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936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

When You Are An Introvert Raising An Extrovert With “So Many Words”

January 9, 2017

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“Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t let you nap.”

My eyes are closed. I lay in my bed next to my five-year-old; his little brothers sound asleep in their rooms. He goes on. “It’s just that I have so many words. And I need to tell them to you now, so that I don’t forget them.”

This seems to be the case lately. And can I just say it…that it’s exhausting? It is said that women speak, on average, around 20,000 words a day. Just the thought of that exhausts me. I am not, and have never been that woman. In fact, one reason my husband and I fit so well together is that we have a bit of a role reversal; he has always been the talkative one. During arguments (and yes, they do happen), he likes to talk things over, while I would rather employ the silent treatment, mull things over in my mind, and take a nap. I have never been the talkative type.

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And then I gave birth to the boy who is his father’s son. Just as Zeke put it that day lying next to me in my bed—he just has so many words. And some days, like today, it infuriates me. To get the same point across, I might use five carefully chosen words, while my boy would use twenty-seven to say the very same thing.

It has been a real struggle lately, to remain patient when I feel downright drained in every single way. He rounds the corner with another question, another idea, even another, “I love you Mom and you are the most beautiful Mom I know!” and it is just the sweetest thing. And exhausting.

If you’re the quiet type of mom who treasures her scarce moments of silence hidden amongst the chaos and noise of her day, you might just be nodding your head right now.

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It has been this terribly complex dynamic to wrap my mind around. As we prepare for my book to launch, which includes public speaking, I’m diving into this whole new exhilarating world. And I love it. I love speaking words that move people. And seeing them literally relax under those words and find space to breath again; wisdom to move forward. I love every single bit of it.

I also love quiet.

And how do I balance this type of life, where I can hardly call myself an introvert, because of my love for community and speaking, and yet holding a million conversations a day with my child is downright draining? I’m at a loss, most days. Maybe you feel the same, trying to keep up with just so many words from your little one.

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But on those days when I’m given a bit of extra clarity, I see it. That these “so many words” that my boy holds bottled up within him, they are his byway from young child to adolescent, and eventually adult. They are his only way to make sense of this world around him, where still so much makes very little sense at all.

His endless questions and limitless ideas, they are his only way to express all of those wonderings bottled up in that budding mind of his. With these “so many words”, he is trying to piece together all of the confusion, uncertainty, curiosities, and misunderstandings that surround him. And he is trying to figure out where he fits in it all.

These “so many words”, they need to be spoken, to find a voice and a space and an answer. It pains him to bottle them up. Just as he told me that day on my bed, “I need to tell them to you now, so that I don’t forget them.” It is just the same with my writing. A thought or an idea enters into my mind, and I feel I must find a home for it somewhere. Whether it be in a notebook or a file on my phone or a text to my husband or straight here to the blog. It has to go somewhere, or else it might just disappear into oblivion, never to mature, develop, or move people. My boy feels the same with his ideas of snowboard designs and race car tracks and inventions. He needs those ideas and thoughts and questions and words to have a home, lest he lose them. And my listening ear provides him that sanctuary for his ideas, where he knows they’ll be safe.

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Every time we stop to listen to our child’s words, to really listen, and to answer, it is an invite. It invites them to be vulnerable and curious and to dream. And it invites us to step into their world, and glimpse those wonderings that dance about in their head all day long.

This open invite into their world, it’s a gracious offering that our children give us, and we can’t know for how long it will last. How long until they begin guarding those words; bottling them up and hesitant to share them with us? Now is the time, while our children are young, that we can provide them with a place of trust for their words to rest upon, so that even when they are grown, they will know exactly where they can go to for a listening ear.

So yes—it is exhausting—these so many words. But really, isn’t most of parenthood? And this piece of it—the opportunity to speak truth and life and love and kindness, to answer their questions in such a way that will satisfy their curiosity and teach them about the most important pieces to life—I’ll take that exhaustion any day. One question at a time. Let’s graciously give those so many words a place to be heard today.

Motherhood

I Wondered If It Was I Who Had Made Him Sick

November 18, 2016

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I haven’t breastfed for sixteen months. And so when the The Honest Company asked me to share my personal feeding journey, I felt a bit unqualified. Along with their feeding page to help us parents with the options we have for feeding our babies, The Honest Company has collaborated with many moms on this journey to share their real, honest feeding stories. It wasn’t that I felt unqualified for this writing project because I haven’t dealt with the strong emotions tied to feeding my children—but simply because I’m not in that particular phase right now. 

I felt that way until a conversation I had with my husband recently, when I stumbled upon a sentence I had ruled myself guilty of—something I hadn’t known that I was holding against myself.

