Turkey…. Mashed Potatoes…. Rolls…. Stuffing… a relatively brown plate, right? If I’m honest, as much as I love the idea of traditional foods of Thanksgiving, loading up on turkey and bread doesn’t exactly make me salivate. For all the time and work it takes to prepare a Thanksgiving meal, I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to have a meal that’s just crazy good? I know, I know. It’s messing with all things sacred to not to serve a turkey on Thanksgiving, but when your husband is saying that carryout from Las Margaritas (or insert your local Mexican restaurant) sounds better than green bean casserole- and you know he’s right- you have to do something.
The last straw was one Saturday morning in November, my husband and I were corralling our kids through Hyvee with our donuts when we walked by the meat department. If it’s possible to drool over scallops, raw filets and homemade sausages at 8 in the morning, we were… But then the heavens actually opened and shined down on that crown roast of pork accompanied by an audible high pitched song “ahhhhhhh.” From there, it was all over. Goodbye bland flavors, Hello Food Network site. We had my husband’s side coming in for Thanksgiving, which might sound initially overwhelming for a pregnant woman with three little children. But unlike my normal life, I knew I’d have help with both the food and the kids… And I figured, if I was going to be pealing potatoes and chopping vegetables regardless, I might as well draw from some of the food gods like the Barefoot Contessa, Michael Symon, Paula Dean & Tyler Florence. So, for anyone interested & wanting to mix things up a bit for Christmas, I wanted to pass these along. They did not disappoint.
We started with an appetizer: Roasted Pears wrapped in bacon & stuffed with brie cheese. The original recipe called for goat cheese, but since I was doing goat cheese mashed potatoes, we substituted brie. Make sure your pears are ripe, but not too ripe. And I recommend cooking the bacon a little before you wrap it to make it a little more crunchy.
The main entree was of course that crown roast of pork. Normally, you buy a larger crown (maybe 13-14 chops) and bake the stuffing inside, but since we only had around 8 adults, I bought a smaller one and did the stuffing as a side. I wanted to do watercress with apricots as a garnish, but they weren’t available, so I used some arugula and cherries. I also made a cranberry reduction for a sauce. I didn’t really use a recipe, but this one is pretty close to what I did. I also added some red wine, fresh rosemary & thyme (what was left and hadn’t froze in our little herb garden) and some orange rind. Don’t forget to strain the sauce if you use fresh herbs.
For sides, we started with an Apple Fennel Sausage stuffing. Stuffing can be another Thanksgiving/Christmas food that tastes super bland, so it was fun to have some different flavors. I was worried about the fennel being overpowering, but it really wasn’t. It was delicious.
Lastly, since my mother in law made an awesome pecan pie, I decided to make a pumpkin chocolate bread pudding. It was a little on the dry side (next time I won’t use as much bread) but that bourbon sabayon. If you’re like me and you hadn’t heard of a sabayon before, much less know how to pronounce it, it’s like a whipped cream mousse. Uhhhh, yeah. So, so good. I was surprised by how excited everyone was to try it!
I had a lot of help with the food & the kids, which took the pressure off and gave me the chance to remember in this life stage how much I really do love cooking. I actually couldn’t fall asleep that night until after 11pm because I was on such a high from cooking… And eating 😉
Oh, and seven words: Blue Bell Pumpkin Spiced Pecan Ice Cream. Do not underestimate its power. Enjoy!
Do you have a recipe you’d be willing to share that’s a slightly modern take on a traditional holiday food?
“This is me processing our journey, not my take on raising kids God’s way.”
Over the years, we have experienced the black hole of infertility with some friends we love the most. I’ve wept with and for other friends who’ve faced the heartache of their baby being born with certain delays or chromosomal defects. And I’ve walked- and am still walking- through the valley of the shadow of death with one of my best friends, who lost her firstborn son to a cord accident. Walking- sometimes crawling- through these times of despair has, to say the least, shaped my view of “family planning.”
I am much more hesitant (and appropriately so) to share about the woes of pregnancy because I understand that it is a gift that is not guaranteed. I am much more hesitant to share about “making decisions” about the size of our family, when I know that after carrying that baby for 9 months, there is always the chance I may not bring him/her home from the hospital. Despite the difficulty to find the right words which convey my heart and the nuances of all things related to this sensitive area- I risk sharing from my personal experience in hopes to encourage another mom out there who may be wrestling through some of the same struggles I was/am.
Let me begin with a couple disclaimers-
I’m not typically an indecisive person- to the contrary- once I set my mind on something, I’m pretty single-focused and don’t usually waver. But when my husband & I were trying to decide whether or not to have more children (and again, I use the term decide very loosely) I felt torn and confused. My husband and I prayed and had many discussions that would go round and round. One day we’d feel confident we were done… the next day, just as confident that we should try for another. I even found myself up late one night googling, “Going from three kids to four” or “How to decide whether or not to have another child.” I was looking for even some principles to lean on- ANYTHING.
