28 August 2017

I Thought I LOST You

It's been eleven days...

Our last visit to the beach will not be soon forgotten.  It started out like a typical beach day for us, pack the snack bags, pack the towels, bring the buckets and water bottles, don't forget Micah's shark or the organic sunblock, and the puddle jumpers (life jackets) for Micah and Mia, and cash for admission and parking.

We got there without any traffic, and arrived around 9:30 a.m.  First family by the life guards our usual spot.  One thing was very different about this trip, Micah was in a zone.  He was collecting sea shells and rocks and he was so focused.  I've honestly never seen him so intensely into a task.  He was so excited with each find and would run over to me and made me keep all his treasures safe by my beach chair.  He even found a snail that he was begging me to let him bring home and keep as a pet.



At 10 a.m. on the dot I looked up at the life guard gave him a thumbs up and he gave me the signal back saying it was ok for the kids to now enter the water.  I took a few pics on my phone and carefully put it away and kept my eyes on all the kids as they played by the waves.  Around 10:30 a.m. lots of other families started filling in the beach landscape.  More kids in the water always makes it harder to see where your kids are but I have it down to a science with bathing suit colors and hand signals to Julia who swims out the farthest.



Around 11 a.m. Julia made a friend in the ocean, another girl named Julia.  Me and her mom got to talking and even put our beach chairs together as we kept an eye on all the kids.  She had two girls and kept commenting on how much Mark looked like a neighborhood kid she knew.  Me and this woman had a lot in common with being teachers, and having two daughters, and loving the beach so we hit it off right away.  Come to find out she was also Irish and Italian like John so we were laughing about how some of our kids tan and the more Irish ones don't.



Once Trish and I started talking Micah and Mark started getting on each other's nerves.  Mark kept taking Micah's rocks, Micah kept splashing him.  It went back and forth.  Then Mark found something in the ocean (a big foam ball) that Micah wanted.  They kept at it with each other.  I told Mark to go play and stop teasing his brother.  Trish and I stood up to talk as we kept an eye on the girls in the ocean.  Amelia was happily playing at my feet with a bucket.  Then the big girls came out of the ocean.  And the next thing I knew I didn't see or hear Micah or Mark.

Even now as I type those words I feel the panic fill my chest and dry out my mouth the way I felt at that moment.  As I looked out onto the beach filled with all the people and the noises all I could keep hearing over and over in my head is, "I lost my boys...I lost my boys." I gave Amelia to Julia and told her to sit in my chair and not to move and to keep Amelia in her lap.  I went straight to the life guard and told him what happened.  You never think this will happen to you.  And I never ever thought this would happen to me.  The life guard was calm and cool and said, "This happens all of the time, kids often follow the shore line and go with the wind.  What was he wearing? What was his name?  What do they look like?"  I gave as many details as I could.  Mark was wearing a spider man shirt he's 8 and has red hair.  Micah is 4 and has blondish brown hair and he's wearing a red rash guard."  "Don't worry he told me, I'm going to page every life guard on this beach."

Don't worry?  The life guard actually said that to me, the mom, the worrier of all worriers.

Don't worry.  I looked out again on the beach at the waves, did they drown?  How could they drown? How could I lose them?  Why isn't anyone wearing red?  Why can't I find them?  How could I lose them?  I lost our boys.  I lost our boys...

Julia saw the utter fear in my eyes.  "Mom it's going to be okay."  I walked along the beach saying their names, calling them praying they would answer me.  All I kept thinking was how would I tell John they were both gone?  This is my only job.  To watch my children.  I failed.

I went in the opposite direction and started calling their names, and then...I saw him!  "Micah!!!!!"  I collapsed.  I literally dropped to my knees and just cried.  "Buddy where were you?  I couldn't find you.  You were lost!  Where were you?  What happened?"  Micah looked at me as though I completely lost my mind.  (He didn't think he was lost at all.  He was on a running adventure with Mark and to him it was all fun and games.  He never saw me this upset crying like this and he had no idea what the fuss was all about.)

Then a second or two after that, a lifeguard came with Mark.  We grabbed each other and cried together.  "I'm so sorry buddy.  Were you so scared?  What happened?"  You think in that moment you might be angry or yell or get mad.  All I could do was hold him and cry.  Later, Mark asked me, "Mom were you embarrassed that the lifeguard and everyone on the beach saw you crying?"  I told him, "Mark, all I cared about was you boys and finding you, I don't care who saw me cry."

We all sat by my beach chair and Mark explained that Micah started to run in the opposite direction with the foam ball.  Micah thought it was a game, but Mark saw that he was running too far away and Mark was trying to get him to stop running away but it all happened so fast and then he couldn't find me.  And when he realized he was lost the life guard came and found him.

The whole ordeal was probably 3-5 minutes.  But to me and Mark it felt like an eternity.  Time completely stood still.  We didn't stay at the beach much longer.  I drank some much needed water.  We hugged Trish and the girls goodbye.  We thanked the life guards.  We packed up our stuff.  And we headed to the showers, and the playground.  At the showers I watched the four kids get all their sand off and I called John.  I called John and just sobbed.  It was literally the scariest feeling knowing that you almost lost your kids.  I hugged everyone a little tighter that day.

Driving home from the beach I realized two things:

1. I don't want to ever have that feeling again.

2. I now understand the story of the Prodigal Son so much better.

You know the scene in the Prodigal Son where the son returns home after spending all of his inheritance on partying and living the "good life" in a short time?  And he realizes how good he had it in the safety and comfort of his own home with his family?  So he returns home and even while he is a long way off his father runs to him, embraces him, gives him a ring and throws him a huge feast.  I always used to be so baffled, like how could the father just forgive him so easily and take him back??? He didn't get a lecture...he didn't get a list of rules to follow...he didn't get an I told you so...all he got was a warm greeting, a huge hug, some bling and a fancy feast!!! So confusing.