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My family has been sick lately—a lot sicker than we’ve been in recent years. In the past few months, our three boys have suffered through bouts of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, a stomach bug, and a respiratory virus. “I just don’t understand it,” I told my husband recently, “Why are they getting so sick? And with all of it, Willy seems to get hit the hardest each time.” Our youngest boy, Willy, is a year and a half. And through every recent illness, he has suffered the worst, and the longest. “Do you think…” I knew it was a bit ridiculous, but it was on my heart, so I went on, “Do you think it’s because he nursed for the least amount of time?” He assured me that there were a lot of factors, and that although nursing could be one factor, we didn’t even need consider it. His face said it all. Let’s not go there.

Our conversation opened my eyes to see that over these past sixteen months since our boy gave up breastfeeding, I have been holding it against myself. There has been a shadow hanging over my motherhood, and I am certain that the same shadow lingers over many mamas today.

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It could be argued that I should have tried harder. Perhaps I should have drank more mother’s milk tea, or ate more lactation cookies. Maybe our life was too stressful—we were in the midst of a move to a new state, and I was trying to run a business and secure a book deal. Maybe those ambitions were partly to blame. But I find that anytime I shift the blame, looking for a spot for it to call home—I am never satisfied. Playing the blame game only leaves me worse off.

Many of us moms are harboring guilt over the choices made around feeding our babies. There is so much out of our control. When our first son was five months old, I became very sick. While in the hospital, I was given medication that I could not nurse my boy on. Laying in that hospital bed, I pumped milk every two hours to encourage my supply. But I still lost my milk. The freezer at home ran empty of backup bags. I arrived home from the hospital to find my infant boy drinking formula from a bottle. It was all we could do–and I felt like a failure.

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Many moms face circumstances out of their control when it comes to feeding their babies. For some, their milk never comes in. For others, their baby never latches. For others, they didn’t meet their child until adoption brought them together, years after those feeding decisions had already been made. In our motherhood, there is so much that we cannot control. But sometimes the deepest peace is found in letting those matters go, giving ourselves grace, and shifting our focus to what we do have a say in.

When our youngest son gave up nursing at three months old, I was determined to find another way to bond with him. I missed his suckle, and the way he would lay pressed up against my skin, feeling nourishment pass from me to him. I missed it bad. And so I began carrying him on our hikes. Whenever we set out on a trail as a family, I volunteered to carry Willy in the hiking pack. As he sat behind me, taking in the wonderful world around him, smiling and chattering to me as we made our way down the path, he and I connected. We shared that experience of awe, adventure, and wonder. We bonded in a way that I will remember for all of my days.

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Whether the circumstances are within our control or not, our job is to look back on that time and remember the sweet cuddles, the middle-of-the-night lullabies, and the way our child rested securely in our love despite their feeding regimen. If you’re in this stage right now—make those moments matter. Weigh them down with your full presence. No matter the pressures, anxieties, and confusion permeating your own journey—rest knowing that the moments you will remember are the ones when you chose to love big despite the circumstances. Remember that your love for your baby is so much more powerful than feeding plans gone awry. And be thankful that even when things don’t go as planned, we still have good, wholesome options to offer our babies.

I am choosing to lay down this burden–the one I’ve been allowing to taint my motherhood for sixteen months. I hope you will do the same. Or if you are currently in the stage of making those decisions, that you’ll offer yourself some grace. With the immense pressure we face when deciding how to feed our babies, I think it would do us all well to step back and remember that what our little ones need most from us is undying, unconditional love. In our presence they find security. In our voice they find belonging. In our caress they find assurance. And in our own acceptance of ourselves as their mother, they find exactly the mom that they need.

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For more encouragement, be sure to read these Honest Feeding Stories over the the Honest Company!

 

Anorexia Motherhood

5 Things I Need My Son To Know About My Eating Disorder

October 25, 2016

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Son, I need you to know something. It is something I am not proud of, but it is a part of who I am, and it is important. The chances are, you will encounter it in your life on a personal level. So I need you to know this—there was a time when I hurt my body. I chose to not eat enough food, because I was confused about what is important. I did not understand what it meant to be pretty, and so I chased after a fake kind of pretty.

I wanted people to think that I was strong and beautiful, but I did not understand what it really meant to be strong and beautiful. I thought that by not eating, I could be these things. I was wrong. God is good and kind, and He helped me to heal, and to learn what true beauty and strength look like.

I am telling you this because the chances are that in your life, a woman you know will struggle with eating just like I did. And I want you to know a few very important things, when that time comes.

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 1.   Pay Attention When Your Heart Tells You She May Be In Danger

Your heart as a way of telling you when something is not right. We call these “Red Flags”. They are that small feeling that something is wrong. If you have a girl in your life that you care about and spend a lot of time with, you will see these red flags when they come. 

She might start acting funny when it comes time to eat. She might make many comments about wanting to lose weight, or be prettier. She might talk badly about how she looks. She might push her food around her plate, or make excuses why she’s not eating. She may say things like, “Oh, I ate before I came” every time you hang out. She may seem sad and distracted. My Love, do not ignore these things when they sit heavy on your heart, telling you something is wrong. You are probably right.

