27 December 2015

Dear Star Girl

Sweet Girl of Mine

First of all I wouldn't have survived these past few years without you my sweet.  You have helped me change diapers, make breakfast, clean rooms, entertain little ones, and you have done it well.

You have a natural way with children and we are sincerely blessed to have had you first.  You take care not only of your siblings but any small one you are around.

Let's talk about how awesome you are in school.  Julia you are one of the brightest most inquisitive child I know.  As a classroom teacher I have been around many, many children your age, and if you were in my class you probably would have had a word limit because you ask SO many questions!! But darling, that's so good.  You want to learn.  Even if it drives me absolutely bonkers most times your questions are truly good questions.  I especially adore your questions about the trinity and Jesus.  There is so much you want to figure out.  You remind me of your dad in that way.  You have that tender faith of a child and yet that curious, inquisitive mind of a true apologetic.  Let's just say, Daddy will have to continue to answer some of those deep spiritual questions you have!

I have loved homeschooling you these past 8 years (for the most part, we won't talk about Math time, lol).  My favorite parts consist of all the cool places we have visited, the aquariums, the science centers, the farms, the museums.  You are amazing to bring anyplace because you have fun anywhere.  You can bring light to any dark room.  I love the way your imagination works.  I love watching you skip into a new building ready to discover all of the adventures and knowledge the place will bring.  You are one of the most positive people I know.  Your joy brings us joy.  And you are always thankful on the car ride home.  I appreciate how you tell us your favorite part of the day and what you enjoyed best.

Well, Jules, this week is here!  This time it is all about you! (you know how mommy always says, the world doesn't revolve around you and to put others first) Well, this week we get to spoil you, and bless you, and remind you how wonderful you are and how blessed we are that God put you in our family.  There are so many great ways you have put a smile to all of our faces.  Now, mommy does NOT have favorites, but, like I have been telling you when you ask, I don't love you anymore than the other kids, but I have loved you the longest.  You are my firstborn, my sweet girl, my blessing, and I am so happy I am your Mom!

Happy Birthday, my sweet! I am so glad you were born.



10 December 2015

Three Thoughtful Gifts (Please Don't Think I'm a Bad Mom)

We LOVE Christmas BUT....

To all of you awesome parents out there...hear me out.  Please read my whole post before you think I am a bad mom or John is a bad dad.  We live in America.  We both work very, very hard.  And we have FOUR kids.  Our extended family is HUGE, we celebrate Christmas three times on Christmas day, once in the morning as a family of 6, next at brunch with my side of the family and in the afternoon and evening with John's side of the family.  Needless to say, our kids are completely spoiled and have tons of toys.  I mean tons.  It's getting to the point where we have to do trips to Goodwill before Christmas and after Christmas!  We have even told the wonderful grandparents, and aunts and uncles that each kid is only allowed to get one gift each because they were getting too much stuff.

So, John and I sat down a few months ago and we decided this is the year to pare down.  The big kids are almost 8 and 6 years old and their toys are getting more and more expensive (American Girl Dolls are $120 and big Lego sets are around $70) and forget electronics.  Everything is costly and we have to spread the love around times 4!  So we said to ourselves Jesus got 3 gifts when He was born and He was God!  Now, our kids will not be getting Gold, Frankincense, or Myrrh, but we will try to get them 3 gifts that are each unique and practical and fun!  Three sounded like a really, really good number to us.  So we told the big kids this year they are only getting 3 gifts each (and of course stocking stuffers don't count).

The whole point of celebrating Christmas is marveling at the birth of Christ and how He would come to earth in such a lowly way to bring us the sweetest gift of all...the gift of Himself and such a costly gift for not only did he come to be born but he came to die for our sins.  There is so much to teach the kids during this time of the year and it's getting harder and harder with all of the STUFF they get.  Many times I feel like they don't even play with half of the things we get them.  They like it for a minute and then they are asking for more, and saying what else did you buy me?

I told a few moms that I was doing this this year and I got mixed reviews.  Some moms were like do it, great, totally understand, and others were like, yea, good luck with that!  But the thing is, when we told Julia and Mark about our 3 gift rule they were totally fine.  They didn't complain, they didn't whine, they just said, ok!  

We will see how this year goes.  I guess it is easy for them to say ok since we didn't have Christmas yet, but I'm really hoping it's just a non-issue.  Let's be honest...do your kids really need anything?  Besides, new pajamas, socks and a new toothbrush every 3 months, most of our kids have so much already.  We live in such a saturated culture.  I'm just to the point where less is more and I want to teach my kids (however hard it may be) that is truly is better to give than to receive.

So, three gifts each it is!  I got the girls their gifts and John is in charge of buying the boys their gifts. Christmas shopping this year was so much easier and all of the gifts are wrapped and ready to go.

Now....I am still working on John's gifts. Hmmmmmm


07 December 2015

Cookie Cutter Kids

Cookie Cutter: marked by lack of originality or distinction, very similar to other things of the same kind : not original or different

After bringing home 4 different babies in the past 8 years I have learned one thing for certain not one of my kids is perfect and each of them is completely different from the other.  Each one has a very unique personality from day one.  They also come with strengths and weaknesses.  One of the hardest parts of our parenting job is helping to mold them and shape them into the people that God wants them to be.  For me, this has been my greatest challenge.

I grew up fearing authority, knew when to keep my mouth closed, and really sought to make my parents proud of me in school and in my extracurricular activities.  I was told that talking back was disrespectful.  I was taught to sit still and be quiet in church.  I can still remember the glares I got from my Dad as my feet swung back and forth in the church chairs.  We were never allowed to wear make up, nail polish, or chew gum.  And although my parents had three daughters none of us were allowed to pierce our ears until we were in high school.  When we went to school or church we were supposed to look and act a certain way.  Most of the time I felt like how I behaved on the outside was the most important.  Even if my thoughts and heart were far from what was good or right.