But when you are the parent, and your child is lost, all you care about is them being back in your arms.  You don't need an apology.  You don't want to give a lecture.  You don't want to say I told you so.  You are just so thankful they are alive, that they are breathing, that you get to go home with them, and that they are yours.

I have thanked God a million times for that experience because it has taught me to love my kids better.  It has taught me that moms are not super heroes.  It has taught me that losing a child can take a second.  It has taught me that my kids are always my number one priority, and no distraction should ever take my eyes off of them.  It taught me and reminded me of my great need for God.  I need God so much and I'm so thankful for his care and provision for us and for me that day.  I absolutely cannot raise my kids without God's help at every single turn.  My kids saw me at my worst that day, the panic, the fear, the crying.  But tears and all,  I think my sons saw how much I love them that day.  They saw how worried I was, how scared I was, and how happy I was when I saw them.

We still talk about our last trip to the beach.  I didn't want to tell anyone about it.  But I realize it can honestly happen to anyone and I'm very thankful God was so gracious to us and that I (thanks to all those hard working, amazing lifeguards) found the boys so quickly after losing them.









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14 August 2017

Best Place/Time to Pray


We have decided that once a year we will get away from it all.  We will find loved ones to watch our children.  We will book a hotel/bed and breakfast and we will take time for us and find time to reconnect, reevaluate, and refocus for the upcoming year for our family.

Last year I remember sitting on the boardwalk of Cape May, listening to the waves, watching the families and couples pass us by as we sat on our little bench by the beach praying for what God would have for us as a family.  I especially remember praying for each kid by name and asking God for His guidance in raising them, choosing the best schooling for them, and asking God to help us to be the parents He wants us to be.

This year we did something new.  We still drove down to Cape May and chose an excellent hotel to stay in for our anniversary weekend. But this year as the sun began to set and the moon began to rise into the night sky we walked on the beach, climbed the nearest lifeguard chair and sat beneath the stars.  It was as if noone could see or disturb us, except for a few young kids playing in the water waiting for their turn to climb the big chair.  We were at our own little spot, and we watched the tide come in and again we prayed for our children, their schooling, their behavior, our goals, our marriage, John's job, our loved ones who were sick or struggling.  We just sat there and prayed.  There were no interruptions.  There were no texts to check or meals to prep or messes to clean up.  It was just us and that sky, and the sound of the waves.  And we could literally feel God's presence.  I knew He was there and I knew He was listening.


In all honesty that was the best part of our weekend getaway.  We really needed to pray and hear from God and that just was the perfect spot and the perfect time.  August is always a big refocusing time for us as we head into a new school year, new routine, new activities, it's always a great time to just really talk about our goals for each of the kids and just pick each other's brains.  I can remember last year how good it felt to get away and be with John and to stop everything to just hold hands and pray, and this year it was just as sweet.  It reminds me each time that we need to do this more often.  We shouldn't wait to pray for each other or together once a year.  We should do it every night if possible. I cherish the Sunday nights in bed where John remembers to pray for the week ahead.  He squeezes my hand and says, "Can I pray for our week?"

I share all of this not to say we have it all together, but to show how powerful prayer is.  It really unites us and is uplifting and encouraging.  I always feel closer to John after those getaways and I love that we have a tradition of finding a spot by the beach to pray.

Matthew 18:2020 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
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04 August 2017

14 Years of "I do"



14 years of saying I do....

I do laundry
I do dinner
I do birthing
I do feeding
I do diapers
I do teaching
I do homeschooling
I do back rubs (not well)
I do house cleaning
I do domestic
I do nurturing
I do breakfast
I do the bills (some of them)
I do windows
I do toilets
I do lunch
I do date planning
I do christmas gifts
I do birthday gifts
I do Christmas cards
I do birthday parties
I do it because I love you more than anything or anyone in this whole world

I used to think that marriage was 50/50.  I really did.  You do your part, and I'll do mine.  This was before I got married.

But premarital counseling taught me better.  Marriage is 100/100.  You do your best and I'll do mine.  You give all of yourself unselfishly all the time.  Love is a choice.  And you my sweet are easy to love.

You do forgiveness
You do grace
You do funny
You do fun
You do joy
You do laughter
You do games
You do hide and seek
You do nerf guns
You do gardening
You do weeds
You do the bills (all of them)
You do Anniversaries
You do Valentine's day
You do Mother's Day
You do mommy needs a big break so everyone come out with me while we give her one
You do the park
You do Taekwondo
You do financial planning
You do light bulb changes
You do "boy talks"
You do everything better

I'm so thankful for you. And I love you.  You balance me out.  You smooth out my rough edges.  You make me laugh...all the time and without that I'd be too serious and to strict and so boring!  I love how God put us together and made us a team.  I married well.  You are the best part of me.



Happy Anniversary.

How'd I get so incredibly lucky?

Love,
Me

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22 June 2017

Summer Bucket List



Tank Tops, Flip Flops, Nothing Fancy


We are so excited to be all together as a party of five this summer!  And when days that John works from home or is off a party of six.  I love asking the kids where they want to go and what places they want to see, and hear what people they want to visit.  It broadens my perspective and opens my eyes up to their world.  

Summer time is all about re-connecting as a family, going on some fun day trips, play dates out in the back yard with the slip and slide and loads of ice pops, and honestly a little bit of nothing.  I'm looking forward to not having to drive every single day to a million different places.  Yes, we will do our weekly trip to the beach and a field trip here and there, but my soul needs a bit of rest from the hustle and bustle that the school year naturally brings.


The kids and I each made a list last night of fun things we want to do and fun places we want to go and beloved people that we want to see.  We took our lists very seriously.  Then my hubby came home and when I was upstairs giving bath time he decided he wanted to make a bucket list.  He gave all of us a big laugh!  My son Mark (the rule follower) thought Dad's bucket list was NOT FAIR at all.  My husband thought it was completely fair and he told the kids he took it very seriously. 

