’t shared in the animated version. Overall, I think that Disney created an amazing, family friendly, movie worthy of spending the exorbitant amount of money to experience the film at the theater.

I don’t make a habit of reviewing movies often. The last one that I reviewed was Cinderella and it ended up being for about the same reason I feel led to share my opinions on Beauty and the Beast  as well. I don’t watch a lot of movies, and what we decide is appropriate for our children is based on our own personal convictions. We choose carefully what we allow the girls to watch, trying to keep their viewing in line with what we think is acceptable for their age and maturity.

The being said, I was shocked to see the articles and statements that came out about Beauty and the Beast prior to it being released. Title after title, post after post, came up in my news feed, condemning the movie for a storyline that had, supposedly, been added regarding on of the characters in the film. It was said that Lefou, Gaston’s dweeby side kick would have his moment on screen revealing that he is both gay, and in love with Gaston.

The idea gave me pause before deciding to go ahead and take the girls. Not because I disagreed with Disney’s choice to make a point of creating a gay storyline for an already beloved movie, but because should that be case, I didn’t think that my girls were at a maturity level that was ready to handle the discussion that I would like to follow such a discovery.

Well, we clearly decided to go anyways, after doing some research and reading article’s from people who had actually seen the movie. And, I can tell you that, whether or not Disney intended for Lefou’s sexual orientation to become clear to the audience, there was nothing in the movie that would have led be to believe anything other than the fact that he was infatuated with Gaston because he wanted to be like  him. But, you have to make the decision as to whether or not it is an appropriate choice for your family on your own…

That point, is not what led me to write this post as much as the reaction from those proclaiming to be Christians did.

It is no secret that I love the Lord. I believe that scripture is true, is not to be taken out of context and changed to meet our ever changing culture. I believe that God’s character does not change, and that He is exactly who He says He is.

But, my goodness…

What are we saying about Him when we lead with condemnation, shame and hurt? Here is what I also believe: there is not ONE person on this earth who doesn’t struggle with sin – believers and non believers alike. I struggle with a lot of things that the bible declares as sin. My daily life is a process of continuously trying, leaning on God and going to Him for forgiveness when in my own strength I find it hard to change.

What I don’t struggle with, is the decision to seek out a relationship with someone of the same sex. I can’t even begin to understand what the process is like to realize something about yourself that is hard, decide to pursue and attempt to live an open life in a society that is constantly seeking people to condemn or blame for all the problems of this world. My personal convictions lead me to believe that a homosexual lifestyle is not what God purposed for someone when He created them. However, I can also state that I am not living out exactly who God intended for me to be when He created me! I am a continual work in progress. Sin, struggle, growth and change are all a part of this fallen world.

But, my convictions also place me in a position to say that it is not okay to make someone feel unsafe because of their life journey. If God’s glory is supposed to come through me, if I am supposed to be a representation of who Christ is, then I should not be writing things that are hurtful, mean, shameful or threatening towards another person who I believe to be created by the same God who created me.

I need everyone to really stop and think – how are my word’s glorifying God? In what way is this statement making the person I am speaking to understand how much they are loved by God? Are my choices potentially adding bricks on a wall that is being built between this person and God?

Jesus came to earth and scolded the pharisees. He called out those who thought they were righteous. He tried to get those who were only concerned with the law to see the error of their ways. He spent time with the members of society who were seen in the eyes of others as “wrong”.

If He were here today, I have to believe that He would be scolding those who wrote hurtful and condemning things to others. He would call out those who use social media in a way that pushes people away from God. He would try to get those who separate themselves from those who believe they are better than the “sinners: to see the error of their ways.

We do not have to agree with a person’s choices in order to love them the way that the Lord calls us to love. All of our shaming isn’t drawing anyone nearer to the Lord. It isn’t creating any wave of change or revival. It isn’t revealing the true character of God.

The only truth that we can be sure of is this: each person was created by the same God, with a plan and a purpose and a journey. Each and every life that we come in contact with is an opportunity to play a supporting role in the story of one member of creation’s personal walk with God….

What character do you want to play? The villain or the hero?

Family Update

Things have been a little crazy here! There hasn’t been much time to sit down and write. In fact, as I am typing this, I am contemplating running upstairs to tell my children to be quiet and I can hear Macie starting to wake up and I know she will need to eat soon. This life as a mama to 5 girls is definitely not one for the faint of heart! But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

So, what have we been up to? Besides figuring out how to survive with 5 girls? Not much!