Very often I want my kids to just be quiet, follow all the rules I make up, and sit still, and sometimes I see their quirky personality traits as annoying instead of wonderful.  I know that this is wrong and unrealistic.  I know that kids need to talk, need to question, need to run, and I also know that I should be celebrating how unique they are.  But many times it is easier when they just conform to what I want, rather than what is best.  And many times I am so overwhelmed with 4 kids that even the talking and questions alone are enough to set me over the edge.

On a daily basis I have to remind myself that my job as a parent is to do what Proverbs 22: 6 says:

"Train up a child in the way he should go,And when he is old he will not depart from it."
My job is also to celebrate their personalities and differences!  Of course we need to reel them in when they are doing wrong things.  But being wild, or loud, or asking questions is not bad, the way I used to think it was or the way I grew up thinking.  I shouldn't expect my one son to act just like my other son.  I shouldn't expect my 7 year old daughter to act like a self controlled adult.

Many times I expect my kids to behave like adults and I get so frustrated when they don't.  It's comical almost.  They are kids.  They are learning.  And most times I just want control.  Let's face it...life with kids is all about being flexible, and realizing that sometimes life is just chaotic, loud, and slightly crazy.

The only reason why I am able to do half of the things I do is because I have an awesome husband who supports me and a gracious God who forgives me.  Did you ever in a million years realize that motherhood would be this hard?  Ah, but it is.  None of us has it easier than the next.  None of us has perfect cookie cutter kids.  All of us have our ups and downs, good days and bad days.

A friend reminded me awhile ago that when I start to feel hopeless or get down on myself start to think of all the ways that God has blessed me and think about the many good things He has done and will continue to do.  Stop focusing just on the bad stuff and start being reminded of all the good that is around you and in store for you.  It really does change your perspective.

And realize that some days it really is okay to just cry!


03 December 2015

Making Time For Reading: Guest Writer Kaitlin Krull

Making Time for Reading: How to Set up a Reading Routine with your Kids

At some point on the journey of parenthood, most of us will understand the struggle of getting children excited about reading. Turning something that can seem like a chore into a fun experience requires repetition and ingenuity. Help your kids have a positive association with reading by setting up a regular reading routine (and an awesome reading space). Here are some simple ideas from Modernize to get started. 

Start a routine
The best way to get your kids excited about regular reading is to do it yourself. While pretty much all parents know that it’s unrealistic to squeeze in some light reading on a daily basis, try to make it your personal practice to read a little almost every day. Newspapers, magazines, and young adult fiction count just as much as the classics, so don’t shy away from your guilty pleasures (unless it’s Cosmo, in which case maybe save that for after bedtime). 

Schedule a flexible reading time for kids of all ages, even babies and preschoolers. Children thrive on routine, so the more you encourage them to get reading, the more they will want to oblige. Sitting down with them for five or ten minutes at a time during the day is an excellent way to kickstart their reading routine. 

After you’ve set up your regular reading routine, make sure to keep it predictable. If you have a reading session just after lunch, try to stick to it as much as possible. The best way to stay regular is to have a designated spot for reading. Choose a quiet corner of the playroom or your kids’ bedroom and get to work decorating. 

Style your reading space

One of the most satisfying parts of reading is settling into a cozy place that can help you relax while you read. Once you’ve chosen your kids’ reading spot, it’s time to make it as comfortable as possible. 

If your reading corner is on the floor, consider laying out a high pile rug or soft faux sheepskin throw to make it extra soft and comfy. Add lots of big cushions, a blanket or two, and your kids’ favorite stuffed animals for group reading sessions. If you want to push the boat out, a canvas tent and twinkly fairy lights make for a magical reading experience and can later double up as a great den.

Keep books on or low to the ground for easy access, either in low bookshelves or wicker baskets. Most importantly, try to keep the area tidy. No one wants to spend time in a cluttered, messy space (apart from kids, but that’s beside the point) so encourage your little ones to put books away before choosing new ones.

Encourage independence
After you’ve set up your kids’ new reading corner, make sure they know how to use it themselves. While reading with your children is fantastic and definitely encouraged, it’s just as important to teach them how to access their reading materials independently. Accessible book storage is an excellent first step, so make sure everything is well within reach and there are no trip or fall hazards in the area. 

At reading time, encourage your kids to make their own book selections. As much as you may hate reading The Cat in the Hat for the hundredth time, there is something to be said for repetition. Perhaps your children are particularly interested in rhyming words or enjoy the singsong rhythm of the book. Whatever the reason, try to suspend your own personal agendas and go with the flow. 

Remember to continue to model your own reading routine alongside that of your kids. The more you read, the better chance your children will have of achieving regular independent reading time. 

Article by Kaitlin Krull


02 December 2015

One out of Four Kids...

There's Always One...

John and I have a running joke that one out of four kids will...fill in the blank and we've seen it.  But our middle son Micah has beat all the odds...he just does not follow in any of his older siblings footsteps...at all.

One out of four kids will pick their nose.

One out of four kids will not sleep through the night for a very long long long time.

One out of four kids will not potty train at 2 years old like they are supposed to, because they just aren't ready yet.

One out of four kids will only eat fruit, carbs and veggies when they are in the mood...meat is out of the question.  We celebrated when he finally ate a fish stick last month.

One out of four kids will not take a nap in their crib or their bed during nap time.  They will pass out in the car or fall asleep on the couch, or better yet in your arms.

One out of four kids will repeat exactly what he hears mommy say to the big kids sometimes, "Shut Your Mouth!"  (oh help)

One out of four kids will play outside in the back yard for hours with no coat on and be bare footed and be completely happy.

One out of four kids will drop their food on the floor and pick it up and EAT it!  

One out of four kids will drop food on the floor on purpose and lick the floor to eat it.  (do you see what I mean?)

One out of four kids will most likely be your biggest challenge, and yet be your sweetest treasure.  I promise.