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My blog posts will be sparse this summer as you can imagine how busy it will be over here occupying four very different, very opinionated, very high energy kids is!  I'm really excited to do some organizing and planning for our upcoming school year.  I look forward to no homework at night time and tons of reading with the kids.  We always like to review our math facts for a few minutes each day.  We usually set a family goal about how many books we will read over the summer.  I'm pretty sure it will be a full one and it's always nice to have a plan or a list to check off when we do visit the place or see the person we had on our list.

One last thing, we will be keeping a Summer Journal.  Partly because I want to sneak some writing in from all the kids, and partly because I love composition notebooks.  During each week we will choose a journal day, maybe Thursday or Friday and recap what we did that week, what we saw or collected at the beach, the playdates we had, etc.  And in August we will invite the grandparents over and have a Summer Recap Dessert Night.  Then the kids can show their grandparents their journals and practice their amazing public speaking skills (one can dream) and enjoy some strawberry shortcake with the family.  It's all about the daily memories and making the most of every moment.  

Have a great summer!

Love,
Team Mac










23 May 2017

The First Few Weeks

Bringing a Newborn Home

Those first few weeks at home with a newborn are so many things, they are magical, they are exciting, they are surreal, they are wonderful but let's be honest, they are so hard!  When every second you are needed to feed, change, rock, burp, hold, entertain a small one AND keep the rest of your life in order (pay bills, buy food, cook meals, keep the other kids alive) it starts to dawn on you how massive the task of a newborn can be.

Here is just a quick post on how not only to simply survive those first few weeks, but to even thrive a little.  God has given you this amazing task of parenthood.  Your baby that you've held in heart/mind/body is now HERE in the flesh.  Make the most of every moment and be able to take a shower and smell good too.

Step 1-

Let others help you!

Do you even know how exciting it is for others to see you and the baby right now?  You are it sweetheart!  You did it!  You had this baby and people want to help you, cook meals for you, bring you gifts, hear your birth story (however wonderful or traumatic it was), hold your baby, clean your toilets.  We will do just about anything to help you at this time and the biggest mistake you could make at this time is to say, no.  Don't do it.  Let people stop by and bring a meal.  This doesn't mean you let people stay over for hours on end, have boundaries, but please dear one, let people in.  Let mamas spoil you... let people make you chili, let people fold your laundry, let people do your dishes or watch your other kids.  If they offer say YES!  Because after a few months the newness will be gone and it will be you and your little one alone on the couch wondering where all the people are!  This is good not only for the other kids in your house to see how loved you are, to feel the support, for your husband to have extra help too is wonderful, but it will brighten your days, it feels so good to share your birth story with friends, it is so cool to see your family and friends bond with your baby.  

Step 2-

Use paper products!


You are not Martha Stewart.  You are not Joanna Gaines.  You just had a baby and you need rest, you need to bond with your baby, and you need to put your feet up when that baby closes his/her eyelids.  I never knew how much I needed to rest until after I had a newborn.  My body was so tired and instead of listening to my body every time Julia or Mark slept I thought it was my lot in life to clean the house, cook the next meal, and do yet another load of laundry.  Girlfriend, it took me until I had Micah to actually R. E. S. T.  Paper products may be bad for the planet, but for 3-4 weeks it's not a big deal.  Use paper plates, napkins, and paper cups.  The less you have to wash, the less you have to put in the dish washer, the less you have to put away the BETTER.  If people who are bringing you a meal ask do you need me to bring anything else say, "Would you mind brining paper plates by?"  And they will and you will be so thankful.  Trust me.  I have learned that the less cleaning I do the more family quality time I have and that my sweet is more precious to me than gold.

Step 3-

Take a million pictures!

Listen, sweet pants, this new baby is going to be so well fed and so well rested and be in size 3 months clothing and size 1 diapers before you know it!  Now is the time to take pictures of them in their crib, in their siblings laps, on their Daddy's chest.  Now is the time to paint their hand and make finger prints and foot prints and frame them.  Now is the time to take a picture of them propped up by a window where they are getting extra sunlight because they are jaundice.  Now is the time to take 2 million selfies with them.  There is no such thing as over posting when you have a newborn.  People love to see babies.  They are all so sweet and beautiful.  Take a million pictures because once they start crawling picture taking is a whole different ball game.

Step 4-

Don't worry about the Weight!

Hey, it took 9 months to put the 30 something (more or less) pounds on, and it's completely ok for it to take 9 months to get it all off.  Don't stress about baby weight.  Nobody cares.  Really, nobody is thinking how you need to lose weight.  All they care about is you and that sweet baby you brought into the world.  Seriously don't get hung up on things like fitting back into all your clothes at a certain point.  You either will or you won't and if you have to get some new clothes down the line you will.  Take care of you and the baby and really your body will do a great job for you.  Put everything into perspective.  You are beautiful.  You are loved.  And God has blessed you with a family to care for.

Step 5-

Cherish Every Minute.

I used to hate when people would say that to me after I had Julia.  Like really?  Cherish the fact that I can't sleep for 8 hours anymore?  Cherish the fact that I have leaky boobs on my clean shirts.  Cherish the fact that I now have double the amount of laundry/work in my life?  Cherish the fact that my nipples are sore and I'm tired all of the time.  Yup.  Want to know why?  In a few weeks you are going to be completely in a rhythm.  You got this mom thing!  You were made to be a Mom.  And when you cherish the moment you realize how quickly this baby will be a kid.  This is just a season in the parent hood life.  It doesn't stay like this for long.  In a few months it will be a new thing to cherish...teething, rolling over, crawling, eating solids, sitting up, talking...it keeps changing, they keep growing, and the thing is you will too.  You will grow and change and cherish each season and then you can look back on the memories with fondness and joy and remember how great it was to sit on the couch holding a sweet newborn that just spit up all over you.  Trust me.  It's all in perspective. Cherish this time.  Be so thankful for every minute.  God is so good.  He is bigger than any of your problems or issues you may be facing.  He is there with you in these moments.  And He loves you.  He will guide you every step of the way on your parenthood journey!  Just allow Him to.