This summer has been HOT, and so far has consisted mostly of me watching the girls swim or trying to stay in the air conditioning. We have managed to make it out for a few little trips – bounce it out, the zoo, the indoor play cafe –

But, thanks to an amazing husband and an awesome dad, our yard is pretty much as good as any local playground, so most of trips consist of only taking a few steps out the door…

When I do have a few minutes of down time I have been excitedly planning our homeschool year for this coming school year! I’ll be composing a few posts soon about what are plans are this year, what curriculums we have chose and why, and how we are really seeing God move through our decision to keep the kids “home” for school (yea – we’re actually home less than we are out..)

My husband has been diligently working in our garden and we are starting to see the fruits of his hours of labor in the form of an abundance of zucchini, cucumbers that beg to be pickled and the beginnings of some very large pumpkins and winter squash!! I can’t wait until the corn is ready to be picked! We’ve learned a lot as this season has gone on, and I can’t wait to share some more of our homesteading lessons and misadventures (chickens in the house, anyone!?)…

I have to keep this short for now, as I have a little babe who is about to beg me to be fed. This season of our life has been so amazing, I can hardly describe everything in the few short paragraphs I wrote here. I am looking forward to getting some more time to write as Macie’s newborn naps start to become a bit more predictable! For now, I’ll leave you with some pictures of my sassy littles…

Emmy’s personality in 3 seconds…

These two…

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I can’t believe that this kid is 5 already!!

A Huge Leap of Faith

Deciding to have a baby after struggling with Postpartum Anxiety for a year was NOT an easy decision.

We had just bought the house we knew we were going to raise our kids in and started a new season of life. Things were great, and we finally began to feel settled after what had been a rollercoaster of a season…

But, I still had this longing in my heart, this deep desire to have another baby. I dealt with grieving over the idea of never having another baby for as long as I could, but this desire wasn’t going anywhere…

In fact, it was getting stronger. After sitting down and explaining how I was feeling to Matt, I realized something….

I felt broken. Damaged. I carried a lot of guilt over not being mentally stable enough to expand our family. Women are created to carry and bear children – and here I was, unsure if I was capable of doing it anymore.

I couldn’t stand the idea of our family not growing because of something wrong with me. So, after doing a lot of work with my psychiatrist, and praying and talking A LOT about it with Matt, we decided to try. We would give it 2 months, because we wanted the baby to be born in early summer at the latest, and if we didn’t get pregnant then we would put the idea off for another year…

It took two weeks. I was ecstatic, overwhelmed and excited. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone.

But then, one morning when I was waiting for the kids to get up, it really hit me. What if it happens again? What if its worse? The memories of my postpartum period with Emerson came flooding back, anxiety and panic set in and suddenly I was afraid that I had just made a terrible decision for my family…

Diagnosis: PTSD

I was angry, frustrated and defeated. All the work I did to get through the anxiety and now this!? I spent the first half of the pregnancy worrying A LOT.

But, one day, I was playing with Emerson and thinking about everything that happened to get to this point and I realized how worth it it really was.

So I made a plan – a plan for the rest of the pregnancy, a plan for if the anxiety came back, and a plan for if it was worse. Having a plan made me feel a lot better, and I continued to do a lot of work on myself in order to have the best shot at a good outcome for me and the rest of my family.

Fast forward a few months and we were in labor. I’ll write all the details about Macie’s birth story in another post, but what I can say is that it went better than I had imagined. In fact, I felt more in control of my choices and what I needed than any of my previous labors, and I have the work of digging myself out of PPA to thank for that. Our hospital stay was restful, anxiety free and filled with quality time snuggling my new babe.

But, when we got home, I began to doubt our choice again. For two days I sat around, on the verge of a panic attack, waiting for the PPA to return. I woke up in the middle of the night, expecting it to come flooding back. I worked myself into a full blown panic attack, convincing myself than my descent into anxiety was right around the corner. Flashbacks swam through my mind, and I was scared. For 48 hours, I was sure that I was going to have to battle for my mental health again…

And then it didn’t come. The nightly panic attacks, the struggle through heavy anxiety all day long, the desire to just hide in my bed from the world, the insomnia, the terror….

it never came back.