30 November 2015

Making the Most of Family Time on the Weekends

Central Park Zoo in NYC

Family Time is Sacred Time

If I have learned anything about my children it is that quality family time means the WORLD to them.  And if I am honest with myself it's what I look forward to all week.  It's what makes Mondays so hard for all of us.  We miss the sweetness of being all together during Saturday and Sunday.  We have made the weekends a sacred time for family time and even though it's not always easy to make everyone happy we do our best.

One thing I consciously try to do during the week is a chore a day so that Saturday and Sunday are not huge chore days which means more play time.  For us that means an extra load of laundry each day, a thorough sweeping of the house, and constantly picking up after each other so that our home stays in order as much as possible.

Also, we try to do family activities that are low cost if not FREE.  We take advantage of corporate days John has been given in NYC to particular parks, museums, zoos, and aquariums.  The best part is we are admitted free and only may have to pay for parking!  I always pack snacks or lunch for us.

Simple activities like pumpkin picking, apple picking, a trip to the park, a walk in the mall, strolling downtown Princeton, walking through a farm or Rutger's gardens make memories with our kids that they will not soon forget.

I always loved a good movie night with my family growing up, but I am learning that my kids often would rather DO something than just sit around and watch a show.  Besides children are hands on learners and since I have a 1 year old, 2 year old, 6 year old, and almost 8 year old I love taking them to new places and exploring outdoors.


29 November 2015

Find The Gold

Life Giver

Proverbs 11: 27 
He who earnestly seeks good finds favor, but trouble will come to him who seeks evil.

As women, we are life givers, in so many senses of the word.  We can obviously grow and give life with our physical bodies.  But how often do we think about the life we can nurture with our words and our actions?  Just the way the planter plants the seed in the dirt and makes sure it is placed to get the proper light and pours water over it in hopes that a seedling will grow.  We too can build up and edify those people around us that God has so strategically placed.

I think of my four children and just how different they all are, and yet how similar they are when it comes to words of affirmation.  Julia my oldest is a very confident and outgoing girl and she thrives on words of affirmation.  It is amazing to see her flourish and blossom when I just utter a few positive comments to her before giving her a task or assignment.  Mark, my second child has a very negative view of himself, he is always skeptical/concerned about  of what others think of him.  We constantly have to remind him that he is fearfully and wonderfully made in God's image.  Micah is our third born and he is a fire cracker.  Nothing can bother him.  He doesn't care what others think, but if you give him a compliment oh my word you should see his dimples and watch how his eyes light up.  Amelia, our 1 year old we are still trying to figure out, but she loves to hear that she is a 'good girl,' and smiles when we say, 'good job!'.

Think of all the women or men in your life who have used their words to build you up and breathe life into your every day doings just by being uplifting and positive.  Isn't it sad that it is much easier to recall the people who have used their words or attitudes to make you feel small, belittle you or tear you down?

As a life giver you want your word and actions to be truthful and positive.  If you remember that God created the person you are talking to, and you also remember that God doesn't make mistakes, that we all have value and purpose and realize that He loves us with an unending love it is quite easy to use our words to build others up.

"The word encourage means "to inspire courage."  All of us have areas in which we feel insecure.  We lack courage, and that lack of courage often hinders us from accomplishing the positive things we would like to do."--The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I have a mentor that has always been such a positive influence on me because she always had such life giving words to share with me.  When I had my first daughter and I felt like such a failure.  I couldn't breast feed correctly, I was trying to get Julia on a schedule, I was getting no sleep those first 3 weeks and all I wanted to do was give up and cry.  My friend sent me a card that said, "You are the best mother for Julia.  No one else in the world could be the mom you can be for her."  Those words encouraged me so much and they pushed me to be that awesome mom she spoke of!  They gave me the ability to see past my circumstances and see the big picture.

Another sweet sister in the Lord has always found the gold in my life.  Whether it be the fact that I am organized, or maybe say only good things about my husband in public (let's face it, my husband is pretty perfect) or the fact that I try to plan fun outings for my kids so that we don't sit home and watch t.v. all day, she just always compliments me and tells me how she sees me growing in the Lord.  She inspires me and makes me feel so good about myself when I am with her.  After spending a few hours with her I feel like I am on cloud 9!  I feel like her number one focus as a friend has always been to find the gold.  And she is always very honest about things she sees in my life that may need prayer or change or correcting.  But because she has been a safe person whom I know loves me and often finds the positive I take criticism from her very differently than I would say a person who I barely know.

Our words are so very powerful.  I am thankful for the people God has placed in my life to be the inspiring life givers because they have pushed me forward and helped me to get through many challenges I faced as a wife, mother, and friend.

Proverbs 25: 11-13 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.  Like the cold snow in time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him, for he refreshes the soul of his masters.


21 September 2015

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Friend

A Friend Loves At All Times (Proverbs  17:17)

I don't know if it's old age or the fact that I'm a mom or the fact that I live in the northeast but I have turned into a horrible friend.  I always thought I was one of those people who would send cards at just the right moment, call to chit chat randomly throughout the week, remember everyone's birthday and anniversary (without the help of Facebook), memorize children's names and ages, and remember to send care packages for the holidays and just because.


I can't keep up.  Whether it's summer time, fall, winter or spring I always find myself wondering how in the world is it the END of  September (or fill in the month) already?!  I haven't seen or talked to half of the friends I wanted to, and I still have a birthday party to plan, curriculum to buy, memory books to make, doctor's appointments to schedule, christmas shopping to start....the list goes on and on.  

How does one be a good friend to those she loves AND be a good wife, mom, daughter, sister, etc?  

It frustrates me to no end that I can't take a twenty minute phone call, or read a book, or think clearly, or remember the years my kids were born in.  How did I become this person?!  I am MISS CONGENIALITY for crying out loud!  I love people! I love staying connected and keeping up.  How do I choose between friend and family or friend and spouse or friend and laundry?  

Over the summer I was at my bestie's mother's 65th surprise party and most of the time I was worried about my kids behaving and not running, more than spending time with my friend.  I was so preoccupied with keeping everyone quiet and together, and keeping Micah from flashing everyone his tummy (could he please keep his shirt down?) that I missed out on the joy of just being there.  I hate that!