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2.    Do Not Talk To Her About It

This may sound strange. Usually when someone is hurting or upset, I tell you that we should help them. But son, when it comes to eating disorders, it is not your place to fix this. In fact, because you are a boy, if you say anything about it to her, it might make matters worse. It is hard for me to explain, but I have been in her shoes. So I know that if you say anything, even if it is to help, it might cause her to skip another meal. Because deep down inside, she wanted you to notice.

3.  Instead, Ask An Older Woman To Help

Although you should not talk with your friend about your worries, you are not powerless. When you see those red flags, there is something you can do, and it could make all of the difference. The chances are that this girl in your life has an older woman that she looks up to. Whether it is a teacher, a youth leader, an aunt, or another woman in her life that she respects—this is the woman you can talk to about your red flags. This woman is in a place to talk to your friend, and get her the help that she needs. This is your most important job in helping your friend.

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4.   Your Words Hold Great Power

Lately I have been teaching you the importance of being a good encourager. You know that you can tell people what they are doing well, and things you like about them, and that it will bring a smile to their face. The power of your words runs even deeper than you think. You tell me at least five times a day that you think I am pretty. My boy, those words are life-giving. Whether it is your cousin, your friend, your aunt, your Grandma, and later on your girlfriend and eventually a wife, your words can give her all of the confidence in the world.

I know you have witnessed this in how your Daddy speaks to me. His words make me feel brave and strong and beautiful. Your words can do the same. But son, the most life-giving words you can speak to a woman are the ones that tell of her inward beauty. That she is brave, that she sings well, that she writes great stories, that she is smart, that she is kind. Everything you see good within her, tell her. Because a strong sense of inner beauty is one of the greatest protections against eating disorders.

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5.  It Is Not Your Fault

Finally, my boy, I need you to know that if a girl in your life is struggling with an eating disorder, it is not your fault. These sicknesses are so very hard to understand. Before and during my sickness, I had strong godly men speaking truth into my life. I felt loved and secure in my family. Sometimes these things just happen, for many various reasons. It is not your fault. It is the same sentence I would speak to any man who was in my life at that time. 

But son, although you were not the cause of her sickness, you can be a part of her healing. By paying attention to the red flags in your heart, by taking those red flags not to her, but to an older woman that she respects, and by always encouraging the women in your life by telling them of their inner beauty. You can make a difference. 

Be brave, my boy.

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936Pennies Family Motherhood

When Parents Turn The Humdrum Ordinary Into Legacy

October 11, 2016

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“Do you have any collections, Hammy?” With uncanny agility, he moved his little body from rock to rock as we made our way down the riverbed. The evening before, when we had picked my mom up from the airport, he counted it of utmost importance to tell her first of his two collections. “I have a roots collection. And I have a dead bug collection. It has three bees in it.” Now as we skipped stones and counted ducks along the river, he asked his grandma of her own collections.

She thought for a few long moments, stringing suspense in the air as he awaited her answer. “I like to collect seeds from my plants.” She told him. I could picture her bending low to gather seeds in one of her many gardens. I could see the large rubber tires she had spray painted in bright colors and turned into raised beds.

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My boy keeps his collections in a place of honor on his desk; mason jars displaying bugs and plants that have caught his fancy. Once in a while he asks me of my own collection jars. Masons sitting side-by-side on a shelf for us to see often, and consider their copper contents. “The pennies remind us to spend our time well with you.” I explain to him. My heart rests at that, knowing that one day he will understand, when he cradles his own babe for the first time.

One day he’ll understand that it’s not about a jar of pennies, but rather a collection of memories. Each coin marking how we’ve invested it in memory making endeavors.

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There’s a song by Leslie Feist with a line that has stuck with me ever since I first heard it. She sings, “We’ll collect the moments one by one, I guess that’s how the future’s done.” I see this collection of memories as so much more than happy moments to look back upon. They serve as building blocks in the foundation that our childrens’ futures rest upon. I want to give my children a storehouse of “Hey, remember when…!” moments that will bring a smile to their face and hope to their hearts years from now; memories to anchor them when the seas of life swell with wild waves.

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Parents face this overwhelming pressure to make every moment matter. To cherish every second of this journey. But I don’t believe that this paints a fair picture of our calling. Rather than trying to force significance or fabricate meaning, I believe that our job is to open our eyes wide and spot it where it already exists. Our job is to put our hands to the plow and unearth the life beneath the soil of normal humdrum days; to discover the roots that dig deep and anchor us to our purpose as parents. Our job is to hold the common experiences with awe, and turn them over as dog ears in our child’s story.

When she interrupts your work and asks you to push her on the swing, or he insists that you come and see his latest block tower construction, or she asks for your opinion on a situation with her friends at school—these are gem moments. They shine brightly out from among the ordinary of life, but only if we give them the attention they’re due. They become beacons of light only when we choose to pick them up from among the rocks, polish them with our affection, and set them in a place of honor by naming them as significant. This is when the ordinary transforms from overlooked, to holy.