What did happen was me learning that once you have experienced anxiety, you can make yourself experience anxiety over and over again. You can talk yourself into a panic attack a lot easier than you can talk yourself out of one. I was, unwillingly, sabotaging myself….

So, I put my plan into action. I called my psychiatrist immediately to talk through the anxiety and make sure it was “normal”, I upped one of medications – a decision we had already planned for by having it at my house in case of an increase in anxiety, I told my husband exactly what was going on, began taking my placenta pills and had my doctor add in another prescription strength B vitamin….

and then I got out of my own head. Each night when I go to bed, anxiety tries to creep its way in, but I’m on top of it. I remind myself of how the day has gone, recount the good things around me, and remind myself that worry and PPA are not the same thing. I don’t let myself talk myself into the downward spiral.

When I woke up today, I realized that my first thoughts were not about anxiety. They were about snuggling my baby before the other kids woke up. They were about savoring my cup of coffee early, and catching up on laundry. They were about how excited I am about the garden, and planning a canning schedule. My thoughts were normal. And, I finally realized that I am happy. A different kind of happy, a happy I haven’t felt in a long time.

I’m excited for this season of life. I look around and can’t believe that this is the life I get to live, day in and day out.

Deciding to have another baby was a huge leap of faith. Truthfully, it could have been bad. I mean, having a child is always worth whatever you go through to get there, but it could have cost us another very dark season. We chose to believe we wouldn’t. We decided to believe that God wanted to use this birth, this child to show us how far we have come.

And it has done just that, giving birth to Macie has brought this whole journey full circle.

It has shown me that its time. Time to move forward to the next season of life. Time to stop living in this shadow of PPA, of defining who I am because of it. Time to take what I have learned, all the good parts of my journey and carry them on into the next chapter. Its time to leave the hard parts behind, to say good bye to the fear, the worry and the pain.

I will always be open about my journey. I will always be willing to share my story. I will always listen to a mom share her struggles while she is in the depths of the battle…

But I won’t be there anymore. 2.5 years of my life is enough for PPA to have a hold of.

So, if your wondering, I’m okay. Things are great. I am happy, sleeping and enjoying summer with my kids. I am spending time with and dating my husband. I’m working along side him to build our homestead….

So you don’t have to ask if I’m okay.

I’m sitting here about to nurse my crying babe, with my kids fighting bed time, watching shark week and looking forward to the adventures that tomorrow will bring…

 

 

The name Macie is of French origin.

The meaning of Macie is “weapon”.

It is also of English origin, where its meaning is “gift of the Lord”.

It is also the female version of Maccius – a roman version of the name Matthew.

 

Life on The Homestead

I can’t believe that we have been in our home for as long as we have. This time last year, an old farmhouse with land, in a good area and not to far from family seemed like something that would never be attainable. We had just finally begun settling back to “normal” after a whirlwind move, followed by my 18 month battle with Postpartum Anxiety. We knew what we wanted, and we prayed and prayed for the right home, at the right price, to appear….

It felt like the kind of wish you wish for as a kid when you are about to blow out your candles – you know, the ones you know deep inside are asking for too much, but you still believe in the power of magic birthday candles enough to at least try?

Except,we were shown once again, that we weren’t wishing on magic candles, but instead pleading with the creator of the universe to fulfill this desire if it was His plan for us…

I mean, we felt like He had put it on our house to move home, save money, and figure out what we truly wanted our family to look like. A desire for a simpler life, one where we could get back in touch with who we were created to be, grew inside of each of us – without knowing what the other one was thinking. Until, one day we were planning goals for the future and realized that, in seeking the Lord’s will for each of our lives, that our desires and dreams had begun to take the same direction. We both envisioned a life for the girls filled with a love of the outdoors, working the land to produce and harvest our own foods, a barn with goats, chickens and a cow – all while being a short distance from family, work and Wegmans.

So, when we set out to look, we never dreamed we would find it. It just seemed as though we had too many desires: not only enough land in an area of the county that was less restrictive on its agricultural guidelines, but a house with character – old, but not falling apart – and big enough for all 6 members of our family.