This past week our mentor at MOPS spoke about how she had to give up friendships during the time when her kids were small.  She had "friends" get mad at her for not returning phone calls and she realized, listen if they can't understand that I am in over my head, and give me some grace, then maybe I am not the friend they need.

I think we as women can be very hard on ourselves and each other. If there is any advice I will pass on to my girls when they get older it will be that when you have a young family, and by that I mean kids who are still nursing, or in diapers, or toddling around your home, then you may have to for a season focus on your family and not see your friends as much as you used to.  But!  But there will be friends that it won't matter how many times you called during the month, or how often you sent a card, all that will matter is that you can pick up wherever you left off and it will still be wonderful.

I am thankful for those types of friendships.  The ones who give me lots of grace through all the ups and downs of motherhood.  That's another thing I will teach my girls.  Give your friends tons of grace.  We all make mistakes, we are all imperfect, we all need lots of forgiveness and loads of grace.  

No one intends on being the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, friend.  But sometimes, you just can't help it.

The beauty of a friend loving at all times is that even through your busy times, sad times, chaotic or don't even think about calling me right now times...your REAL friends (the ones who are in it for the long haul) love you no matter what, they "get" you and they know that you will come around again!  Sometimes loving a friend is giving them space, listening when they do call, helping when they are hurt or overwhelmed, and even them just knowing you are a safe place to fall is wonderful too.


27 August 2015

When Mom Fails... #notfinefriday

No One is Perfect...No Not One

All I ever wanted was to be the kind of mom who had cookies and milk on the table after school, the mom who carpooled on time, the mom who cheered for her kids at their sport of choice, the mom who came to recitals and beamed.  

But, the moment Julia was born, almost 8 years ago, I realized that all my hopes of an easy motherhood journey were very, very naive.  I didn't realize how messy, chaotic, and difficult it would be.  I didn't realize that there would be moments I would raise my voice at my kids and say the S-word...in our home you do NOT say SHUT UP.  I never realized that I would actually get angry at a 2 year old.  I didn't know that there would be times I would want to hide in the bathroom and not even want to come out.

Nobody tells you how tired you will be during the day, how worried you will get when they get hurt, or how frustrating it is to tell your 2 year old for the 25th time to sit down and put their seat belt ON!  No one prepares you for the late nights, the ear infections, the fevers, the time outs, the utter exhaustion you feel.  There isn't a class that you can take that explains how you answer a 5 year olds questions, or how you prepare your child for the first day of school, or how to do it all right all the time.

Most days you just feel lucky to have everyone in their room at night, teeth brushed or not.  Some days you feel peaceful and happy, and other days you wish you could re-do start to finish.  Sometimes you pat yourself on the back for the good meal you made, the field trip you planned that went well and you may even get to enjoy a compliment from a stranger about the behavior of your kids.  Other days you'll just look yourself in the mirror at night and wonder, why, why did God give me these kids?  How in the world am I supposed to raise up honorable citizens when they don't even follow simple directions!?

This week I took my kids to a play date at Liberty Science Center.  My friend brought her 3 kids and I brought all of my crew.  Two moms and 7 kids... not an easy task.  We weren't able to talk much since we were watching everyone and making sure no one got lost, and praying they would all have fun with each other.  As we watched all of the big kids lined up to see the snakes, turtles, and spiders presentation table we both had a moment of awe.  We held the younger ones in our arms and kind of sighed at the beauty of the moment.  Julia kept looking over to check on me.  My friend said, "She LOVES you."  I didn't really know what she meant, so I gave her this quizzical look.  She said it again, "Julia LOVES you. She keeps looking back at you because she wants to make sure what she is doing is right."

I thought about that comment the whole ride home.  Nicole and I are new friends.  She just moved to NJ and she just started attending our church.  And yet she made this observation that a couple of my other friends have made and I don't think I ever stopped to really pay attention to.

I don't always get this motherhood thing right.  I literally fail everyday.  Whether it be losing my patience, or a bad attitude or a hurtful comment, I just don't get it right... and it pains me and it's so frustrating.  Because deep down all I want to do is a really good job at it.  I didn't become a stay at home mom to stink at it.  I did it intentionally.  I became a stay at home mom because both John and I truly have felt that God called me to stay home for awhile.  

  Growing up in my home where both parents worked in the city meant very long hours away from home and very little time with family.  As a little girl I was in before care, school and then after care or a babysitter.  We never had meals together...never, maybe on the holidays but even then both my parents rarely sat down.  These were all things that I said to myself growing up, "I want to do that differently."  I fail everyday as a mom.  I make mistakes.  But my children STILL love me.  They still LOVE me.  Despite all my failures, all my mistakes they look at me with tender and open eyes wanting my approval and always giving me a second chance.

Yea, I don't deserve that. But because of that love it does help me to want to be better the next day.  The mistakes I make today, hopefully I won't make tomorrow.  I want to become a positive role model for them.  After all, they mimic everything I say and do.  They mimic the good and they certainly mimic the bad.

When Nicole made that simple observation this week, it made me so thankful for my kids unconditional love.  And it definitely made me think of Jesus.  He loves me like that too.  I don't deserve it.  I mess up.  I make a ton of mistakes.  But He STILL LOVES me.  And it just makes me thankful, and grateful, and it makes me want to love people like that.

How often do we look at people with approval in our eyes and an openness to love?  Do we even look people in the eyes?  And do we really see people?  My daughter Julia has been teaching me little lessons like this since birth.  Another beautiful thing about motherhood is that you think you are going to teach them everything, and really it is such a give and take relationship.  They are always teaching us along the way too.

This has been a very difficult week for us.  We came back from vacation and visited the Emergency Room twice.  Once on Saturday with Micah our 2 year old, and again yesterday with Mark our 6 year old.  Both boys are okay now, but being a parent is TOUGH.  It's so much work.  It's so much patience.  It's so hard.  I keep thinking back to that sweet reminder from my friend.  She made me feel like maybe, just maybe I was doing okay as a mom.  Her words inspired me to be a good mom because I have 4 kids who need me to be!  And those 4 kids deserve a good mom even when circumstances around us are not always easy.