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12 May 2017

She Wants A Nap


This Mother's Day...Here is a List of Things Almost Every Mom Wants...

I hope this list will be helpful for all the Dads out there wondering what to get the awesome Moms/Wives out there!

1. A nap.  She wants a nap. The whole room to herself. Complete quiet. No knocking on the door. No questions. No meal to cook. Just give her time for an uninterrupted nap.

2. She wants coffee. By herself. All of it hot. In complete quiet. Sipping it. Enjoying it. It doesn't matter if it's Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Wawa, or homemade. But she wants coffee. 

3. She wants quality time. (After the nap and after the coffee). She wants to enjoy all of you. Noisy, fighting, preferably getting along, but she wants to be with you and the kids. No electronics, no emails, no interruptions just her family. 

4. She wants flowers. She does. Yes, they are a complete waste of money. Yes they might die some day. But she wants them. On the table or in the garden. They are pretty and they smell good and she doesn't want to ask for them. 

5. She wants something hand made. Preferably a card. With your words. Not hallmarks. Tell her you love her. Tell her she's great. Tell her your thankful. Tell her you don't know how she does what she does but your glad she does it. Words mean so much. 

6. She wants time to herself. Not all day but at least 2-3 hours to just rest, read a book, binge watch Gilmore Girls, organize her closet. She just needs some alone time.

7. She wants a picture of herself with the kids.  This is important.  This means a lot to her.  This never happens.  Moms always take all the pictures.  Mom never gets to be in the picture.  Don't make her ask.  Just take the picture.  Capture the moment, and make the kids laugh.  Say something really silly and help the moment to be memorable.  Dads can always make everyone laugh.  Even if you have to say...POOP! :)  This is the only time a potty word is ok.

8. She doesn't want to plan the weekend.  She doesn't want to plan her Mother's Day.  Come on Dads this is your weekend to shine.  You got this!  Pull out all the stops.  Make french toast.  Take the kids food shopping.  Plant some flowers.  Do the mulch (if it's not raining).  This means so much to us when we don't have to plan and can just rest and relax knowing you have it covered.  Don't worry we will go along with your plan!  We promise.

9. Last thing...she wants the kids to behave. Good. Luck. 

Happy Mother's Day mamas. 

We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

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01 May 2017

Love Letters from God

Naomi, Molly, Julia, Lana (4/8 of the Sweet Sisters Discipleship Group)

Love Letters From God: Bible Stories for a Girl's Heart

This book by Glenys Nellist is awesome!  It takes you through the very beginning of the Bible in the Old Testament with Eve and all the way through to the New Testament with Mary Magdalene.  You meet a total of 14 girls and learn all about their story.  That's what makes this book so unique is it focuses on females in the Bible!  I love that!  Each page is brightly colored with scenes from the Bible, famous scenes like Eve in the Garden of Eden, and Miriam by the Nile River with Moses.  Glenys takes you through each major female character and shares her story.  One of the parts that the girls in my discipleship group like the most are the flaps on the opposite page with a Love Letter from God written to each girl using the moral of each Woman's story and applying it to the young girl who reads it.  I liked this book so much I am using it to launch my Discipleship Group with a bunch of girls at my church.  They are ages 8-10 and our group that met this past week was 5 girls but we are a total of 8 girls.



First of all, the illustrations and color choices are brilliant and beautiful.  You want to see how Rachel Clowes brings the stories of these 14 women to life.  There are so many shades of pinks and purples and every color of the rainbow and it makes each page jump out at you.  One of my favorite drawings was the page about Queen Esther and the other two are Eve in the Garden and the purple-filled twilight page about Mary the Mother of Jesus.


As we read through the book I noticed how much each girl wanted a turn to read a page and open the Love Letter flap.  What a great touch that was to the book!  Kids LOVE flap books and a love letter is something we all enjoy reading.  Hearing words our heavenly father might lovingly say to us or ask us is such a treat!  We liked it so much that we ended our time writing love letters to God and the girls had a great idea that each time we read further in the book we should write a love letter to God about what we learned and then collect them all and make a book!


I loved listening to the girls read the book out loud to each other, and I really loved the questions that came up about each girl in the book.  We thought about times we tried to hide our sin the way Eve did, we talked about how we did something really brave to help our family members like Miriam did for her baby brother.  In fact Naomi and Julia P. both shared stories about how they saved their brother from a major catastrophe.  I think the girls were really able to relate to the characters and then reading the Love Letter from God on each page really brought home the fact that God loves us and wants us to choose to follow Him no matter what.  He forgives us, He loves us, and He shows us so much grace and mercy.  We talked about how thankful we were for His love!

Molly, Emma, Julia M., Alyssa


This book is going to change these little girl's lives.  And as you can see we have our Bible with us too.  We are also looking up the passages that the stories come from and reading the Bible chapters along with the book.  It is so neat to see young girls thirsty for God's truth.

Thank you Glenys for writing such a great book!  We need to hear those stories about girls/women who were brave, who were thirsty, who trusted God when all else seemed hopeless, and God did awesome things through them. We are so excited to continue reading your book along with the Bible and growing in God's grace and love each time we meet!

Watch this video clip! The Trusting Girl (Miriam and baby Moses story)

Meet the author!

Even Amelia enjoyed the book!
Here is the book on Amazon.  If you comment below I will be sure to choose a person to give a FREE book courtesy of the author herself! (Zondervan can not deliver books to a PO Box, this is only open to residents of the USA who have a physical address)

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21 April 2017

Only The Best Food For My Babies


Our Decision to Breastfeed

Looking back it was one of those decisions that just felt right.  It was free, it was all natural, and it would help to speed along any weight gained through pregnancy so for me it was a win win for the both of us!  I decided to breast feed Julia even before she was the size of a golf ball.  All natural seemed like such a no-brainer decision.  Why didn't everyone breastfeed?



