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Three Self-Care Tips (From a Mom Who Sucks At It)

I’ve heard it said that sometimes, people who have been very bad at things can actually be the very BEST people to teach about those things. Wisdom born of struggle, they say, is often deeper than wisdom born of ease.  I’m counting on that to be true because I’m about to talk to y’all about self care.

I am a proud possessor of a first-class ticket on the Self-Care Struggle Bus.  I have always had a pretty healthy (or UNHEALTHY) workhorse complex. I was that way even before I had kids, so when my son was born and I quit my job to stay home with him, it reached critical mass. I always felt like I had to be somewhere doing something for someone, not letting anyone down or missing anyone’s need and yes, proving my worth.  

But that, my friends, is a recipe for disaster. I became exhausted, impatient, resentful and was NOT even enjoying this motherhood thing that I had waited my whole life to do. So, I reluctantly (after a scolding or two from my own mother) conceded that “self-care” needed to actually be a thing for me. So embarked on a journey that would require me to get better at doing something I that had a lifelong pattern of proudly sucking at. And I’m still not great at it, work in progress is an understatement.  But, here are a few things I have learned along the way that are CRUCIAL if we ever hope to be successful at taking better care of our minds, bodies, and spirits.

  1. You’ve gotta treat it as a need and not a want.  It is a stone cold fact that when we are depleted, our mom game slips.  Our kids love and need us so deeply. Our smiles, our laughter, our hugs, our grace when they make a mistake- and all of those things are in short supply when our own cups are empty.  They might even worry about us- it’s heavy as heck to for me as an adult to worry about my parents, I cannot imagine carrying that burden as a child. Self-care is not a self-indulgent frivolity, it is a RESPONSIBLE act of motherhood.  Taking care of our babies’ mommies is one of the very most important things we can do for them. When we make that thinking shift (which is TRUTH, by the way. We are not just spin doctoring here), the work of making it a priority becomes a whole lot easier. 

  2. You may have to kiss a few frogs before you find your jam. Trying new things can pay GREAT dividends when establishing a self-care routine. I mean, some people know exactly what things they can do to fill their cup, but I am not those people. Also, we might THINK we know what our “thing” is, but there are actually others out there just waiting for us to stumble on to them.   Prime example: You wanna know what my thing is right now that relaxes and strengthens me? CROCHETING! I know, right? I’m not the least bit crafty and have tried and failed at it before, but I tried it again, stuck with it, and now it’s soothing and contenting and I can even do it when I’m with my kids. Who knew? Here are some ideas of things to try (and try it a few times before you toss it out, the first few times of doing things are awkward anyway)
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Crafts (YOUTUBE, people. It’s how I learned to crochet)
  • Walking outside in nature
  • Napping
  • Gardening
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Drinking enough water
  • Spiritual practices 
  • Listening to music

Note: it’s also important to recognize the things that may masquerade as self-care, but are really deepening the pits of despair in our lives  Examples include: Scrolling through social media and comparing ourselves to everyone else, spending money we don’t have on stuff that isn’t really going to fill us up, spending time with “friends” who actually make us feel really terrible about ourselves, binging on drugs, alcohol, food, etc.  Identifying the unhealthy things in our lives and finding better ways of doing and being is CRITICAL for this journey

3. Make. Yourself. Do it.  “I mean, I’m having an OK day. I don’t need to take time for myself.  Plus, I just don’t FEEL like going to the gym. I really need to do one more load of laundry, I just don’t have TIME to sit and read…”  NO! STOP! NOT TODAY, SATAN! You guys, we have got to MAKE ourselves do the things that feed our souls. We are taking care of our kids’ moms here. Also, we will find that the people in our lives will be perfectly happy letting us NOT do these things.  I mean, we can *maybe* count on our partners (if we have them) to recognize when we need a break, but our kids will just keep taking and taking as long as we keep giving. Most of the time, we will need to draw these boundary lines for ourselves and MAKE OURSELVES take the time because nobody’s going to do it for us. When that’s a struggle, re-read bullet point number one.  Also, I’m skipping the gym today. And yesterday. I’m still not good at this, but I’m trying. Which brings me to my next point, a bonus point…

4.  (Yes, I added another one)  Give yourself grace. In this, and in all things.  Giving ourselves grace as we do the crucial and at times uncomfortable work of establishing self-care patterns and routines is important.  Giving ourselves grace is also PART of self-care- perhaps the single most important part. We moms need to stop being so critical of ourselves, especially since this work we are doing is so danged hard.  When we see our kids doing new things, difficult things, BIG things, we are quick encourage them, pick them up as they fall, and cheer them on. We need to turn that same lens on ourselves and each other. 