04 August 2015

12 Years in Love

Our Anniversary

God put love in our hearts at a young age.    We met at age 16 in Junior Year of High School.  He also taught us what it meant to wait and be patient and just how important prayer can be.

Love is never easy.  There is so much sacrifice and dying to one self.  Marriage is a lot of work, but when God knits two hearts together, and you are willing to keep Christ at the center it can truly be such a blessing.

When we went through pre-marital counseling our pastor stressed 3 very important things that we have kept at the crux of our marriage.  

First of all marriage is not 50/50.  

Marriage is 100/100.  You give it your all.  It's two people vowing that no matter what they will give their spouse their best.  At our wedding we wrote and read our own vows because we wanted our families to hear our love story and our testimony, but many people read the traditional vows which state "...for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do you part."  No matter what you go through in life, through the good times and bad times, (especially the bad times) it is all about sticking it out, staying together, and supporting each other.  I love the concept in the movie Fireproof: "You never leave your partner."  When times are hard that is when you stand closer and hold on tighter and pray through it.  Fire refines and we have found through difficult situations that our love proved even stronger and made us closer.

Never Go to Bed Angry

Our pastor told us that it is crucial to have good communication and to forgive quickly and not let anger simmer or fester.  Easier said than done, especially for someone like me who doesn't forgive quickly and likes to simmer.  (such a horrible trait I know)  John is pretty near perfect when it comes to conflict/resolution.  He hates arguments or seeing me upset and he likes to deal with things quickly but I need a lot of time and space and that does not sit well with John.  We have learned it is so much better to just talk it out however painful the talk may be.  There was one recent incident in which we were having a midnight talk and talking through hurt feelings and I went downstairs to get some space and was on the couch...waiting for John to come downstairs to talk more...he never came...he ended up falling asleep in our bed and at 3am found me on the couch and said, "Kristi what are you doing down here!"  I fell asleep too and said, "But I was waiting for you!" There's also the Bible verse that says, "don't let the sun go down on your anger."  It really is true that if you really want things to go well for your marriage forgiveness and open communication is so important!

Get Alone/Go Away with your spouse 

One of my favorite pieces of advice from Pastor Joe during pre-marital counseling was the part about going away with your spouse at least once a year!  Oh those first 5 years of marriage (sans kids) that was so easy!  We had date nights often, we went on two vacations a year, we traveled across the globe!  London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, China, Mexico, D.R., so many trips!  After kids...although we don't go very far we do make sure each month we have a date night out of the house and during the month several date nights where we watch a movie together, or go out to eat, or even just take a trip to NYC together.  I thank God for the blessings of those far away trips at the beginning of our marriage because we really got to know each other better and those trips are so great to look back on and share with our kids, and I know our family vacations and date nights are special too.

If anything is praise worthy or good in our marriage, all the glory goes to God.  We found each other because of Him, He made it work, He grew our love, and He continues to do so...we could never have the marriage we have always wanted without the blessing or wisdom from Him.  Marriage is a lot of work.  It takes time, patience, energy, and all of you.  But it is so worth it!  I can't imagine one single moment without John.  I'm so thankful for him.

August 8th, 2015 marks 12 years in love...and I can't wait til this weekend to celebrate even more!


30 July 2015

Not Fine Friday...The Dreaded Hormones

The Dreaded Hormones

Maybe I was supposed to know this was going to happen.  Maybe I was supposed to be prepared, but when your independent, free-spirit, happy go lucky child starts crying all the time, having separation anxiety, and begins taking naps again, it's hard to explain the shock I felt.

Julia will be 8 in December.  I know this girl like the back of my hand.  We are together all of the time.  She is your typical extrovert.  She is sweet, loud, funny, and always the life of the party.  She can make it sunny during a thunder storm.  But the past 2 weeks she has been different.

It all started at a girl birthday spa party.  We had a long week at Vacation Bible School and one of Julia's closest homeschool friend's Olivia (her mom Bianca was one of my close child hood friends) and I knew Julia was tired.  The party started at 5:00...Julia was so excited!  She got dressed up (even though it was a pajama party) she brought her sleeping bag, and her American Girl doll Rebecca.  The girls were going to get facials, manicures, pedicures, eat dinner and then watch the newest AG doll movie.  At 8:30 my cell rang...Bianca was so surprised because she is used to Julia being bubbly and by that time Julia was weepy, "I miss my mom, I want to go home, please call my mom to come get me."  Not a problem we live 3 minutes away and I planned on picking her up by 9:30/10 anyway.

But what surprised me was that she said she missed me.  We were together the whole day.  I asked if she had fun and she did, so why on earth would she want to leave the party before the movie started?  Anyway I let it go...and then came Sunday...

Sunday is family day.  Always.  No exceptions.  We went to church.  We cleaned the church afterwards, and then we headed to the Lambertson's house to swim in the pool and eat dinner.  John and I planned to go out on a date Sunday evening and my sister Sara was coming to babysit.  All day Julia kept asking us, "But why do you have to go on a date?"  "Why mom? We are supposed to be together all day?"  I explained that we would be together all day and then at night John and I were going on our date case closed.  She asked at least 3 more times throughout the day and kept harping on it, and really making us feel guilty that we wanted a date.  "I miss you mom, why are you going?"

I don't get it.  I'm a stay at home mom.  I see her all day long.  All. Day. Long.  I'm always home.  We are always together! John and I really needed to get out and have a date and be together and she was making me feel so bad about it.

So my sister comes over and Julia barely says hi to her.  And Aunt Sara is literally her favorite person in the world.  Julia! Aunt Sara is here!  Say hello!  Come over here.  She walks out of the room!  Then I called her back in and she sat down at the breakfast nook and we had a chat...then the tears came..."Why do you have to go?  It's dark out!  You should be home.  How close is the restaurant?  How long will you be gone?  Will you kiss me when you get home?"  Hysterically crying!