As we talked and talked, weighed the pro’s and con’s, hashed and re-hashed, here were some of the pro’s we kept coming back to that tipped us over the edge to go for it: (In no particular order)
(1) Grandkids. We fully recognize that we are weird for thinking so much about being grandparents when we are having babies ourselves. But we can’t help it. Both my husband and I keep coming back to the picture. The picture in which we are sitting in the center- and our kids and their kids are surrounding us. We get that lots of grandkids is not a guarantee, but we can’t help ourselves- the opportunity to have kids all over again with none of the responsibility… and to impact future generations in the context of family is super compelling to us.
(2) Everyone has a buddy. A month after we’d had Juney (our 3rd), I saw my friend Joanna at church. Having four teenage daughters of her own, she smiled brightly and said, “Now you know you can’t just stop at three- everyone needs a buddy!” It got me thinking, when we go to amusement parks, everyone will have someone to sit next to on the roller coaster rides. I like it.
(3) Friends with regrets. We’ve had a few good friends, whose kids are now grown, say to us: “Man, we wish we had one more. The little years were rough and at the time we just couldn’t do it… but now looking back, we really wish we’d had just one more.” Hindsight is always 20/20 and hello- easy for them to say now!!! But weighed alongside our limitations, we’ve seriously considered these statements. If we can just get through these early years- especially the high chair years- one day, our kids wil be grown and I know we’ll be glad we endured.
(4) I’m already in baby-mode. For us, we knew if we even so much as tasted what it was like to be semi-rested and out of the baby phase, we would not re-enter. Plain and simple. We’ve kind of figured, we’re already in the baby phase- if we can just hang in there another year or two- a few more diapers, a few more sleepless nights, we will eventually feel human again. And we’ll have this whole other person in our family that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.
(5) Our neighbors have a trampoline. But seriously. I look at our life and all we’ve been entrusted with and all the big and little provisions and it frees me to consider adding to our family. Several years ago, God provided our home- with plenty of space and room for little ones to enjoy. He provided a finished basement for them to play and run around in, a craft room in our unfinished storage area for them to create, a swing set given to us by friends and neighbors who have a giant trampoline they can jump on any time they want. I don’t feel a warped sense of guilt telling me that I need to be a good steward and therefore must respond by having more children. But for someone who could tend to feel claustrophobic during little years where I don’t leave my house as much, these extra gifts take the edge off in a major way and free me to want to consider stretching my capacity.
(6) It’s gotten easier. You’ve heard it said that the more kids you have, the less stressful it becomes to add one more. I can say from personal experience that it’s true. People talk about the transition from one to two or two to three, but what about the transition from zero to one?! For me, just becoming a mom in general was such a huge transition where everything was new and the learning curve was unbelievable. I had no idea what an exersaucer was or how to give a baby a bath. Now all those things are just my world. And my two oldest Ginger (4) and Pearl (2) are my helpers (they unload my dishwasher- think about that for a second) and they also entertain each other. My capacity has also grown tons. Adding June (our third) to the family was by far our easiest transition. I’ll come back and delete this post if number four doesn’t go well 😉
(7) The vision of a full family. Although growing up I never thought I’d have four kids, I was impacted by a couple scenes from the movie While You Were Sleeping that I just couldn’t shake. One is in Peter’s hospital room and the other is at the Christmas family gathering. In both scenes, everyone is pretty much speaking over each other and you see both the noise and the love of the family. The funny thing is, I went back to show my husband the movie and they don’t even have this huge family. So, for some- full might be one or two. For me/us, we continued to be more drawn to the muddle of more. Six chairs taken at the dinner table. Toys falling out of the toy box. Shoes scattered around the entryway. Clothes falling out of drawers. I’m okay with it. And kind of love it. Smashed cheerios in the carpet, no. But the overall mess I’m willing to embrace.
“We continued to be more drawn to the muddle of more. Six chairs taken at the dinner table. Toys falling out of the toy box…. Clothes falling out of drawers. I’m okay with it. And kind of love it. Smashed cheerios in the carpet, no. But the overall mess I’m willing to embrace.”
(8) I’m enjoying these little years. Not every moment of every day, obviously. And again, not to say that if you aren’t called to more kids, you aren’t enjoying being a mom or that there’s something wrong with you if you legitimately don’t enjoy the little years- that’s fine too. But for me, I feel like I have the grace I need to do each day. And for having had four kids in just under five years, that says a lot. I couldn’t keep going if I felt like I hated this season. It’s a LOT of work and constant serving. Trust me, I have my days for sure (and lately my hormones are raging!) but overall, by the grace of God, I am enjoying my kids.