I found the reason out the minute Julia was a few days old. Perhaps not all moms chose to breast feed because of the intense pain they experienced while doing so!  It hurt so bad those first few weeks and no I was not doing it wrong!  It just plain hurt.  I can still remember being in agony every time she latched on.  I would literally see stars.  Once we got into our rhythm of breast feeding and pumping during the day so John could feed Julia bottles at night (so I could sleep for a few uninterrupted hours) the pain subsided and we breastfed like a champ until 10 months.  Julia started weaning herself off and I didn't realize why, until I took a pregnancy test and discovered we were pregnant with baby #2!

Mark Ciro


When Mark was born everything about his birth and his feeding was different.  His birth was by far my favorite.  It was quick, easy and done in the water.  Having a water birth the second time around was so relaxing.  Mark latched on quickly and our breastfeeding story was easy and I can't ever being in pain.  We stopped breast feeding right around 13 months and Mark started drinking soy milk.  

Micah Justice
Four years went by and we had our second son Micah, my feeding situation with Micah was rough!  He couldn't latch properly.  I bled a lot in the beginning when I nursed him which made it so painful and I would try to pump but that hurt too.  Then I would get mastitis.  I was a hot mess.  We stuck with it and I had a lactation consultant come over to the house to help me, within an hour we figured out the problem and he was fine.  I nursed Micah until is first birthday and then we stopped just like that!  (I was also 3 months pregnant at the time with Amelia)

Prenatal Vitamins Link

Julia 6, Mark 5, Micah 1, Amelia (in the belly)

Amelia was born into a very busy little family.  Julia was 6 1/2, Mark was 5, Micah was 17 months when she joined us.  We were so thankful to add another girl to the mix!  Julia was praying for a baby sister since she already had two brothers.  And she just knew we would have a girl!  She was completely right.


We breastfed Miss Amelia Susanna without any problems, and at 5 months old we started introducing barley cereal and then baby food.  Vegetables first and then fruit.  We breastfed until Amelia was 10 months old and then we went straight to almond milk which she LOVED and drank it straight from a sippy cup.  I would've nursed her forever because she was such a dreamy easy going baby but I had dental work and the meds they put me on were too strong for her to have while breast feeding and she was starting to be so mobile and breastfeeding less and less anyway so it seemed like perfect timing.

I am thankful I listened to my body each time and did what I felt was right for our kids instead of just doing what everyone else was doing at the time.  I stopped breastfeeding when I was ready and when I felt my child was ready.  In my opinion once they were walking and talking it was probably time for them to start a sippy cup.  That was just what was best for us.  

I have learned that the way you feed your child is your choice!  No one can make you feel guilty or tell you that are doing it wrong.  You and your doctor can make those big decisions together.  I always started solids once my babies were 5-6 months old.  I had BIG BABIES.  Both Julia and Mark were 8lbs babies and Micah and Amelia were 9lbs.  In my opinion they were completely able to wait until 5-6 months for solids.  I started their first "meal" of rice cereal or barley cereal at night time.  We would do that for a week or two.  Then we would start trying out all the veggies and then the fruits.  I loved giving them baby food!  And none of my kids had any allergies.  We started peanut butter and jelly sandwiches right around 9-10 months old and they LOVED peanut butter!



Micah had a slight allergy to strawberries, but he loved eating them so much that we would keep trying them and after a few weeks he would no longer get a rash and I figured he wasn't allergic anymore.  If you know Micah you know of his deep love for fruits and veggies and PASTA!

That is our feeding history with our kids.  I have got to tell you something.  Feeding them and watching them grow has been the joy of my life.  There has been no greater moments for me in motherhood than breastfeeding my babies and holding their hands and looking into their eyes and holding them close.  And sitting them in a high chair and feeding them something new and watching their facial expressions has been so fun and hilarious.  Especially when serving them peas!  In my opinion it's best to start with the veggies first because it will broaden their palate and then they will truly enjoy the fruits that much more!  But either way you do it, formula, breastfed, rice cereal, barley, whatever you choose will be perfect for you and your baby.  That's just how it works.  They all even out in the end!  It has to be what is best for you and your situation...it just does!

Check out this links if organic formula is something that is best for your family!

Honest Baby Formula


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20 April 2017

Thirty Something...

My beautiful 30 year old (YOUNGER) sister Sara

"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." --C. S. Lewis

I have loved being in my thirties.  

In your twenties you have so many doubts and insecurities. At least I did.  But in your thirties you start to feel grounded, comfortable, confident.

It's the first time I felt truly happy and I don't care what other people think.

I spent a lot of my teen years and 20's comparing myself to other people and wanting what other people had and wishing I was different.

Now I spend more of my time being thankful to God for His timing, for where He has placed me, and with whom I am surrounded and for my purposes in life.

I appreciate people more.  All people.  All ages.

I listen more.

I genuinely feel people who are older and wiser than me have a lot to teach me and want to hear how they have done things, why they have done things a certain way, and take as many tips and advice as I can.

I enjoy learning new things.  Always have but now it's thrilling to learn something new and pass it on.

I talk more! I finally have found my "voice".  My husband will tell you I have always had a voice, and never struggled to tell him exactly how I feel.  But that's because I have always felt comfortable with him.  Finding my voice and speaking my truth took a long time.  He has helped me to believe in myself and trust my instincts because he has always trusted and listened to me and since he thinks I am the "expert" in our house he makes me feel so valuable and important it makes me feel like I have the right to be myself and say how I feel.

I have come to realize that the people I surround myself with truly does impact the way I view and feel about myself.  And therefore I choose friends that I admire and people who inspire me, not people who bring me down or are negative all the time.

I am less defensive.  I want to work out issues and resolve things instead of being passive aggressive. I much rather peace than drama!

I appreciate my parents more and realize that some of what they did was not necessarily to hurt me but maybe they truly did have my best interest at heart.

I am less selfish because I realize the universe does NOT revolve around me and my family.  I realize that putting others first does in fact feel good and in turn blesses me in the long run.