That's when I had my Aha (God) moment.  This girl is changing...it has to be hormonal because nothing else has changed.  So I sat her down and we chatted.  I explained that what she was feeling was completely normal.  I explained that girls have these hormones in their body that make them happy or sad or confused sometimes at the weirdest moments.  (The movie Inside/Out really helped)  I explained that it was ok to be nervous or upset but that everything was ok, Aunt Sara was going to be with them, and that bedtime would be the same routine as always and that we wouldn't be long.  I told her that as she grows these hormones might make her feel sad or anxious and that it would be good to talk about it.  So she cried some more and explained how lately she just doesn't want to be away from me, especially at night, that she feels safer at home, and that she just wants to know we are going to be close.

The hard part of being a good parent is knowing when to push your child and when to just comfort and coddle.  We hugged it out and then we went out.

Sara said she went to be fine, so that was good, then Wednesday night happened...

This past Wednesday, the Dimares wanted to take the big kids to Six Flags Great Adventure.  This would be their first time and Mark was so excited to go.  They were supposed to go last year but RoRo had a birth to tend to and had to cancel.  I could tell Julia didn't want to go...who doesn't want to go to six flags?  I kept telling her about the rides, the cotton candy, showed her pics online...nothing I said made her want to go.  "Mom I just want to be with you."  "Mom it's going to be dark."  "I have a head ache."  "My stomach hurts."  Finally at 5:00 I lost it.  "Julia, you are going!  You are not sick, you are going to have fun, and you need to tell yourself I am going to have a good time, I am going to have a good attitude."  At 6pm when the Dimares came to pick them up...she was hysterically crying.  

I was so tempted to keep her home, but I knew the minute Mark got home she would regret her decision and be jealous she didn't go.  So my gut told me to push her to go.  Oh, I felt horrible.  My kid is hysterically crying and I am making her go to Great Adventure.


Roe texted me about 5 minutes later and said the tears stopped and she was totally fine.

When they finally got home at 10pm Julia ran in and said, "Mom, we had a GREAT time!"  Oh, what a relief.  It felt good to know that she came out of it and allowed herself to have fun even in the midst of her anxiety.  Lots of prayer has been over this child lately.

I knew having daughters would be rough with all of the emotions and hormones but I didn't know it would happen so soon.  I keep feeling like I have no idea what to do with this kid.  During the week she cried at VBS on Monday and Tuesday, so we took Wednesday and Thursday off and just stayed closer to home.  She was crying in the bathroom at crossroads church both days...and no one knows why.  I think because she wanted me to hurry up and pick her up.  

I've talked to several moms with older daughters and they confirmed that third grade is the year of coming of age in a way.  Girls become more aware of life and death.  They start realizing that people you love sometimes die or get sick.  They start to understand the world in a bigger way and from a different perspective and things that they normally enjoyed doing now may seem scary or overwhelming.

So I am taking it day by day.  Today was a good day for the most part.  But that's because we were home all day in her comfort zone. Tomorrow we venture out into the world.  Sometimes the world is a scary place.  I keep reminding Julia to pray during those moments.  And I tell her to ask God to give her peace.

The thing is when your child is suffering, you suffer.  When they are struggling, you struggle.  It's my job as a mom to make life wonderful for her and it kills me to see her so sad, and nervous, and  sensitive.  I just want her to be okay.  I want her to be happy go lucky again and to not worry so much.

And to think...we haven't even hit puberty...


29 July 2015

8th Day Cafe...The 300...My husband's latest project!

Just Another Project?

We've been married for almost 12 years now...in 10 days we celebrate our official wedding anniversary.  And if there's one thing that drives me absolutely nuts about my husband it's that he is always working on another project!

His first big project was starting Seminary almost immediately after we got married, then when we moved into our second home in Aberdeen it was the "house" project, then it was switching careers, then hobbies, there is just always something John is working on, or passionate about, and although it keeps him very busy I can see that much of it is what makes him, John.  He's a go getter, he's a multi-tasker, he pays attention to details, and He's always coming up with new ideas or new ways to make life easier or better, especially for those around him.

Sometimes, I get frustrated because we have so many little people in our home and sometimes Daddy's "projects" seem to get on Mommy's nerves, because mommy wants a break from her 4 projects, Julia, Mark, Micah, and Amelia...but...I can't change John, and I actually  admire his spunk, passion, and work ethic.  I am just waiting for him to finally sit still and just breathe...but one day we will.

Christianne and Grant have been dear friends of ours for a very long time.  They also have a passion and a heart to serve their community in Kolkata, India.  They have opened up a bakery in India in hopes to rescue women out of a life of prostitution and slavery and into a safe environment where they can earn a living and be proud of what they do.

Christianne and I go way back to the age of 5 at pioneer girls at church.  When Christianne got engaged to Grant they visited us and shared with us their heart for India and the women there and this amazing idea of a bakery.  And now it is here!  And they are looking to build/start a second bakery and location.  It is amazing how dreaming big and thinking outside of the box and putting others first really has changed their way of life and how they have positively impacted these women's lives forever!

My husband John is doing a Spartan race.  He is doing it twofold, to get back in shape and also to raise money for Grant and Christianne's 8th Day Cafe.  Will you support us?  Will you join us?  Will you dream big with us and think outside the box, and perhaps open up your heart?  John has already raised over $2000.  His goal is to have 300 supporters.  People have donated $25, $100, $300...it's whatever you feel led to give.  

Check out this interview we did with the Walsh's (Grant and Christianne are also our son Micah's god parents...they are truly an amazing, godly, and inspiring couple).

Thanks for reading this!  This is not just another project.  I am excited to see how passionate John is about this and even more excited to see what God is doing in Kolkata, India in the lives of the people there.