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I have a few of these gem moments displayed on my writing desk, between half finished writing projects, half read books, and art projects from our boys. One is from that day at the duck pond when Zeke taught my mom how to rock hop, and asked her of her own collections. They are stones we’ve collected from our explorations. To anyone else, they might still look ordinary, but I know them to be gems.

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They have been carefully chosen from among thousands like them, but then given dignitary treatment. They’re rinsed in the river, marked by permanent marker with a date and a memory—“Hike with Zeke”, “From Ellis on Devil’s Backbone Hike”, “Duck pond with Mom”, and then set in a place of tribute on my desk. Thrown back into the river, they would be just another stone. Yet sitting on my desk, they serve as a collection of memories, ones that stand out along my motherhood journey as those gem moments to carry me through the difficult days, and remind me exactly what this job is about.

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936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

I Dont Want To Look Back And Wonder How We Got There

September 14, 2016

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I am not sure how I didn’t notice until then. Why I didn’t see it until that very inconvenient moment when we’re rushing to get all three kids fed and dressed and out the door in time for church. But I did see it, and it stopped me dead in my hustle-bustle tracks.

The tick of the clock ceased to remind me that church would be starting soon, and we best be on our way. Instead, I took in the sight of our oldest boy as he bound through the living room. I studied his shoulders in that button-up. When had they turned from such pre-school round to little boy square?

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His legs looked impossibly long in those dark denim jeans. And as he ran and jumped throughout the living room, his muscles flexed beneath his Sunday’s Best to reveal a budding strength. A young man strength. I bent down and rested a knee on the carpet, and pulled him near. “Just stay,” I told him. “I just want to hold you for a minute.” He leaned back just enough to catch my eyes with his, and then broke into a big grin.

That night I would dream that he was taller than me, and I know some day this will become a realty. My prayer is, that when that day comes, I won’t be asking myself how it happened.

I pray that I’ll know exactly how we got to that point, because I was fully present every step that it takes to get from here to there.

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I did some calculating this week. I unscrewed the tops of those jars that sit on a shelf in our living room, the ones that remind us that time will not stop, so we best learn how to slow it down. I held the copper coins in my hands, counted two by twos. And this is what I found.

Our youngest boy, the one who came on his own timetable through a whirlwind of labor weeks before we expected him. The one born so small I could hold him in one hand. The one who slept swaddled up soundly underneath a sunny window until his skin pinked up. The one who would quickly prove that his big voice and even bigger heart could compensate for his little size. We have spent 74 weeks getting to know him.

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And then our middle guy. The one born with a deep, raspy voice and a contagious giggle. The one who asks to sit and drink a cup of tea with me, and requests to wear a button-up shirt on the most ordinary of outings. The one who forces me to stop and slow our day, because he needs to dance in my arms. We’ve had 173 weeks with this one.

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And then the one who made me a Mama. The one who gave me a crash course in what it means to lose all of myself; to give and give and give some more. And then to receive; to take in all the love and whispers and smiles and moments of grand beauty.

The one whose focus is steadfast and determination is unshaken. The one who gathers paper and markers to make a card for friends when he hears that they are sick. The one who asks the deep questions, and doesn’t settle for shallow answers—and teaches me to do the same. We’ve had 269 weeks with this boy.

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This morning I sat in a room of women. Twelve strangers who are all walking this journey of penny spending; this voyage of time investing. We were gathered for a new Bible study, and took turns sharing our names and the ages of our children. Several talked as they nursed newborn babes. “I have three boys,” I began, “Ages 5, 3, and 1.” One woman sitting the next couch over had three children the same ages.

And I just wonder, what would happen if I had said instead, “My three boys are 74 weeks old, 173 weeks old, and 269 weeks old.” Surely there would have been a few odd glances. It seems as though after the first few months, we transition from counting weeks, to counting months, and then years. But what if we kept tracking these weeks? And what if I had said instead, “I have 862 weeks left with my youngest boy. With my second born, I have 763 weeks remaining. And, well, with my firstborn, I have only 667 weeks left.”

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It’s the same reason some parents say that they can’t do it—this time counting. It’s why for a long time, I didn’t think I could do it either. Sometimes we don’t want this stark reminder. But if we’re not keeping track, I fear we’ll lose track.

I fear we’ll stop noticing the details, and that we might just miss the process of it all. I’m afraid that we’ll get to that last week, when we’re sitting on a bedside helping them pack for college, or watching them drive away to their next adventure, and we’ll wonder how we got there.

I don’t want to wonder how we got there. I want to be able to look back and see a continuous string of moments marked by my full presence, my full attention, my full appreciation. I want to harness the time and engrave it with all of me noticing all of them.

And so I keep counting.