Having children has helped me to see that I need less than I thought I did and has taught me that I could survive on very little sleep and still conquer the world the next day (Thanks to Jesus and coffee.)

I am more confident.

And it has nothing to do with me per se I just feel more comfortable in my skin.

I can remember growing up wishing my skin were darker, wishing I didn't have curly hair, wishing I was taller, wishing all the things young people wish when they don't appreciate who they are.

But once you are older, and you realize who created you, and why you were put on earth, and how much value and worth you have because of Him, you are like, okay God, let's do this!

It's the first time in life I have felt like I know what the heck I am doing.  I have some street cred and it's all thanks to experience, marriage and motherhood.

The thirties have been awesome! I get to share this awesome decade for a few years with my sister Sara before leaving it for the 40s...something tells me if the thirties have been this good and eye opening the 40s will only be better :)

"In the end it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years."  Abraham Lincoln




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19 March 2017

5 T I P S: Surviving After School Time to Bedtime



We all know that crazy time between 3:00-8:00p.m.  It's loud, it's chaotic, there's hungry people hovering over the kitchen counter, there's homework to be done, and there's after school activities to get ready for and of course a parent is needed to drive the children there, AND there's remembering everything for the next day of school.

It's enough to make any normal, sane parent completely C R A Z Y!

I've talked to my two closest friends about this time over coffee and by the end of the conversation we all felt like hyperventilating.

Let's be honest, just surviving homework with one child is rough, let alone add 2, 3, 4, or more.

Dinner has to be prepped and cooked.

Everyone wants a snack.

People are fighting over electronic devices.

Toddlers are whining to play outside.

And poor mom (me) is crouching down in the corner of a the dining room chugging her 3rd cup of coffee just to survive the next 5 minutes, let alone the next 5 hours!!!


Tip 1

Prep your meals.  

No, I'm not kidding.  I'm completely serious and this is the only way I survive motherhood.  I have a plan for pretty much everything starting with MEALS!  And now that I have older kids I have them help me plan Sunday night (sometimes I plan the month in advance, most times I plan a week or two in advance) and Monday morning when they are in school I food shop for the week.  Get your kids involved because the more they can help plan things, the better chance you have of encouraging them to eat their dinner.  The calm you will feel knowing that dinner is already prepped, thawed, or in the crock pot will do wonders for the post school stress! Know what meals you are making ahead of time and plan accordingly when you food shop.  To read more about my meal plan strategies and how I gather meals for the week/month click here.

Tip 2

Collect lunch bags/boxes at the door and proceed to the kitchen counter to pack them for the next day.

I know this sounds crazy but it works and it's done and you don't even think about it.  It's a routine.  You greet the kids at the door.  "Hi, how was your day, can I see your lunch box and your homework folder?"  My kids sit at the counter eat anything that was leftover from lunch and they tell me all about their day and I tell them all about my day (I got this from my sweet friend Laura and the article she posted recently.  Kids love to hear about your day and then want to share about their day).  As you are talking you are placing apples, clementines, granola bars, juice boxes, water bottles into their lunch boxes and packing their snack for the next day.  I leave them on the counter and in the morning I make their sandwich.

**Another Tip:  When you buy crackers, pretzels, cookies, almonds: buy snack size zip lock bags (the super small ones) and fill the snack bags ahead of time and stack in a pantry or drawer, then when you are lunch/snack packing that part is already done. (Thanks Beth!  My amazing neighbor/friend from across the street who also has 4 awesome kids gave me this tip last year).

Tip 3

Check homework folder at the door.

I have found that kids completely forget they have homework.  Even if they just wrote their assignments down on their homework pad at 2:45pm.  I like to collect their folder at the door look through it and take out what needs to be done.  I leave it on the counter so we can all see it.  I am all for letting kids snack and play for 30-60 minutes to decompress after school.  I let them go in the back yard and run and scream, jump rope, ride their bikes, but by 4:00 you better come inside ready to get down to it!  I like homework done before dinner because I like dinner time to be relaxing.

**Bonus Tip: Keep back packs by the front door at all times.  Anything that needs to go back to school tomorrow should be there with the back pack, gloves, hat, gym shoes, show and tell, this way nothing is forgotten and it's all in plain view!

Tip 4

Teach them to be responsible.

Listen, we can't do it all.  We just can't.  This crazy busy time is a great way to D E L E G A T E.  I actually hate this but am really trying to do this more because I want my kids to be responsible kids.  I want them to learn to wash the dishes, wash their own clothes, fold their laundry, make their beds, put their laundry away, put the cap back on the toothpaste...(for the love of pete put the cap back on!)
So after homework time I assign some chores honestly to keep the busy, but also to teach them that we are a team and that mommy and daddy can not do everything.  Everyone needs to pitch in.  So while I am helping Julia with homework, Mark might be putting his laundry away.  When I am doing spelling review or reading with Mark, Julia is organizing the toys in the basement or cleaning up the office.  I even have the big kids help me with setting the table, putting the condiments out, getting the drinks ready.  And after dinner we clean up the kitchen together.  (Let me tell you I would love to do this all by myself because it's cathartic for me but teaching them life skills is super important).

**Make them read.  I never met an adult who complains about their parents having made them read a lot when they were young.  Reading is awesome.  I make my kids read at least 20-25 minutes more than the teacher suggests/requires.  I don't care if it's a magazine, a novel or a picture book but make them read!  We do mandatory DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read)  And even though Micah and Mia can't read they've been read to so much they just copy the words from memory or make up their own story.



Tip 5

Enjoy them.  Read the extra book.