We originally turned this house down. We just didn’t see the potential. There were things on our list that it didn’t have – a full size barn, pasture fencing, or many modern updates. It also had less land than we originally thought we wanted. So, we pulled our offer and kept looking…

only to be brought back to this home again and again. We could afford it. Most of the updates were cosmetic. We weren’t really ready for livestock just yet. It had enough bedrooms and a separate school room…

and then we realized that the amount of land was enough to do what we wanted to do according to the guidelines in the particular area this home was located in.

So we put in another offer, a little higher than our first knowing that there was some competition.

We waited….and waited….and waited….

and then we got the call. Our offer was accepted! We were so excited! But, a few things still needed to be worked out, so the owner decided he wanted to meet with us directly (apparently that isn’t normal real estate procedure?).

So Matt and I went out to the house to meet with the owners, who turned out to be an incredibly sweet, kind, caring and generous older couple. The man and Matt hit it off immediately and we were told the story of the day our offer came in…

The owner was driving to meet his real estate agent to sign an offer that he was going to accept, only he couldn’t remember where they were supposed to meet. Apparently, after going to the wrong place, he decided to just go back home and figure it all out later that day. While he was back at home, our offer came in – slightly higher and non contingent. If we had waited until the next day, the house would have escaped out grasp. It was as if it was all orchestrated to fulfill a part of our family’s plan…

And shortly after moving in, we knew that it had. This house has turned out to be more than we could have imagined. The girls are THRIVING here, we’ve made it our own, decided to add one more member to our family, drawn closer together and successfully finished our first full year of homeschooling.

We brought some baby chicks into our family, and built the a chicken coop. We’ve seen the girls grow in responsibility as they learn to care for the chickens, and our new farm dog Sophie, and we can’t wait to add more animals to our family a little at a time.

We’ve also begun our first garden here, and its huge. I can’t wait to see all of the vegetables growing on our property. We’ve discovered apple trees, pear trees, cherry trees and raspberry bushes as well. We can’t even believe how blessed we are.

Its amazing to feel as though we are exactly where we are supposed to be this season…

and since we are new to this whole lifestyle, I’m starting a new, semi-regular series, documenting all the ups and downs of building a homestead. It should be pretty comical, as I can barely keep flowers alive. We are reading and devouring everything we can on various topics, and then trying out what we have learned! Its been so much fun, and our home isn’t just a place we live anymore, but its also our hobby, our interest, and our refuge.

I’m including some pictures of the house itself, and parts of the yard, since I know some of you have been asking to see it. Its hard to get everything in a few pictures, but I’ll be adding more with each additional post, so stay tuned!

New Victories

I am writing this to you all from my death bed…

Okay – that was a little dramatic. But, my entire family has the flu (as in myself, my husband and all four girls), so its basically the same thing. I’m going back and forth between comforting sick kids, refilling juice cups, keeping track of times for tylenol and then falling asleep myself on the couch….

Its been, a little overwhelming….

but you know what I haven’t been doing?

Having a panic attack. And that’s huge for me…

This time last year (and I mean EXACTLY this time last year – the timing is insane) we were all home nursing a TERRIBLE stomach bug. And, I really mean TERRIBLE. We replaced every blanket and sheet in our house after that week since most of our kids weren’t able to understand how to NOT throw up on EVERYTHING. It lasted ten days and I was a wreck.

See, it was coming up on Holy Week and I had a million things planned for making Easter a  big deal in our house that year – and none of them involved the Easter bunny. I had spent weeks prepping and preparing these fun activities that taught my kids all about what Jesus had done for them, and why and I was SO EXCITED.

So when the bug hit, I was livid. I was sad. I was freaking out. My plans were ruined. My kids would have a horrible Easter. I tried everything that I could to end our stomach bug sooner. I cleaned floors, counters, furniture and beds again and again – even though I was just as sick as everyone else, in an effort to make us better in time for Easter weekend.

When I failed and Easter came, I melted into a puddle of anxiety and sadness. I had the first panic attack I had had in months, and that panic attack led into a month long anxiety relapse.

I was confused. I thought that I was healed from my struggle with anxiety. I felt defeated, broken, and back to square one.

What I hadn’t realized, was the amount of self sabotage there was during that week, and how much I still needed to learn from my battle with Postpartum Anxiety.

For some reason, letting go of everything that week and not being able to make my kids have a memorable Easter in spite of being sick made me feel like a failure….