936Pennies Motherhood Peace Plan

It’s Time To Reclaim A Peaceful Motherhood

September 2, 2016

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It would be so easy. Convenient, even, which is very rare in a house with three kids ages five and under. The toddler is napping. The older boys are contentedly constructing Lincoln Log houses together in their room. The house is quiet. I could sit and answer a few emails. My boy walks into the kitchen and asks if I can build with him. “I’d like to Buddy, but I need to finish up a little bit of work.” “Ok,” he replies, “maybe later.” 

He turns and walks out of the kitchen, and immediately my Peace Plan comes to mind, and that one line written, “No work between 8 and noon” It’s 11:00. It’s their time.

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I pour another cup of coffee and walk over to my boy. “I changed my mind,” I tell him, “Can I build a house with you?” He smiles and jumps in the air, then rushes off ahead of me to his room. For a while we sit there together, me and my boys. I find it hard; somewhat restless. But with each minute passing, I feel more at ease. This is where I’m supposed to be right now. When we finish our grand construction, I set up their beanbags against the wall, grab a stack of books, and we settle in, each boy on my side. This is where peace is. And today I’ve chosen it.

A Peace Plan is just that—a plan. It is a constant reminder to me of what my heart really desires and needs. It is a reflection of my highest values. It is a warning light when I’m slipping into distraction, or losing sight of what matters most in my life.

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I wrote of this Peace Plan a while back, and how it might just be the most important plan that we can make as parents.

It is a guide for navigating us through every single day, helping us to make the most of them. Peace has so much to do with how we spend our time. This plan is the one thing I have found successful for looking back at the end of the day, and seeing a few highlights; a few strategically chosen moments, a few intentional choices made, a few favorite parts of my day; all structured together by the blueprint of this Peace Plan.

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The plan changes from time to time. It has to, in order to be an effective defense against the ever-changing peace thieves in our lives. As our kids grow and we find ourselves in new seasons of life, we face different threats to our peace. And so this plan must be ever evolving, in tune with our heart and mind.

At the beginning of each month, I evaluate those two all important questions that are the foundation of this plan. What will bring more peace to our days right now? And, What is stealing my peace right now?

And then I begin to write, short and simple.

No work between 8 and 12.

Early morning time alone—before the kids wake.

Slow mornings at home, or at the park.

No running unnecessary last-minute errands.

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It is not a to-do list or a goals list. It’s a focus list. It’s about shining a spotlight on the things that give us peace, and reminding ourselves of them every single day. Just as important, it requires pinpointing the very things that are stealing our peace. Those things that when we succumb to them, our shoulders tense. Our mind tells us to put the phone away. Our heart tells us to stay home and sip coffee, that errand can wait. Our spirit tells us to shut down the laptop and read to our child. Our soul is very good at pointing out where peace is, if we’ll only pay attention. And that is when we can begin drafting our Peace Plan.

It’s not elaborate, but simple and raw. It shows us how we want to spend our time, and how we don’t want to spend it. It identifies weaknesses. It highlights our values.

Go hiking with my husband

Make cards with the boys for family

Write something every day

Read a novel

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I pin the Plan next to my desk, where I can glance at it every day; a regular check-in with my heart to see if I’m where I want to be.

I don’t always get it right. Some days I find myself sucked into the social media vortex, or staying up too late, leaving me too tired in the morning to grab that alone time. But when I miss it—I know right away. I see it staring straight back into my eyes—fear. Stress. Frustration. Discontent. Guilt. I feel it deep within my spirit that I missed out on something better.

But when I do get it right, when I choose Lincoln Logs and books over email because it’s still morning—which means it’s their time—I see something much better staring right back into my eyes. I see their eyes. And that is exactly where peace is found.

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I have a habit of asking my boys at bedtime what the favorite part of their day was. Sometimes their answers surprise me. They’ll mention one little thing that I hardly counted memorable, but it stood out to them. It offers me a priceless glance into their hearts. Lately, when I ask myself the same question, What was my favorite part of the day? Almost always I think back to a moment in the day that my Peace Plan brought me to.

And that is exactly what this plan is for—a guarantee that we’ll catch those moments, and make them matter. The Peace Plan is for creating those favorite moments of the day, and protecting against their extinction. If you were to sit down and do a little bit of introspection; to put a name to the things stealing your peace right now, and if you could make some simple changes to bring more peace to your heart and these days of raising your kids…wouldn’t you? Perhaps it’s time to start writing.

“Those Who Plan Peace Have Joy” Proverbs 12:20

936Pennies Family Motherhood

When We Glimpse Just How Fragile Life Is

June 15, 2016

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I decorated our boys’ room today. They eagerly watched from their new bunk bed as I penned small marks on the wall and pounded in tiny nails. “Thank you for celebrating our room, Mom!” My oldest exclaimed. It will be a sad day for me when he starts correctly using “decorate” over “celebrate”. I kind of adore that he loves to “celebrate” our house.

As I hung up paintings of mountains and bears with the words, “Be brave, little one”, my heart was grieving.

I try to avoid the news. It’s not that I want to be unaware of what’s going on in the world, it’s just that I have an issue with fear. I’m quick to let it grip me, suffocate me, and pull me under.