(9) Answering the Question: Would surrendering to the current cost lead to long term regret? The answer for me was yes. But it’s a strange thing to willingly embrace something you know is going to make your life a heck of a lot more difficult. It’s one thing to be compelled be a bigger long term vision for your family. It’s another thing to live that out and to count the cost. To agree to two more years of changing diapers. To enduring another hard pregnancy. [Side note: I’ve had more than one woman ask me, “So, do you just love being pregnant?!” No, I do not. In fact, it was probably the biggest con on our list that was holding me back. Although I still see it as an enormous privilege, it is something I fantasize about- after ten weeks from now- never having to do again] . But I couldn’t get away from the regret I know I would have felt if I hadn’t said yes one more time.
If you’re done having kids, what factors helped determine that your family was complete? If you’re not, what questions, reservations or thoughts do you have as you look ahead?
“To the young mom who doesn’t have time for sipping mimosas, who is knee-deep in dirty diapers, who may indeed feel lost altogether at times, whose body is just not quite the same and is so very, very tired… I suggest a different solution than the one our culture is screaming.”
A year and a half ago, I posted an article on Facebook from Time Magazine called, “The Childfree Life: Having it all Without Having Children.” It sparked some very interesting and controversial conversation amongst friends. I took some time to respond to that article, which I’m posting here first, since it is provides some context for my next post: “Why Not One More? Part Two,” in which I’ll share more personally from our own journey. Pushing back against some of the current cultural norms wasn’t our driving reason for wanting a bigger family. There are many reasons, which I’ll discuss in the next post- but I did want to provide some background that has shaped us in this process.
If you have the chance to read the Time article in its entirety, it is fascinating. But, for those of you who are probably not going to order an online subscription just to read one article, I will try to summarize. As you can see in the image above, the child free couple lounges on the beach sipping mimosas, while the exhausted & grumpy parents struggle with their truck load of toys. In my opinion, this picture depicts another problem: parents over burdened by American consumerism. Time author, Flores, pushes back against the American pie family image and exposes some of the ugly sides of parenting. She writes that we live in a baby crazed, “oppresssively family-centric” culture which is “obsessed with kids.” She describes a world where people “disappear into parenthood” and the loneliness that is felt by those that- for whatever reason- don’t have kids. These revelations aren’t unfounded. I would feel the same way if we didn’t have children & I know some of our friends have felt some of those same feelings. I agree with what she said about social media “adding to the pain.” And I admit, I’ve been guilty myself of doing some of the very things she mentions. Plain and simple- it’s making children idols. As Tim Keller puts it, “An idol is usually any good thing we make ultimate.”
Though she makes some good points, her solution is to swing the opposite direction and glorify a child-free life. In my opinion, none of these complexities or common mistakes of parenthood should necessarily lead to a rejection of having children, but rather a rejection of a specific parenting style and worldview.
Around this same time, another friend posted an article: “The mother who says having these two children is the biggest regret of her life.” She says, “I dreaded (my daughter’s) dependence; resented the time she would consume, and that like parasites, both my children would continue to take from me and give nothing meaningful back in return.” She went on to describe the “dread the encroachment of this demanding little being on my own independence… I felt oppressed by my constant responsibility for them. Young children prevent you from being spontaneous; every outing becomes an expedition. If you take your job as a parent seriously, you always put their needs before your own.” This picture- of children infringing on our freedom- as parasites nonetheless, is what saddens me most. So there seems to be a trend in our culture (alongside the baby craze), which harbors resentment toward children, seeing them as burdens & nuisances. One mom implied children potentially “hold you back from the things that matter to you” and said she didn’t “want to be seen as a mom.” I hear that our culture can be overly & perhaps oppressively “family-centric” but I am saddened by the equally strong opposite sentiment- that moms are just are “martyrs” and “lose themselves.” While this is certainly true for many moms, isn’t it also possible for women to do the same in other careers? I’ve thought a lot about what it means to lose oneself as a mom in the way that Jesus described losing your life on behalf of another, as opposed to maybe an unhealthy way we can lose ourselves… to anything.
Some of the most influential people in my life, not to mention dear friends- are either singles or couples without kids. Some of these friends expressed hurt for being judged as selfish for not having kids- or even in some cases “enough kids.” On the flip side, I also took offense & felt equally annoyed & frustrated by the whole portion in the Time article, which implied that those who choose a childless or child free life, are “highly educated” and “just smarter.” It goes to show how easy it is to demonize someone else’s view, rather than confidently arguing one’s own viewpoint, while still seeking to understand another’s. That’s why it’s important to express your own convictions carefully and confidently, but with room for life’s nuances, which are many. Demonizing causes more damage than we can possibly realize and doesn’t prove anything.