On top of that, I didn’t make any of my own needs known that week. I didn’t try to make sure I was getting better. I wasn’t willing to just back up dirty laundry and wait until I was done throwing up every ten minutes to take care of it. I didn’t hop into bed the second everyone was sleeping. I didn’t ask anyone to drop off fluids, juice, medicines or food. I didn’t make a plan to trade off sleep with my sick husband so we could both heal…

I just pushed forward. I kept going, taking on everything myself and then falling apart when I couldn’t.

Self care has been a huge lesson I have learned over the last year. The first year of recovery from PPD was all about not being anxious anymore, but this last year has been me learning what different things may have triggered it, or made it worse…

One major thing is this notion that I need to do it all, and do it all alone. I CHOSE to have a big family, and I chose to stay at home. This is what I always wanted, and I LOVE almost every second of it.

But, it doesn’t make me weak to learn when I need help. It doesn’t make me a failure of a mom if I don’t run myself into the ground trying to do everything on my own. I am not less of a woman if I say I need to take a break, or I am too sick to take care of my kids on my own…

So this time around, from my hospital bed I texted friends and family and enlisted help. I lined up overnight sitters, allowed people to drop off goodies from the grocery store, I let the mess pile up for a few days and I slept…

Did I miss my kids?? Yes – a lot, it was harder than I thought.

Did I feel terrible that we didn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year with green pancakes and some Lord of Dance? Yes! I may have even cried a couple of tears…

but it wasn’t the pervasive, overwhelming anxiety and sense of failure that came with the PPA attacks, but the normal “I am a mom and I’m sick and hate being away from my kids anxiety…”

Now all of my kiddos are home, and all of them are at some varying stage of flu illness, but I’m not overwhelmed. I’m not panicking. I emailed the co-op coordinator and let them know we won’t be in class on Monday, church knows we won’t be there on Sunday, and I’m just going to play it by ear next week to see how early in the week we can leave the house….

I  have some fun Easter activities planned, but I have low expectations of getting them all done and I am okay with that.

I don’t ever want to go through PPD again, but I am so thankful for the testimony that it has given me. Had I never battled debilitating anxiety, I don’t know if I would have really learned how to take stock of what I need in order to be healthy. I may have continued running at 100 mph, without asking for any help, without taking care of me, and may have missed out on all of this great life in front me.

I am thankful for the occasions now that cause us to slow down, that allow me to stop and check in on how I am feeling and figure out what I need to do in order to make sure that I am the best me I can be for my family….

Virtue of the Month

Well…

I slacked off on my weekly posts for One Year of Intentional Homemaking. To be honest, I was overwhelmed. I had a million directions that I wanted to go in and I was still recovering from my PPOCD. I was afraid to try new things and share them with you because I was afraid of failing at them.

But, I am over it! And 2015 is going to be our year, I am telling you! So many things are happening within our family, and God just keeps opening so many doors. But the most important thing that He keeps bringing back to my attention is the importance of our home life being at the top of our priority list.

Matt and I had been talking a lot throughout January about things we wanted to change in our discipline methods (or lack of discipline methods), and what we wanted to really focus on this year. One thing we agreed on was changing our focus from behavior correction to heart correction. We have been learning a lot that when we change our own hearts, the behaviors that we desire for ourself follow. Learning that as an adult is HARD, so we wanted to switch gears and really focus our parenting on that this year.

But…How do you teach to matters of the heart? Our kids, for the most part, aren’t old enough for lectures and to be honest, I don’t really find lecturing all that effective. We correct behavior, have set consequences and make sure that we reward for good behavior too, but how do you get your kids to think about the WHY? How do we focus them on doing the right things for the right reasons, not just to earn a prize or avoid time out?

The answer isn’t found in the moments of correction, but its found in between them. So we talked about focusing on certain behaviors that we wanted to instill in our kids and that we wanted to work on ourselves.

God is so good. Whenever I begin to wonder if I am doing the right thing, He finds ways to respond to me so that I don’t have to doubt. Racing through Barnes and Noble while alone one day (I know – it never happens….) I came across a book that I hadn’t heard of, but its title made me want to take it home…

In this house, We will giggle.

It sounds so simple. But when you are in the throws of raising kids its hard. I had to stop and ask myself, how often do I just laugh with my kids? Do I spend more time being worried, or being busy, or being angry than just laughing with them? How often do I make sure that they know I enjoy them? I grabbed the book without even looking to see what it was about.