So there you have it. My top 3 (plus a bonus) discoveries on my still in-progress journey toward doing a better job of caring for my mind, body, and spirit amid the mess and chaos of motherhood. I’d love to hear more about your own journey with self-care. What do you struggle with the most?  What has worked for you?  Any tips to share?

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How (and Why) I Learned to Crochet

I have never been the least bit crafty.  I do not sew. I do not scrapbook. I am a very utilitarian baker. I buy my kids’ birthday party supplies.

You could say that I am the Queen of the Pinterest Project Fail, but really I’m more like the Queen of the Pinterest Project Did-Not-Even-Attempt.

And yet, here I sit, a few weeks before Christmas, staring at a pile of hand-crocheted Christmas gifts. If you’d told me last year at this time that I would be putting gifts under the tree that I had made myself,  I would have scoffed. Back when my son was a baby, someone even attempted to teach me to crochet at a MOPS meeting and let’s just say it did not end well.

But necessity is a surprisingly effective motivator and it was almost exactly a year ago that I felt a press on my heart, a need in my mom-life, that changed the game for me and turned me into a crocheting fiend with a burgeoning yarn stash and a Pinterest board overflowing with stitch patterns and project ideas.

Read more about my crochet journey on the Kindred Mom Blog:

https://www.kindredmom.com/2018/12/06/how-i-learned-to-crochet/

 

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“I’m Proud of You, Kid.” Praising the Little Big Things

One hazy, hot August evening, six-year-old Mister Cameron and I were walking hand in hand to the car after swim lessons. He had been cranky and out of sorts all day, as he tends to get when he’s tired (see pretty much ALL OTHER POSTS about Mister Cameron to know this is true).

During his swim lesson, he had overestimated his lung capacity and ended up with a snortful of water.  I had been on the edge of my chair, watching, expecting a meltdown of epic proportions…but it never came.  He just took a deep breath of actual air, shook the whole thing off, and moved on.  It had been a stunning and unexpected display of maturity and resilience and my heart had exploded.

“Dude,” I said tentatively as we walked, knowing that pretty much everything I had said to him that day seemed to rub him the wrong way, “I know I say this a lot and you’re probably tired of hearing it, but I’m super proud of you.”

He heaved a deep, pleasant sigh, squeezed my hand and said, “Mom, I could never ever get tired of hearing you say that. Like, never ever.  It makes my heart feel soft.  And cozy.”

Again, my heart exploded.  It makes his heart feel SOFT and COZY?  My goodness, sweet boy…

Even when he had been given an opportunity to grumble and gripe, I OPENED THE DOOR WIDE OPEN WITH MY WHOLE, “You probably get tired of hearing this, Dude,” bit, his heart felt soft and cozy and it even melted the cranky enough for him to say so.

All because I told him I was proud of him.

Maybe it wasn’t only the fact that I was proud of him that melted and filled up his heart, though. Maybe it also had something to do with why I was proud of him.

I’ve noticed that the times when my motherly pride (and Daddy’s fatherly pride) seems to delight and reward my kids the most are not necessarily the BIG MOMENTS, the successes and accomplishments.  Dance recitals, home runs,  great reports from a teacher-  OF COURSE we are proud when they succeed, when they accomplish, when they execute an obvious job-well-done.

But it really seems to fill their cups and touch their hearts in a special way when we notice the the “little things,” the ones that might seem small in the moment, but feel very big to them. The things that take courage, resilience, and strength. The things that don’t always result in immediate success, but the things that true success is really made of.

We are proud when they try hard.

Even if it doesn’t work, even if they don’t quite get there, when we see them PUTTING THE EFFORT IN, we should tell them it makes us proud.  Trying hard, even when it’s hard and things aren’t falling into place, is what success is made of.

We are proud when they improve.

They may not be the best on the team, they may be struggling to remember those sight words, but when they improve, when they do better than last time, that is something to be proud of.  We aren’t going to be good at everything in life, but improving and moving forward as much as we can- that is what success is made of.

We are proud when they show resilience.

When they fall down and get back up again.  When a toy breaks and they take a deep breath and ask for help rather than melting down in tears.  When they stop themselves from an impulsive decision. When they notice and name their feelings, fatigue, hunger, and seek solutions.  We are going to have trouble in life, we are going to struggle and we are going to fall- but taking care of ourselves and getting back in the game- that is what success is made of.

We are proud when they show strength of character.