Thank you to all of you who have donated and joined John's 300!  It's really exciting to see so much support in such a small amount of time!  We feel really loved and we are so excited to bless Grant and Christianne in this way.  They are doing an amazing job and have sacrificed so much just to love on people.  I want to be like them when I grow up!


01 July 2015

Stitch Fix is Amazing! My passion for fashion!

Three Reasons Why I Stitch Fix:

Gone are the days that I can shop with my kids in tow!

I have a 7, 6, 2 and 10 month old.  Can you imagine all 5 of us in a fitting room?  No one sits still.  No one cooperates.  And mommy gets to strip down naked in front of her older kids who now actually care.  Negative!  Taking a 1 or 2 year old shopping might be okay.  Taking 1 or 2 kids might be okay.  But for me, I just can't do it.  I can't concentrate.  I can't think.  And most times I end up leaving the store without buying anything.  Stitch fix is great because a box is delivered to the comfort of your own home, you have time to go to your own room.  Model the clothes in front of your own mirror.  And you don't feel rushed or stressed as you look through everything.

I like keeping up with the trends!

Call me crazy, but I like to look nice.  Yes, even stay at home moms care how they look.  I've always had a passion for fashion and now even more so I like to look presentable when we go out as a family on a field trip, when we head out to church, and on date nights!  I like my figure and I want to dress appropriately.  What I love about stitch fix is that your personal stylist listens to the survey that you fill out when you sign up.  I wrote very specifically that I do not want cleavage showing.  I also wrote that I want bright colors because I tend to buy lots of blacks and grays.  I also can let her know if I have an event coming up like a photo shoot, or a wedding, or that we are about to celebrate my daughters birthday and will be hosting a big party.  She takes all of those things into consideration and adds pieces in each box that are geared to not only your style and size, but the event you are planning.

I love the idea of having my very own stylist!

How cool is it when someone goes shopping with you and they honestly tell you how you look in the clothes you try on and they recommend the perfect outfit for your body type?  It is a rare and unique gift.  The women at Stitch Fix have a great ability in really listening to what you say you need and are looking for and put outfits together in a trendy way.  They also give you a spread sheet with how to mix and match the pieces they send you.  I save these sheets and keep them in my closet or next to my mirror so the next time I put together an outfit I try to mimic the ideas they give.  It's amazing how adding a piece of jewelry or a jean jacket can totally give your outfit a new look.  

How can you get your next fix?  Click on the link above and fill out your own survey and schedule your first fix.  What is the worst that can happen?  Out of the 5 pieces they send you, you can pick what you want to keep or send them back for free.  If you even keep only one item the $20 stylist fee is waved.  It's a win-win.  And trust me you will like what they send you!  You tell them your budget, what you're looking for, your size, and it's their job to go shopping for you! How great is that?


26 June 2015

Suffering in Silence

My Struggle With Panic Attacks

The panic attacks started towards the end of high school.  I was your typical over achiever with a lot of things on my plate between being involved in plays, clubs, AP classes, choir, not to mention issues at home, and I wasn't a talker.  I was a stuffer.  All my emotions, worries, feelings, stresses, I kept to myself.  I had lots of friends, and several best friends, but because of my home life and my other stressors... I didn't feel people wanted to hear about those things.  I preferred to keep my problems a secret.

It was a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach and the bottom of my throat.  All of the sudden I wouldn't be able to breathe.  I would get anxious, and I would just want to scream or cry and at one point just fall to my knees.  I would work myself to exhaustion.  I would go go go and not take time to just sit and rest and think about things.  I have always preferred to keep a high paced life.  I'm not one to sleep in, or sip my coffee, or mope about the house.  The minute I'm up, the race begins.

The worries, and stresses of life didn't go away.  It got so bad during my senior year that I finally sought help with a guidance counselor.  She sat me down and very calmly but matter of factly stated, "Kristi, you just had a panic attack."  I remember her reaching into her small fridge in her office and grabbing me a mini water.  As I sat there and drank it down, it was the first time I felt relief.  I was ready to stop running.  I was ready to start opening up and talking about the things at home that were bothering me.  And I was thankful that this woman had a name for what I was feeling.

I sat there and we talked.  I explained some issues I was facing at home, and she listened.  I told her how alone and overwhelmed I felt.  I told her I was often angry and anxious and didn't know why. She recommend some support groups... I never took her up on that offer.  But later in college I did see a counselor often to talk.  It helped a lot.

My panic attacks stopped after that.  I thought they were gone for good.  And actually I even forgot about them and my struggle with them...until I became a mom.  And once I had Amelia...our fourth...they started coming much more frequently.   Between the crazy move, and the fourth kid, and homeschooling, managing a home, cooking meals, cleaning, being involved at church...I just really lost it.  There were times I pictured myself not being here anymore.  I really struggled with doing it all and being everything to everyone.  I lost who I was, what my purpose was, and I felt everything starting to slip out of my hands...and I was sinking, down, down, down in quick sand, and no one, not even John could help me.  I was here all alone with these 4 children.  And I just couldn't keep up.

And then as if matters couldn't get any worse, a panic attack would hit me head on.  It would happen before guests would arrive, or after dinner time when trying to bathe 4 kids, and pick up the house, and keep the peace seemed like the most daunting task ever. I.  Can't.  Do. This.  I would text John that line frequently.  The attacks got really bad during January, February, and March.  We all got the flu, one by one, and while I'm bringing kids to the doctors for ear infections, and nursing a newborn, and feeling sick myself, I just wondered what more I could take.

Anxiety is one of the worst feelings because how do you explain to a friend that you feel like you're falling apart or you would rather not be here when you should be happy?  I mean what do I have to complain about?  I have an awesome husband, a big house, 4 beautiful and healthy kids, come on lady, suck it up and get with the program, right?  Who am I to complain?  I'm tough! I'm super woman!  No.  I'm not.  I'm just a human trying to make it.  So I didn't tell anyone.  This is the first time I'm even writing about it.  Yes, I say it's hard having four kids all the time, but I often don't say just how hard it really is.