And it turns out that the entire book is about teaching your child’s heart. It goes through 12 biblical virtues and how to teach them (without lecturing) to your kids while learning to live them out with your family.

If you have not read this book – you should go buy it now! And no – I am not posting any affiliate links, and the author didn’t ask me for a review. This book has really begun to change the way our household is functioning in just days. And mostly because it is working on my heart more than the girls at this point.

So…

What are we doing?

For the last week of January and all of February we are focusing as a household on Joy. I had to go against every bone in my body that wanted to focus on something more “serious”, and now I am thoroughly convinced that this is where God wanted our family to start.

We hung up the memory verse in the kitchen, along with the kid friendly definition from the book:

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And we are making an effort to fix our eyes on Jesus and remember how much he desires us to be joyful in all things. We are working on pointing out to our kids things that they have to be thankful for. We are taking the time to praise our kids when we see them doing their work with a good attitude and ESPECIALLY when they do something to help out without being asked but simply because they wanted to help another family member. We are approaching negative attitudes in a different way, trying to get to the root of the attitude instead of focusing on the resulting behavior. Consequences are still being handed out, but its in a different manner. It is hard to not want to instantly punish and then ask questions later. It is hard for me to remember in the daily mess that there are things in that moment that should bring me so much joy. It is difficult to praise Jesus when your child is sick. It is incredibly difficult for me to remember to be an example of joy in reactions to my own problems and stresses.

But it is changing our family dynamic quicker than I ever thought possible. And it is bringing me closer to Jesus every time that I search for something to thank him for. As I thank him to show my kids, my heart is softening and growing closer to him too!

And I have been having so much fun allowing myself to break away from everything to just enjoy my kids. Giving myself permission to just let the messes happen, to play with them – to cancel everything we had planned for our normal busy Saturday and make a point to just spend time with them – has been the biggest blessing on this journey so far! I can’t wait to do more of the activities in the book and fill you in on the affects that they are having on not just the kids, but me as well.

Here are some pictures of what Joy looks like in the Morris Household!

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We took every blanket, pillow and cushion we could find and spent hours Thursday just playing in the living room. We had jump contests, pillow fights, tickle wars and just had a blast. We took breaks for chores and to eat, but we were in there the whole morning!

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The bigger girls and I took advantage of Emmy’s nap time today and bundled up to go and play on their playground! We spent the rest of today baking, watching movies and eating dinner. Saturday chores still were done, the house in clean and everyone is in their own bed exhausted from a day of fun at home.

My heart is so full of joy.

Thank you Jesus for opening my eyes this week.

Back To School…

Back to routine.

Thank goodness.

I love the holidays, I really do, but December always makes me realize how much more I enjoy our everyday life. I like to be busy, but the business that comes with the holidays plus the attitudes that come with exhausted and overwhelmed kids drives me a little nuts.

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(The girls at Bounce It Out over Christmas Break)

Today, I was so happy to get up early and have our normal routine back. I was sad to see Gabbi go back to school, but I was glad that she would be reunited with her friends and get back into her own weekly routine instead of bugging me DAILY for something to do.

The girls and I did our normal Monday morning meal preparation and made snacks for the week. We created our new reading nook, read stories and cleaned the house. Now, the girls are happily laying down watching their movie and I am enjoying the quiet calmness of our regular Monday quiet time.

Matt and I sat down a few days ago to really talk about what we wanted to focus on this year, and staying within our routine was one of the big ones. Our kids are at the age now where they need the regularly scheduled activities, chores and family time that comes along with having a weekly routine. We have always had a pretty lose routine, but I admit that I tend to change things up a bit and it drives Matt and the girls a little nuts.

My personality tends to lend itself more to spontaneity, busyness and flexibility. But, this season of life welcomes consistency. And we also want to focus on encouraging the girls to help out more, which requires set times for their chores and available time for extra privileges when they complete everything. I am not the best at staying on top of chores with the girls. I tend to quickly get frustrated and end up completing things myself to make things go quicker. This year I am going to be making an intentional effort and allowing for the time each day to teach the girls the proper way to complete their chores, as well as the time to allow them to get it done.