Guys, my Micah is turing 4 this week.  Did you hear that?  My baby boy is turning 4 and this summer Amelia will be 3.  These kids are growing up.  It's all happening faster than I thought it would.  So even during the stressful hours of the day I try to take a deep breath and enjoy them.  I try to enjoy watching Mark teach me his latest Kung-Fu spin side kick.  I try to enjoy Julia telling me every single detail about her day.  Every.  Single.  Detail.  I try to enjoy Amelia trying on her 7th pair of click clack shoes and skipping down the hall.  And I definitely enjoy Micah riding his swing car back and forth from the play room to the dining room to the kitchen to the foyer over and over and over.  Because one day it will just be me and John.  They will be all grown up and conquering the world and all I will have is the memory of the loudness that once filled our home.  (Ok, so now I'm crying...thanks.)  

I learned from a wise mom that the hour leading to bedtime is really a "fill my love tank" hour.  Everyone wants one more book, one more hug, Julia wants one more tip or bit of advice about surviving third grade girl drama, Mark wants to show me one more origami plane he can create.  They all need to be filled and this is a great time to talk to them about Jesus, to go over how they can be a blessing to others in their class.  It's a great time to tell them why you think they are special.  I think of all the cruel things they may hear during the school day and sometimes they just need to be loved on and encouraged and built back up.  So my advice is, no matter how tired you are, read the extra book they ask for, sing one more silly song, share a story about how you felt as a child, share a time where God really "showed up" for you.  Use the bedtime hour (because let's face it sometimes it takes a lot longer than you expected) to fill their love tanks.

This season will surely pass and soon they will be middle schoolers and high schoolers and...

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15 March 2017

B R O K E N


When someone you love dies it just is indescribable.  The pain you feel, your heart, your mind, and body just can't comprehend it.  You want the world to stop and mourn with you.  But nothing stops.  Time keeps going and all you can do is pick up the pieces of your brokenness and continue.

This past February (February 13th) my Uncle Mark lost his battle to cancer.  He was diagnosed in 2009, took treatment, went into remission and then it came back with a vengeance.

This past May (2016) he and my Aunt Marie came over to visit with us.  They stayed only 2 days but looking back on those 2 days with him I am so thankful he was here, under our roof, playing with our kids, laughing with family.  I can still hear his laughter.  It filled the room.

He preached his last sermon in September of this year.  He didn't know it would be his last.  He was such a fighter.  He was always so positive.  Only 3 weeks before he passed we were texting back and forth, John was on the phone with him, and Uncle Mark was asking me about my Dad's health.  Everything seemed like he was going to get past this and get right back into ministry and preaching.

But God had other plans.

Attending his memorial this past week, I learned two new things about Mark.  It wasn't just us that loved him and his legacy will continue on.  We traveled to California March 2-4th to be with Aunt Marie, his son Paul and the rest of Marie's family and to celebrate Mark's life.

I was so surprised to see so many people from the community and his church come to the memorial to share how Mark encouraged them, blessed them or made them feel loved.  The most impactful messages were given by my Aunt and cousin Paul.  I still to this day cannot believe they got in front of a huge crowd to give testimony to how great a man Mark was as a husband, a father, and a friend, when their loss was so great.  They were so brave.  I know they made Mark so proud.

The trip was harder than I thought it would be.

Losing my uncle has been so hard.

Explaining to your 9 and 7 year old the man they loved is now with Jesus was not as easy as I anticipated.  Through all of this I have learned the grace of God.  He allows us to keep moving, keep breathing, keep going.

Mark wasn't just an uncle, he was a dear friend, my husband's mentor, he was a man I loved so much I had to name our first son after.  His love spoke volumes.  He loved God with all of his heart, mind and soul, and whenever he came to visit that's what we talked about.

His legacy continues because he shared Christ with so many and now those men, and women and children are being bold and telling others the truth about the gospel.

One of Uncle Mark's favorite hymns was, It Is Well With My Soul, as they played that song at the memorial and showed pictures of him and his family and friends and his many trips over seas on missions trips I thought to myself, what a great way to honor him.  To be able to sing and say to God even in the midst of all this pain and sorrow It Is Well With My Soul, couldn't be more fitting.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  And I can see Mark with Jesus now worshipping his Savior and both of them sharing that deep laugh that fills any room.



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14 March 2017

U N N O T I C E D



Hey mama,

I see you.

You are one busy lady.

Preparing meals, packing lunches, cleaning dishes, washing clothes, checking homework, wiping noses, planning parties.

You give your time.

You give your talent.

You give your love.

And sometimes it feels like no one sees you.

I do.

I watch how kindly you spoke to your daughter.

I saw how you encouraged your son.

I love the way you look at your husband.

I see every time you put something down that you want to do (like read a book) to help someone else.

Keep it up.

You are amazing.

Just so you know, not many people on earth will notice what you do.

You may not always hear, "Good Job!"

And sometimes the people you love the most will forget to say Thank you.

But remember, I see you, I love you, and seriously, you are amazing.

Nothing you are doing today is in vain.

I know it may feel like it, but I promise, everything you do has a purpose.

You have so much value.

And life is more beautiful and wonderful because of all that you do.

So, mama, hold your head up high.

Know that all that you do does not go unnoticed.

Know that I am watching.

I see you.

And I care.

And did I mention, that you are amazing (fearfully and wonderfully made)?

Get back out there.

Put your hair up in a top knot.

Throw on some leggings.

And go conquer the world.

I love you...

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06 February 2017

The Monday Blues

Every Monday Morning

I wake up to the sound of Micah yelling, "Mommy can you wipe me!"  Amelia is carefully tucked in the bed next to me since her current wake up time is 5:30am and she just falls back asleep in our bed.  I can hear Mark and Julia making breakfast downstairs...and I realize I am alone, I am the only adult at home, and my better half is off to work.

Needing to get big kids off to school, pack lunches, brush little ones teeth, get breakfast out and put away, dress the littles, get juice, make coffee, find coats, gloves, hats, shoes, make sure back packs are at the front door...it is a busy fast-paced routine but there's no one else to lead it but me.

Often I am thinking about the fun we had the past 2 days as a family.  Weekends are sacred and we use every bit of our time to spend with each other, all the while getting things like housework, meals, and oil changes done.  Somehow there's no schedule on the weekends but the time feels longer and knowing John is home is such a comfort to me always because once he's at work I don't have any one's hand to hold, no one to make me laugh, and no one to be my right hand the way that he is.