I think most moms are. We just have so much to lose.

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But this week the news has been unavoidable. And as I stretched the measuring tape from nail to nail and hung copper stars on my boys’ wall, I mourned for mamas I do not know.

For 49 mamas shedding endless tears over their babies who were taken from them in an unthinkable act of evil.

And as we all sit in our own homes, grateful it wasn’t us and praying for those it was, I hear news of another Mama. One in the very same city where those 49 were taken. And I read of her own son—only two years old—snatched by an alligator while he dipped his toes into the water at the lagoon’s edge. I read of his Daddy, in brave instinct launching into the water and grabbing the animal, desperately trying to wrangle his helpless boy from the beast’s mouth.

The father lost.

And my heart pounds in my chest as I think of the scene.

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They were on vacation. And I think of the mother who will board an airplane to go home, her whole being aching at the empty seat beside her.

I push a curtain rod through a bright blue curtain and hang it over my boys’ window. I picture that mother setting her suitcase down at the front door, walking into his bedroom, and glancing at the pictures hung. The toys still strewn about. The little bed empty.

We read these stories and we weep. We weep for those lost and for those who loved them. And then we weep because our eyes have been brutally opened to just how fragile life is. And it terrifies us.

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This week I have had a difficult time focusing. Several times just to clear my mind of the sadness saturating the news, I’ve set aside responsibilities and taken a walk with my boys. I watch them just to watch them. I notice what they stop to notice. A flower blooming among the tall grass. A leaf bug jumping among the pebbles. How the arch of the branches over our path forms a fort. I watch them because I can. Because they are here.

It is events like this week’s that give us a crude reminder of just how fragile life is. It is taken by evil as well as by chance. So much of it is completely out of our control. I write about these 936 weeks that we have with our children. But the difficult truth is this:  we are never guaranteed those 936 weeks.

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All we have for certain is today. We have today to linger longer in that embrace. To kiss that pudgy little cheek one more time before bed. To sit with her and string beads on a string. To help him construct that new lego set. To help her with the math problem she’s been struggling with, or to take her mind off of it with a trip to the ice cream shop.

We have today to speak truth over them. To tell them how brave and beautiful and wonderful they are.

We have today to set down the to-do list, turn off the cell phone, and take a walk together.

When we get to tomorrow, if the one who holds our heart is not there with us, what would we wish we had done with them today?

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May we not allow fear to steal today away from us, for today is all we have for certain. Let us use what we have right now, this rotation of the earth, to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time.” (Ephesians 5:15-16Today is our gift, to enjoy and to give. It is too short for regret and too precious for fear. 

Whatever tomorrow brings, may it find us grateful that today we chose to hold hands a little longer, to read a book together under a big shaded tree, to lie in the grass next to our loved one and stare up at the clouds as they give way to the stars.

This week as you grieve for those grieving and say prayers for strangers, the stories and blog posts and media coverage will fade. But let us not forget the way it has opened our eyes. Let us not forget how it made our hearts suffocate when we thought of our own loved ones there one moment and gone the next. May we stop waiting on tomorrow to live for what really matters most. Let us not forget that today is all we have for certain, and live every little bit of it full of gratitude and awe for the gift that it is.

Motherhood

To The Mama Of Three Kids Ages Five And Under

June 3, 2016

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I saw you today at the park. Your little girl in her sundress, and two toddling twin boys rushing to the play set. You placed each boy in a swing; your girl climbed up on her own. One by one you took turns pushing them, traveling between swings whenever one lost momentum. I saw you keeping a close eye on each, and dolling out snacks when tummies grew hungry. You never stopped.

I see you every day. I see you in the mirror when I wake up, tired eyes, hair all a mess. I see you in the faces of other Mamas at the park, the store, the too-long line at the coffee shop.

We are sisters in a loud, chaotic, fierce, passionate mission. A mission to raise three little people, all born within 5 years’ time.

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I see you braving the grocery store because this morning you opened the fridge and discovered it empty—again. One child runs ahead of you, two more lean out the sides of the cart pleading for treats. I see your eyes darting between your tiny people, your grocery list, and labels on the back of jam jars.

I see you through the rearview mirror in the drive-thru line for coffee. Surely you, like I, drove extra miles just for the drive-thru. I see you stretching your arm back to fiddle with a pacifier, trying to quiet the baby as you place your order.

Brave Mama of three ages 5 and under—I also yelled too much this morning. During the rush and hustle and impossible amount of work it takes to get three children who can’t yet button their pants or tie their shoes loaded into the car—I lost my patience too.

We all do.

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I can imagine you this morning shoveling bites of breakfast into your mouth between sips of lukewarm coffee as you refilled three little plates of food and rushed to flip each batch of pancakes before they burned. And then someone needed a diaper change, right in the middle of it all.