To encourage them and ourselves, we spent a little time revamping their old chore charts. Last year I posted about a magnet chart that I made for each of the girls. I liked the way that the charts looked, but the magnets were small and posed a serious choking hazard. I took Scarlet’s chart down and the time, and attached the magnets to cardstock to make them bigger. It worked great temporarily, but I wasn’t thrilled with the way that they looked. Plus, the yardstick wasn’t really thick enough to hold up to the girls constantly moving back and forth.

I grabbed a couple of supplies I had around the house and changed them into this:

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It actually was pretty easy, even for someone who isn’t that crafty like me! I sprayed over the baking sheets that I had already been using with this chalkboard spray paint:

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(This is one of my FAVORITE craft items in the whole world!!)

Then I let it dry overnight, and used these craftsmart paint markers in order to add the details and designs that I wanted to be permanent:

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Afterwards, I took some leftover laminated burlap that I am using for another easy project and decoupaged it to the original cardstock with the magnets already glued to the back. I used the paint markers to write the chores on the laminated burlap as well.

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To all of you “non-crafters” like me, I picked up all of these items at my local Walmart, and they were relatively inexpensive. I have been able to use them for all sorts of different crafts that I have wanted to try.

The little girls love being able to move their magnets from the to do side to the done side, and because the whole board is a chalkboard, I am easily able to update Gabbi’s weekly job without creating a ton of different magnets or wasting a bunch of paper.

That being said – a pretty chore chart isn’t going to enforce the chores on its own, so prayers that I would be able to be more consistent in this area of my parenting would be greatly appreciated!

Also, I am wondering..

What do you other mamas use to reward your toddlers for completed chores? Gabbi is highly driven by privileges and allowance, but the only thing my two year old would do with allowance is eat it or use it as a guitar pick. I want them to understand the feeling of earning something, but I am just not sure how to go about that at their ages…

The House May Have ALMOST Burned Down…

but Thank the Lord, it didn’t and we were able to pull ourselves together after our crazy Christmas Eve to have a wonderful and (gasp!) stress free Christmas!

The girls slept until 8 am, which was a present all on its own. I was up before them and was able to spend some quiet time with the Lord on His birthday prior to the girls getting up and it was wonderful. I snapped a few pictures of our tree and just waited in the quiet for the craziness to begin…

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Once the girls got up we made them wait while we got our cups of coffee ready and then we let them start opening their gifts. We made a commitment this year to getting each of the girls a few things that we knew they both needed and would LOVE, instead of bombarding them with a bunch of different things that we felt like they might enjoy. It turned out to be the most pleasant Christmas morning we have had yet as a family. The girls took their time with each gift and seemed equally enthralled with each one. I had so much fun watching them open them, and Matt and I received some really special things ourselves. I bought the new hunting day pack that Matt REALLY wanted from the girls this year, and he turned around and bought me the cast iron dutch oven I have been pining for since our first camping trip 6 months ago. And while that should have been my FAVORITE present, Gabbi gave me a little key chain with a letter about how proud she is of me for never giving up when life is hard that definitely took the top spot.

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We let the girls sit and think that they were done receiving gifts for a few minutes before we walked them back to their play room. Matt and I had been working for a few months on a kitchen made out of old end tables and we couldn’t believe that the moment had come to show them! I don’t have any idea how we managed to hide this gift from them for all this time, but they had NO IDEA.

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We have been blessed to have a membership to Strong Museum each year, and we tend to take the girls there often. The last few times that we have gone we spent nearly the entire time in the old kitchen that they have in the middle. We have had a plastic kitchen for awhile, but it didn’t hold a candle to the kitchen set up at the museum and we knew we just had to do something for the girls where they could have more fun playing house at home. So, in addition to the kitchen, we created a new dress up wardrobe to add to the play room. We were gifted with a wonderful little kids table and we cut up a set of sheets that didn’t fit any of the beds in our house and turned it into a cover for the plastic table and chairs. We left the couch out there and the TV and now the girls have their own playhouse inside our house! The best part is that is ENTIRE gift cost us less that $50. We sanded down the end tables and painted them with fresh coats of paint. Once we decided which table would work best for each piece, we got to work on the details. Matt handled sawing the hole in the top of one table for the sink, and we glued in (with some SERIOUS glue) a bowl to be the sink. The faucet is also glued down off to the side and the girls can really turn the handles. I got to work painting the top and front of the table picked to be the stove to make it look a bit more realistic. We stocked the fridge/pantry with dishes, utensils and pans picked up at a rummage sale, along with some empty food containers that we have been collecting and cleaning out over time! My mom completed their kitchen with some pretend food and a wooden sushi set.