When they are kind, especially when it’s hard.  When they are honest, especially when the truth isn’t pretty.  When they are thoughtful of others. When they see someone who needs a friend and reach out.  When they are polite. When they are thoughtful.   Integrity and respect for themselves and others is the stuff that success- and a better world- is made of. 

In addition to the instincts of a mama’s heart that tell me that this particular brand of praise is important for our kids, it is also straight up behavioral science that positive reinforcement is one of if not THE SINGLE most powerful tool in shaping behavior.  The behaviors that get the most positive feedback are the behaviors that are most likely to be repeated. And do we want our kids showing effort, pursuing improvement, demonstrating resilience, and valuing strength of character in themselves and other? You betcha we do.

So watch your kids today- and every day.  Watch for the “little things” that are really BIG things. Big to them, big toward building successful humans, big toward making the world better.

And call those things out. Name them. Praise them. Tell your kids how PROUD you are of them.

It will make a difference- in the moment, in the future, to them, and to the world.

Posted in Food, Uncategorized

The Table on the Go: Grace When It’s Needed Most

The text message flashed up on the screen and took my breath away.

Cancer.

My precious friend, a mom of two little girls about the same age as my kids, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

First, I hit my knees. I pleaded with God to flood her body with healing and for the peace that passes understanding to flood their house.

Then, I hit the kitchen. Hands flying, pots and pans clattering. Chopping, stirring, sauteeing on pure instinct. I felt powerless to help her, but people have to eat, and food is something I could do for her family.

It’s a rhythm I learned from my mom: when the going gets tough, we get to cooking.

Growing up, I used to assume that everyone thought their mom was the best cook ever. It turns out; everyone actually thought my mom was the best cook ever.

Her food is detailed and delicious, but not fussy. Her table is always beautiful, but unpretentious. She is pure hospitality, making you feel warm and welcome. You leave her home so much more full than when you walked in—both in spirit and in stomach. I have yet to see anyone better than my mom at taking her special brand of gracious hospitality, warmth, and comfort to the people in her life who are experiencing a moment of need.

Over the years she has perfected and streamlined her methods, so she doesn’t even need much notice to get food to people. Someone can share their news with her, bad or good, and she can turn around and bless them with a meal in a matter of hours.

In those first moments, when the world has turned upside down, but people still need to eat, my mom slips in quietly, the hands and feet of Jesus, feeding His sheep with home cooking and grace.

She has passed on some of her tricks to me and, while I’ve nowhere near achieved her Maestro of Meal Delivery status, I have managed to get from bad news text message to delivered meal in a matter of hours a few times. Here are a few of the best practices I’ve gleaned from my mom that allow for the quick and easy sharing of meals with people in their moment of need.

Join me over at the Kindred Mom Blog to read my mom’s top tips (and if you happen to know my mom, you know you need these tips!

https://www.kindredmom.com/2018/09/11/the-table-on-the-go-grace-when-its-needed-most/

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Time for a Time Out

August is here.  The start of the school year is coming.  And there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on over here!

As I may have mentioned before, I’m putting the finishing touches on MY FIRST MINI E-BOOK, which will be released in September!  It’s a short collection of seven bits of grace for the struggles of motherhood.

Also, I’m working on some writing to submit to a few OTHER websites, other than my own, which is a big and necessary step for all of us who wanna be writers when we grow up.

And I’m doing all of this…with kids in tow.  Kids who don’t start school for another month.  Kids who are fighting.  A lot. Soooo much fighting.

Anyway, it’s super important for us to know our limits, our priorities, and to know when to change our rhythms and shift our focus. You know, give ourselves GRACE.

So, I’m going to take a break from publishing new content on the blog in August so I can focus on finishing up the e-book (’cause I’m doing it all myself with help from my actual real life friends,  there’s no publisher or agent or anything driving this- oy) and get some content written to submit some other places so we can invite more people to our GRACE PARTY over here.

See y’all in SEPTEMBER with exciting new stuff to share!

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A Love Letter to the Hot Mess Mom

Dear “Hot Mess” Mom,

I’m writing to you today to thank you for being you and to let you know that you are my favorite, you are absolutely my people, let’s be besties.  Whether you haven’t showered in three days (or five…or seven), have no idea what’s for dinner tonight, CAN! NOT! seem to keep your house from looking like a cyclone hit it, have never once been on time for preschool drop-off, or haven’t worn anything but sweats in two years because nothing else fits- I think you are glorious.

And those of you for whom your “hot mess” feels a bit deeper, if you’re battling a mental or physical illness that makes you not want to get out of bed or get off the couch, wrestling with demons from your own childhood that have been dredged up by becoming a mom, harboring worry, resentment, and/or stress in your life or relationships that are eating away at you- you are glorious as well and I love you.