I can picture you crunching numbers  in the budget, and clipping coupons for boxes of diapers. I see you place that book you’ve been wanting back on the shelf at Barnes And Noble. It will have to wait.

I can feel your mind lock up under the endless questions. The ones that fire rapid speed at you from the backseat, as well as the ones that you ask yourself all throughout the day. Questions about education. And organic and GMO. Questions about child care, and that spot on the back of his leg, and if you should take him to the doctor, and is this show too scary for her?

Your mind runs at full-speed all day every day. Much like your little people.

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I see your constant wonderings. You wonder if you’re doing enough, if you’re doing too much, if you’re doing it right, if you have any idea what you’re doing at all.

Because 5 years is hardly enough to give us any kind of confidence. We still feel lost most of the time. I know.

But amongst all of these questions gripping you around every corner, I have a few more for you.

Do you see those little eyes staring back up into yours? Do you see the adoration? It runs deep.

Do you see judgement in those eyes? I didn’t think so.

Finally, do you know that you are doing a phenomenal job?

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Once in a while someone makes a point in their day to tell me that I’m doing a great job. That I’m a good mom. And it breathes life straight into my soul. Sometimes—many times—all we need to hear is that we’re doing this thing well. We’re making it. We’re going to be ok. 

So let me tell you that today, Mama of three kids who still can’t fix their own lunches or empty the trash can—I admire you. I respect you. I applaud you. You are brave and strong and beautiful. Much more than you feel today, I’m sure.

And tonight when you collapse onto the couch, all aspirations of productivity after the kids went down vanishing into the cloud of your exhaustion, celebrate this: You did it. You are doing it.

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You loved and guided and taught and fed three tiny people another day. And sure you also yelled and lost your patience and pleaded for a nap that never came. That’s all part of the beauty of this crazy stage—the realization that it’s not perfect. We’re not perfect. And that’s ok.

Those three little people—they don’t need perfect. In fact, they need to see that you are not perfect, and that it’s ok that they’re not perfect, either. That’s when they can glimpse grace at it’s best; forgiveness and kindness and mercy and love all working itself out through our imperfections.

So today, dear Mama who feels exhausted and defeated and completely not enough to handle raising three tiny people—it’s ok to not be enough. Jesus is our enough.

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Embrace every little bit of help offered because Mamas—we need it. And next time you see a fellow sister in this crazy mission of 3 kids five and under in the coffee line, buy her latte for her. Because you know as well as I do that a simple act of kindness or word of encouragement has the power to carry us through with new strength.

Let me be that word of encouragement today.

You’re doing an incredible job. This work is not for the faint of heart. And I admire you today. So do those three little people who hold your heart. We’ve got this.

936Pennies Craft Homeschooling Motherhood Video

Story Stones – A Fun And Creative Way To Teach Your Kids The Art Of Storytelling!

May 19, 2016

“Zeke, if you could have any animal in the world as your pet, what would you have?”

My four-year-old boy thought for a moment, contemplating his vast options.

“A lion.” I could tell in his voice, he was sure. But then he added, “A nice lion. One that hugs people. But lions are big, Mom, so he would have to live in a really big container.”

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This boy and his imagination. More and more as his world grows, so does his ability to fabricate whole worlds within his mind. Without the framework of reality stifling his ideas, his inventiveness catches me off guard, brings a smile to my lips, and laughter to my eyes every single day.

Yet there is one area of his imagination where he’s been struggling.

Often while we’re riding in the car he asks me, “Mom, can you tell me a story?” Sometimes he asks specifics; make it about a lion, or a monkey. I make up some tale, trying my best to conjure up some kind of plot. Upon ,”Then end,” there is always a request for another story. Thinking up these things is exhausting.

Lately, when he asks for a second story, I have been encouraging him to make up a story for me instead. This is when his voice softens to a whisper as he replies, “I don’t know how.” I can hear the confidence slipping away from my boy.

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We all know that reading is important for a child; that it holds endless benefits for their development and knowledge. Yet I think that one area that is often neglected is this learned art of storytelling.

I can still recall stories that my parents told me when I was very young. Twenty years later, I can still see the zoo of stuffed animals towered high on each side of my little body. My dad sitting on the edge of my bed, telling me a tale of a family of bears off on a birthday picnic adventure. It’s a story I think upon when we take our boys out for their birthday picnics.

Stories hold power. They can last a lifetime. I want my boys to experience this incredible piece of life.

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That is why I love this idea I came across last week for making Story Stones. My boys and I made a whole day of creating these fun story prompts; picking out stones at the river, choosing stickers at the craft shop, and working as a team to create our Story Stones.

As soon as they were dry, my boys needed no prompting or instruction. They set right to work creating whimsical, hilarious tales, and I sat back completely amazed at their new storytelling abilities. It ends up, all they needed were some ideas and characters right in their hands– a plot that they could visualize-– to set them on a path that will surely lead to incredible stories throughout their lifetime.