For the wardrobe, we just removed some shelves from a bookshelf we already owned. We hung 8 hooks on the inside using command hooks (this way we can turn it back into a bookshelf later on once the girls outgrow it). We kept one shelf in to separate the hanging section from the two drawers at the bottom. We hung up their dresses on the hooks and filled the drawers full of a bunch of dress up accessories!

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The girl’s reaction was even more than we could have wished for! They jumped up and down, thanked us 1000 times and immediately began a game of house that lasted a little over 2 hours. I am so excited to watch them continue to play and use their imaginations back there.

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I am so thankful for the time I was able to spend wit my husband and girls, along with all of our extended family. I hope that everyone else had just as wonderful of a Christmas as we did! What were your kids favorite gifts this year? Did you get anything I should add to my list for next year!!??

Emmy’s First Birthday Party!!!

Um…

So I can not believe that Emerson is going to be one  in the morning…

ONE!

A whole year has gone by since she was born, and I can’t believe that I have made it to the end of the year and am just starting to look back on the emotional rollercoaster this year has been as memories instead of feeling like I am still stuck in it.

But, all of that is for another post, when I have more time to really gather all my thoughts on how I am really feeling.

Today I just want to share pictures of her birthday party!

Being the 4th, she doesn’t often get time that is all about her, but this past Saturday it was!! Enjoy…

 

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I just can’t get over how lucky we are to be this little girls parents. She has been the greatest blessing in the darkest year. I can’t believe that you are ONE!!!

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Fall Family Update

Between not sleeping and our crazy schedule, finding time to upload a ridiculous amount of pictures was hard to come by. This morning I decided it was time to just sit down and upload them. So here you are…

Pictures of our various fall adventures up to this point!

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All of the kids were too nervous to hold the parrot at The Garden Factory, but they all wanted Mommy and Daddy to do it.

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Autumn didn’t want to do most of the activities (like face painting), but she would at least pose with the pumpkins. Gabbi snuck off to the face painting alone and picked the goriest thing they offered and pretty much walked around with that look on her face the rest of the day! Scarlet wanted to practice being a cat!

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We had a fun fall party at Dave and Tiffany’s house in the beginning of the month. The girls had a blast and it was fun planning a bunch of little activities for them to do!

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Scarlet and Autumn gave up in about 30 seconds because they so desperately wanted to eat the donut. The bigger girls took nearly 20 minutes before finally giving up!

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The girls made these fun monster yogurt cups for a snack and the little girls went right to work painting their pumpkins. We ended up skipping about half of the things we had planned because they spent so much more time doing each activity than we anticipated! I’m looking forward to doing this again at Christmas time!

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This year, on our annual Cobble Creek farm visit, we were joined by our cousins!! The girls loved getting to spend some quality time with Esther and Jack!!

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3 generations of women ( and Jack!)

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Picking pumpkins was a lot of fun this year too. Gabbi and Scarlet were determined to find HUGE ones, Emerson thought that climbing all over them was the coolest thing, and Autumn was determined to find the perfect one and went around inspecting each pumpkin she came across.

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A surprise addition to our normal fall activities, Jamie Grace came out to Rochester to do a small concert at Bethel. Gabbi and I went with her closest friends for a truly awesome mother/daughter evening. We got to hear some incredible testimonies along with the awesome music, and the girls got to meet Jamie when it was over! George Dennehy opened up for her and if you have not had a chance to listen to this awesome man play his guitar and sing you should definitely look him up on YouTube.

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Our last stop this October was a trip to Stokoe Farms. It turned out to be a gorgeous day and the girls really got to experience all of the different activities this year. Their favorite was the Billy Goat Mountain slide, but the zip line was a pretty big hit for the older kids despite the long line.

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I just really cannot believe how fast these girls are growing!! I mean last year I felt like we were trick or treating with mostly babies and this year they were all going on the rides and each for to try out some newer big kid activities! We look forward to October every year, and this year did not disappoint! Make sure you check back this weekend to see pictures of our little girls transformed into Elsa, a cat and an angel!!

And also…

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I cannot believe that this little treasure is going to be turning ONE in less than a month!

I will be recapping her first year coming up in a few weeks!