So, how did I get to grips with these attacks?  Well, first I realized they were hormonal.  They usually happened right around my cycle.  And that was very eye opening for me although I should've known that it would be that simple.  I also needed to tell someone I was struggling with them, so back in February/March I opened up to my prayer warrior friend Debi.  I was praying for her and her cancer journey and I felt close enough to share with her what I was going through.  I have to say it was very humbling and made me feel very vulnerable to tell her I was struggling with feeling so out of sorts.  She even mentioned she was surprised because I make having four kids look so easy, but we all know that appearances are not always what they seem.

Knowing that Debi, and two other special prayer warriors in our group were praying for me really did encourage me that I wasn't alone.  It also forced me to talk about it more with John and to pray about it on my own.

I wish I could say I haven't had an attack for several months.  But the truth is I still occasionally get them.  I think as a perfectionist (my pride always gets the best of me) it will always be a struggle of mine.  I want things to go a certain way and look a certain way, and life with 6 of us under a roof isn't meant to be quiet, calm, or perfect.  Life is messy.  Life is chaotic.  And life is noisy.  (My three pet pieves.  

A verse that I always cling to is Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I will always cling to God.  In the good moments I cling to Him because He has blessed me, and in the scary moments I can cling to Him when I am afraid.  He is such a good God because He is always there.  I am not ever alone.  During the winter months especially I started to get depressed being indoors.  I just wanted to get out of the house!  It was so cold!  It kept snowing!  I was getting so impatient.  But God was right there with me, encouraging me along the way.  I had to learn too, that I can't rely on people.  I need to put Him first and go to Him first.  God is my strength.  He helps me and upholds me when I can't do it and when I can do it, it is because He is helping me!  I don't have to be super woman because I serve an extraordinary-super God.  

Breaking the silence and talking about my panic attacks isn't easy.  I had to admit that I don't have it all together.  I do struggle day to day.  I have good days and bad days.  But it sure feels good to talk about it finally and to share.  I know I am not alone.  So many of us suffer in silence instead of sharing our stories.  And our stories are so powerful because God has made us in His image and we all have a purpose.  If I have learned anything from my home life it is that it is never good to suffer in silence.  We are meant to connect with people and cling to our creator!

This post was inspired by my friend Christa Cordova.  She encouraged a group of us to blog about each of our unique stories of how God works through our struggles and redeems our circumstances.  #notfinefriday


21 June 2015

Father's Day...everyday

Father of the Year

No matter what John puts his mind to, his heart and body are there 100%.

John has been an amazing Dad from the moment we found out we were pregnant with Julia.  Actually even before we got pregnant with Julia I had a glimpse at just how wonderful he would be because he always put me first.  He always did things with me and my needs in consideration and we all know that once you have kids it's not about you anymore it's about their needs.

John is faithful.

I trust John with my life.  He is always there for me.  He is always doing his best.  He is trust worthy and honest and we can count on him.  He faithfully goes to work.  He provides for all of our needs.  He is helping others in our community and he is someone I look up to.  He is involved with more than just his own personal needs and life.  He is constantly looking to God to mold him and shape him into the man God wants him to be.  And because of his faith in God he is faithful in the responsibilities God has set before him.

John is hard working.

John has 3 jobs.  He works in the city as a financial advisor, he owns a Taekwondo school, AND he's a dad/husband!  He's amazing.  How he balances it all is only by the grace of Jesus.  I know there are times he feels overwhelmed and stressed and I know it is during  those moments that I need to help him to relax and feel like I have his back and support all that he does outside of the home.   I love the role model he is for our kids because they know that since Daddy works so hard, Mommy is able to stay home full time and be available to them.

John is compassionate.

If you have never met John you wouldn't know this from pictures or stories, but if you've met him you would hear it in his voice.  You would see it on his face.  You would just sense that he cares deeply, loves deeply, and is just aware of people in a very tender and special way.  He is really just the best.  He puts others first.  He truly looks out for his fellow man.  Jesus has given him a special heart for others.

John is gentle.

I see this when I watch John hold our babies.  I love seeing him kiss boo boos and wrap injured fingers with band aids.  I adore watching him talk to Amelia our 9 month old and making the bigger kids laugh.  He is such a gentle Dad.  He loves his children and he tells them and lets them know it.  He never has to raise his voice because they are so aware of him.

John is reliable.

If John tells the kids he is taking them to work; he does it.  If he says he is coming to their recital; he shows up.  If he says he is buying them a new bike; he buys it.  He is always proving to me and the kids that his word is reliable.  And because of how reliable he is we trust him completely.  

On any given day the children tell me how much they miss him...especially Mondays.  After a full weekend of Daddy time...Mondays are the hardest for all of us to adjust to.  John is such a beloved Dad and I can't blame the kids for missing him so much because honestly I miss him just as much as the kids do.  When they say, "Mom, I miss Daddy, when is he coming home?"  I reply, "I miss him too."

We are so fortunate to have a hard working Daddy that makes time for us when he gets home.  Thank goodness for long bus rides back to NJ from the city because by the time he gets home he has decompressed enough to face 4 happy kids eager to tell him all about their day.

There is one thing about John that has never changed from day one.  He always comes home and kisses all of us.  It's one of my favorite parts of the day to see him greet all of the kids and to watch how excited they are to see him.  Even Miss Amelia who is only 9 1/2 months old wiggles and kicks with excitement when she sees John set foot in the door... she knows Daddy is home...she knows he is part of our team....she knows our unit is complete.  And she is just as happy and excited that he is there.

Dads are so vital and so special in every family.  I am so thankful I have John to help me when I need it, to balance me out when I am stressed or overwhelmed, to make me laugh when I need to loosen up, and to comfort me when I am scared or upset.  He truly makes being a Mom easy because I know I have my team mate there to help me.

Happy Father's Day honey!  I couldn't do half of what I do without you!  We are so lucky to have such an honorable and sweet, and amazing Daddy like you!  We love you!

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