Because, my sisters, you are my people. You are the ones I want to sit in my own messy living room and drink coffee with and discuss the realness of life.  You are my jam. I love your messes- OUR messes- because they make us perfect for one another. The knicks in our armor, the rips in the supermom capes, those are the places where we reach out and connect.  They make us accessible to one another and give one another permission to come to connection just as we are.

Read more of this love letter from me to you over at the Project Mother blog:

https://projectmother.co/blog/a-love-letter-to-the-hot-mess-mom

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Five Minute Friday: Secret (Lord of the Rings

I’m a Lord of the Rings nut.  Love the books, love the movies, and I could probably speak entirely in Tolkien quotes if called upon to do so. Not in Elvish, though. Haven’t gotten that far.

So, obviously, this image of Gandalf from the beginning of “The Fellowship of the Ring” is what popped into my head when I read the word “secret.”

Gandalf is encouraging Frodo to keep The One Ring, “The Precious,” secret and safe, lest the servants of the enemy find out He has it and come to take it from him.

I feel like most of us have a “Precious” in our lives- or more than one

There are things in our hearts that feel like “The Precious,” like VERY BAD THINGS will happen if we let them out into the light and let others know we have them.

And in some ways, this is true.  When the agents of the enemy, those influenced by the power of the one who seeks to destroy us all, learn that we have certain things in our hearts, they will use it against us.

But flip side is what happens in Rivendell.

Once Frodo gets The Precious to the home of the elves, he finds a group of allies at The Council of Elrond. An unlikely bunch:  an elf, a dwarf, two men with secrets of their own, three other hapless hobbits, and Gandalf himself, assemble to stand beside Frodo and help him carry this burden, “As long as it is yours to bear.”

Frodo is strengthened and protected by The Fellowship of the Ring.  He would not succeed in his quest if not for them. Each plays a part in his journey to lay down this dark burden, each risking his very LIFE for Frodo and the Ring.

What is your Precious?  Is there a heavy secret weighing down your heart, eating away at your heart and weakening you? Is there a BEAUTIFUL burden, a secret precious dream that you feel God calling you to?

Whatever it is, you need a Fellowship of the Ring.

JRR Tolkien was a believer in God, the image created by this Fellowship was no accident.  Pray that God will bring you your Fellowship, your crew to carry this burden with you and help you lift it up and lay it down.  I will pray that for you right now, whoever you are.

Will you pray that for me? I need it, too!

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SUMMER BREAK!

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, Dear Readers!

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been publishing here much lately.

ALL OF THE THINGS have been going on- good things, God things, happy things, positive things, but when your primary gig is being responsible for  two small children 24/7 ANY things that are even THINGS take up more space than is even reasonable.  Am I right?  These kids, man.

So, I’m making it official and taking a “Summer Break” from publishing here.  I’m still writing, getting posts lined up so I can start publishing weekly again come fall and not have it be a super stretch and I have some posts ready to go over on the Project Mother blog this summer as well.

But as far as AWAP goes, I’m on vacaaaaaaaay!  See you in the fall <3 <3 <3

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A Moment of Silence (Memorial Day Post)

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Today, Memorial Day,  we remember and honor those who have lost their lives protecting and defending our country and our freedom.

Let’s honor them with a moment of silence.

During our time of silent prayer and contemplation in their honor, let’s think about those they held dear, those mourning them, the ones they gave their lives protecting. And let’s think about how we can honor the memory of the fallen by loving on those they loved most, those their heart ached to go home to, those who ached to see them come home.

If you know anyone who has lost a loved one in the service of our country, consider how you might reach out to them and make them feel loved in the coming days and weeks.  Anything from an open acknowledgment of their loss today to a quick text next week just checking in on their life and telling them you’re glad to have them in your life.

Mark your calendars or set reminders in your phone for a few dates in the future to do the same, to send rays of sunshine at times when they least expect it.  Lift their spirits and help them feel some love.

If you’re reading this and you lost someone close to you in the service of our country, thank you.  Your loss is beyond comprehension.  The bravery of your loved one, your friend, the one you served alongside, it is breathtaking.  You are in my thoughts and my prayers today. I’m going to hug my babies, kiss my husband, walk in safety and freedom, and know that every bit of it is made possible by the hard work and sacrifice of your loved one- and yours as well.

God bless you.

 

 

 

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Three Reasons Why Noonday Collection is EVERYTHING to this Mama’s Heart.