There is so much to be said for routine, work and schedules...some of my favorite words, but when you have 4 kids and very little time to your self or miss being around adults for some reason the start of the work week is the hardest for us.  I find that John texts me the most at the beginning of the week and most of the texts start out with, "I miss you."

Our life is not quiet, it's not without moments of chaos, crying or craziness, but when everyone is under one roof it is comforting, it's everything that makes home, home.  And when even one of us is missing the void is felt.  Micah and Amelia constantly ask me, "Where are Mark and Julia?"  "Where is Daddy?"  Even though I have told them a million times that the big kids are at school and Daddy is at work so mommy can stay home with them, I think they feel the emptiness and the absence and just can't seem to understand why they need to leave.

And let's just say the moment when 3:00 hits and Julia and Mark come bursting through the front doors to tell us all about their day, Micah and sometimes Mia if she is awake are ALL smiles and ALL ears.  It's almost as awesome as it is when John comes home at night.  It's that collective scream of "DADDY!"  And you can't help but feel the joy.

To every parent that leaves Monday morning...you are dearly missed whether we remember to tell you so or not.  Life is better with you.

Here's to another Monday...!





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11 January 2017

Her Journey...Not Mine

The first born...

We have such high hopes, so many dreams, so many expectations for all of our children, don't we?

But that first child... is it just me or are they almost magical?  There's something you just can't explain. There is a bond that is deep and an extra special feeling of knowing that that particular child made you a mom.  And because that child is older they tend to be your right hand.

In our experience we waited 4 years before we even started trying to have a baby.  We wanted to travel and establish "us" first.  After that it took almost 2 years for Julia to get here. The first year just trying to "get pregnant" and the second year just being pregnant and planning and waiting and reading every single book on parenting, sleeping schedules, discipline, food charts, we wanted to get it all right...



We lived in a different house when Julia was born and I can remember how every nook and cranny was filled with "her" from her high chair to exer-saucer, from her toys and mounds of clothes the minute she was with us it was all about this beautiful baby girl. I kept reading books on how to be a good parent.  I kept praying for her and asking for wisdom and guidance.  And I still remember that winter, snowy day driving her home and sitting in the back seat with her and thinking..."We get to bring her home?!...like what do we even do?? How are these nurses and doctors even allowing us to bring home this human??  Are we even ready for this?"

Then she started talking and crawling and walking and before we knew it this baby was no longer a baby, she was a person!  She was a girl with opinions and wants of her own.  She was crawling by 8 months, and talking up a storm by 10 months.  She was always so aware of her surroundings and her blue eyes were always captivated by people.



This whole time I kept wanting the best for her.  The best schooling, the best surroundings, the best books, the best learning toys.  I wanted her to experience as many new places as possible and I wanted her to love people and learning so we were always going to play dates, and gymnastics, and library story time.  I wanted to expose her to as many positive experiences as possible and I was so excited to see her joy as she made friends and learned new things.  It was always a double blessing.

We started doing homeschool officially when Julia was age 4, we enrolled in a homeschool coop and started doing social studies projects, and buying curriculum.  I wanted her to learn to read so badly by age 5 because I wanted to be able to say, "I taught her how to read," but like any average kid it finally happened around age 6.  I was so intense with homeschool at first.  I was so structured and so hard on myself.   Julia always loved the painting, and coloring, and reading books and she has the best imagination there is.  I love watching her play to this day because there is such a happy go lucky free spirit about her.



She is so different from me.

I always tried growing up to please everyone and succeed.  Julia just enjoys being and having fun.  She is so comfortable in her own skin.   Life is simple with her.  It is never complicated.  I am learning that now that she is almost 9 that this is all about her journey.  

She is going to have her own precious walk with the Lord.  She is going to learn to depend on Him and her faith is going to grow with each of her life experiences.  I can't deepen her faith or make her grow.  I can guide her.  I can be a good example.  I can teach her to pray and read the Bible and show her what it means to follow Christ but she is going to have to choose to walk that road.

She is going to make her own friends at school.  I pray everyday that she makes wise choices in the friend department.  We have been praying about and for her friends even before she was born.

She is going to make mistakes and need forgiveness.  She is going to learn to grow from those mistakes.

I can remember thinking (when I was pregnant with her) how am I going to raise a strong little lady?  Then she was born and I realized that she has a lot of strength already.  

God has given me a daughter who knows what she wants and finds a way to make it happen.  

It truly amazes me every day that we bring children into this world, but that God paves their journey.  We can do our best and our part, but there is so much that they have to learn and discover on their own.  For me that is both exciting and terrifying.

This year especially I have had to surrender a lot of control over Julia and Mark as they go to school and are not homeschooled for now.  One thing I loved about homeschooling was the control of who their friends were, and the things they were exposed to and learning and the environment in which they learned.  

I know that we did the absolute right thing for both of our kids and I have no regrets whatsoever.  I loved homeschooling but I also felt I was dragging Micah and Mia to things and sticking them in a nursery for hours instead of giving them the quality time they needed.  This year I have been able to truly invest in my littles and I am loving it!  From mommy and me swim class, the library story time, to a christian homeschool coop called Big Kids where Micah and Mia get to learn all about God with kids their age.  

This doesn't mean we will never homeschool again, in fact we are praying about next year and are almost 90% sure we are homeschooling.  But so far this year has been such a great change for us and I have loved watching Julia in particular blossom where she has been planted.  We keep praying that she will grow into a young lady that fears God, that she will walk in His ways, and continue to be that joy filled free spirit that sees the sparkle in everything.

Watching your first born child (actually any of your children) grow and mature is the coolest thing (and scariest thing).  I am learning that it is so important to take each day one at a time.  I'm trying not to look too far ahead, but to prayerfully consider the next best step for her and for us.  And I am mindful that this is her journey...not mine.



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