If you haven’t already, check out the video we made at the beginning of this post, telling a story of its own on how we created our Story Stones. Below are some detailed instructions and tips for making your own Story Stones. And don’t forget to check back when you’re done, and post on my Facebook Page how your Story Stones turned out, and the stories your kids are creating with them!

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How To Create Your Own Story Stones

What you will need:

  • Smooth, flat, stones
  • Stickers likable to story telling (We used camping stickers, animals from the woods, farm animals, family stickers, trucks, and fish)
  • Mod Podge glue
  • Thick paintbrush

Instructions:

  1. Place one sticker on each stone. Make sure the sticker is completely adhered to the stone, with no edges sticking up.
  2. Coat the whole side of the stone (with the sticker on it) in Mod Podge glue.
  3. Wait for the glue to (mostly) dry, then re-coat. Apply 5-6 coats total
  4. Start telling stories!

Tips:

We used scrapbooking stickers form Hobby Lobby. If you wait until they have a sticker sale (usually half off), and use the coupon on their website for 40% off the Mod Podge glue, you could do this very cheaply.

I read on this post that kids also enjoy using Story Stones for sorting, role play, Doll House characters, etc. My 3 year old was using the Truck Story Stones he made and “rolling” them around roll playing, just like he does with his Matchbox Cars!

Don’t forget to tell us how they turned out on my Facebook page!

Marriage Motherhood

How To Turn Your Loved One’s Day Around In A Few Words

May 17, 2016

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Things had gone down hill quickly.

Wasn’t I dancing to the radio across our living room floor, my toddler boy smiling in my arms each time I twirled, just twenty minutes ago? Now I lay on the couch, fetal position, hugging a throw blanket tight to my chest. I weighed the option of another cup of coffee, yet the hour was getting late. And I should probably call it quits at 4 cups.

My husband had worked the day before. It’s a rare occasion that he works on a weekend, and my body and spirit were begging for a break. But here we were on Monday. And my husband texts me to say he’ll be home late. An eleven hour day. For him—and me.

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It was that frightening hour. You know. 4 pm. Before the husband gets home. And when you have just about reached the end of all you can give. And still someone is asking for something—or ten things at once.

And you find yourself unable to peel yourself away from the couch. Yet dinner remains in ingredient form, waiting to be composed into something edible. 

My oldest asks me to join him at the table. He’s created an off road track out of Play Doh for his Matchbox cars, and needs someone to come pull out one of the trucks whose four-wheel-drive has failed. I tell him not now; bury my head deeper into the back of the couch.

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My husband texts, and I scrounge for a morsel of energy to drag myself off that sofa. I walk to the counter, willing myself to ignore the pile of dirty dishes as I reach for my phone. He’s on his way. I calculate the drive down from his job site in the mountains. An hour. Dinner still waits to be assembled.

“I am beat” I text back.

There’s a funny smell wafting from the kitchen. The closet. Those potatoes sitting in a bowl, forgotten, sprouting. I need to toss those.

And wash the dishes.

My phone dings as it receives his reply.

“Me too.

We got this babe.

You’re a rockstar!”

I stop. Close my eyes. Breathe a prayer of thanks. This man, I tell you. Almost 7 years have passed since we cried through those vows and sealed them with a kiss.

And he still knows just what to say.

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I take a deep breath, and call my boys over to the couch. We pile high a stack of books and set them beside us. And for the next forty-five minutes, we devour that pile. They point, ask questions, seek answers, and store away new knowledge in their ever-growing minds. They mull over what animals have hooves, how a tadpole turns into a frog, and how a hydraulic hammer truck chips away at a mountain to form the roads we drive up every weekend.

We set the last book down, and I sit between my boys. They say a power nap can do wonders for your energy. But perhaps a power story time can, too. I send them back to the table and help them construct a new off road track. Then I load the dishwasher, grab a cutting board, season the chicken, steam the rice, rinse the green beans.

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Just an hour before, as I had laid on that couch, guilt had washed over me as I pictured my husband walking in—again—to a defeated wife. A messy house. And no dinner.

But those words. “We’ve got this babe. You’re a rockstar.” They were a breath of life. A change of perspective. A shift in my day.

Just that morning, 12 long hours ago I had read it, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24) But those long hours, they had distracted me from that thought…until he reminded me.

With one little message sent rapid speed through the satellites, from up in the Rockies down to our home in the foothills—straight into my spirit. “We’ve got this”. Gracious words, indeed.

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It makes me wonder….whose day could we turn around with a few simple words? A quick text message? A sticky note left in their lunch box, or on the dashboard of his truck?

Who could we remind today that they are a rockstar in our eyes?

Who could we convince, in a simple sentence or two, that “You’ve got this”, and with those words empower them to dig deep and press on?

Perhaps it’s time to stretch our vocabulary when it comes to saying “I love you.” Maybe it’s time to begin saying it in a way that makes our loved ones stop. Read it again. Breathe deep. And truly believe it when we say, “You’ve got this. You’re a rockstar!”