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending an evening with some of my fellow Portland-area Noonday Ambassadors and…JESSICA HONNEGER, FOUNDER AND CO-CEO OF NOONDAY COLLECTION!

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Me with JESSICA HERSELF. You know, know big deal. 😉

I have written before about Noonday, about my journey, and about how it has caused me to grow, to stretch, to believe I could do hard things, and to give myself permission to show up to the things I feel called to be a part of, whether anyone else has invited me or not.  You can read more about that journey herehere, here, here, and here.

I was reminded that evening in a BIG WAY why Noonday Collection is pretty much everything to where my heart is at right now, another example of how God’s purpose for this Noonday journey of mine keeps unfolding.

During their talks with us, Jessica and Noonday’s VP of Sales and Ambassador Development, Allison Lime, spoke to something that is pretty much entirely all of what I’m here for right now, and that is MOMS.  Jessica told stories of how Noonday has impacted the lives of families around the world. Allison asked us in the room to share our “why” for signing up with Noonday, and so many of the stories of the women in the room centered around motherhood.  Here are my three biggest takeaways from listening to those stories.

  1.  Noonday Collection is empowering moms around the world to be able to provide for their children.  Extreme poverty around the world puts moms in positions that no parent should have to be in:  Considering whether she should give her child up for adoption because she can’t afford to feed her, debating whether to sell one child into slavery to afford to feed the others, leaving her babies alone at night while she goes work the streets as a prostitute to earn the money her family needs.  I  have a physical reaction to hearing these scenarios. My mama’s heart aches DEEPLY at the prospect.  But these are the stories of some of the moms and dads who work for Noonday’s artisan partners around the world- moms and dads who ended up NOT having to take desperate measures because of their dignified jobs with Noonday’s artisan partners.  When we partner with Noonday Collection, either as Ambassadors, Hostesses, or Customers, the sales we generate translate directly into orders or our artisan partners, which means MORE JOBS for people who need it.  Dignified employment and a sustainable income means POWER for moms to make choices out of what’s best for them and their kids, not out of desperation.
  2. Noonday is enabling moms (and dads) to adopt and bring kids home to their forever families.  Noonday Collection was founded out of Jessica’s  own journey of adoption and it has maintained strong ties to adoption as it has grown over the past six years.  Noonday allows hostesses to turn their trunk shows into benefits for adopting families to help offset the astronomical cost of adoption.  Because of its ties to the adoption community, many of our ambassadors are also adoptive mamas. All of that combines together to make Noonday such a force of light and strength and support for adopting families.  So far, I’ve been able to partner with three adopting families to help raise funds to bring their kids home and I’ve cheered countless other families on through the Ambassador Community. It’s a privilege to be a part of connecting kids with their forever families and mamas with the little ones their hearts are longing for and to be a part of a community that gives so much support to adopting families.
  3. Noonday is connecting moms around the world to PURPOSE. Sometimes as a mom, my heart aches to MATTER to someone outside of the borders of my home.  I mean heck, why else would I have even started this blog, right?  And I know I’m not alone in that ache on my heart- we are built for connection. The desire to matter to others and to help others is innate in all of us. Noonday Collection provides Ambassadors, Hostesses, and Customers with the chance to do that. We are also providing opportunities for women around the world to step into purpose as well- and to know that they are enabling OUR purpose as well. That mutual connection, the symbiosis of Noonday Collection here in America and our artisan partners around the world just feels sacred to me.  We couldn’t do what we do without them and they couldn’t do what they do without us- we all know we matter to one another, to other moms and other families, and that is beautiful and powerful stuff.

I had to leave early that night to get home to an extremely sick Kenzie.  I said goodnight to Jessica, who took the time to talk to me for a minute right before I left (that woman makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room) and I ached to stay longer and chat with everyone.

But as I lay in bed that night, brushing the hair off of Kenzie’s burning forehead, I knew that that moment was just as important to connecting me to my purpose with Noonday as it was sitting in that room with our founder and other Ambassadors.  The compulsion on a mama’s heart to provide for her children is one of the deepest things I have ever experienced.  The idea that, through partnering with Noonday collection, I help enable moms around the world to provide the food, shelter, and medical care that their kids need is EVERYTHING to me right now.

I’ve set a goal for myself to sell enough Noonday this Fall to earn a trip to meet some of our artisan partners this summer.  So far, the going has been rough, but I am encouraged to keep fighting to reach that goal so that I can sit across from these women and thank them in person for breathing such purpose into my life.  It’s such a beautiful thing when women come together to support, encourage, and enable one another to be all we can be for ourselves and our families. I’m so glad I took the risk a year ago and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!