And so, I write this post to any young mom out there who may have “disappeared into parenthood.” To the mom who may be pulling the wagon in the picture above… who may be guilty after all of American consumerism, of being baby-crazed, family-centric and spending too much time on Instagram. To the young mom who doesn’t have time for sipping mimosas, who is knee-deep in dirty diapers, who may indeed feel lost altogether at times, whose body is just not quite the same and is so very, very tired… I suggest a different solution than the one our culture is screaming. The answer to our parenting idols and disappointments is not to erase the source of our struggles and glamorize a life with less chaos, more independence and more “me time.” Our children are not parasites, burdens or nuisances. Yes, children often prevent you from being spontaneous. And yes, If you take your job as a parent seriously, you will put their needs before your own. But there is a delayed glory and greatness in submitting to these little teachers that can challenge the passing pleasure of any mimosa any day.
If I’m honest, what sounds attractive about the child-free life to me (or even less children in general) is the promise of less chaos, less noise, less mess, less work… and of more rest, more comfort, more… mimosas. But, whether you are “childfree” or have more children than you feel you can handle, Jesus presents a better vision for us both. Better than being family-centric, better than making your kids idols, better than Instagram. And likewise, better than me-time, better than finding yourself and better than your self-comfort. On either side, it involves self-denial and often delayed gratification.
If it seems backwards that in the chaos, and in the diapers and the mess and the pile of dirty laundry and dishes, and in the driving back and forth and in the constant discipline and in the naptimes and in the lack of naptimes and in all the noise(!!)… that there could be a glory and freedom worth pursuing…. it’s because it is. But the kingdom of God often works this way. I’ll say it again because He is worth repeating:
“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” – Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:39)
What are your thoughts on any of this?
“Do you tend to value the functional utilitarian side of things or do you value the artistic and the beautiful?” -Dave Cover
I find it’s much easier to write about birthday parties and preschool activities than say, you know- the artistry of motherhood, for example. It takes a lot less mental energy to post some pictures of how to make baby food than to share why I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a recent sermon. And by recent I mean almost two months ago.
My main job is to keep my kids clean (I use this in a very relative sense) and more importantly, alive. At least that’s how it feels a lot of the time. After being awoken by little voices, I often start my day by doing laundry & washing sheets from someone who wet the bed the night before. Then onto getting Ginger & Pearl something to eat & drink, change June’s diaper, dress her, get her a bottle, put the dishes away, and so on. Legitimately, meeting their physical needs is a big part of what I do.
But there’s another side to me. The side that likes to use Alton Brown’s recipe to make a lemon meringue pie for the first time. [As a side note, if I could double date with anyone living or dead, btw, it would Alton & his wife]. The side that nags my husband to use his jigsaw so we can carve a Mother Goose out of plywood for me to paint for their birthday party. The side that is still riding on a high one month after throwing a block party for my neighbors despite being pregnant and having three kids 4 & under. Am I insane? That’s a legitimate possibility. But I often ask myself, “Why, when I’m so exhausted, do I feel the need to make Maggiannos Rigatoni D and chopped salad for my sister’s visit when we could make things so much easier on ourselves and just order a pizza?!” Is it all performance? Maybe that’s a piece. But there’s something else deep inside of me that aches to create something beautiful- whether a dish, decoration or an event- where I can stop and smell the roses. When I can take a break from the monotony of diapers and turn an ordinary evening into something special, something memorable.
Recently I heard a sermon entitled “Filled with the Holy Spirit to Make Art” by our pastor, Dave Cover. It was based off of the Old Testament passage where the Lord calls two men “not as prophets, but as artists:”
“The Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. 6 And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you” (Exodus 31:1-6, italics mine).
Dave pointed out that this was the first time God fills someone with the Holy Spirit and it’s in the context of these men working with metals, fabrics, gold, engraving, stones, woodwork, etc to design and furnish the tabernacle. And although these men were called to a specific task at a specific time, there are some basic principles we can take away. Surprisingly, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how some of these principles apply to my life as a mom….
“God attaches great importance to the arts. So much so that He fills the artist with His Spirit- with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs. In fact, all human beings have been created in the image of an artist. In Genesis chapter one, you will see a God who is busy creating art and calling it good. God values not just propositional truth- the words of a prophet, for example, he does value that- but he values truth sensed through artistic beauty and artistic expression.
It was not enough for the tabernacle to be functionally laid out the right way (though it needed to be); that wasn’t enough. It also had to be artistically symbolic and beautiful. That was important to God, its beauty. In the color of its fabrics, sparkle of its gems, luster of its precious metals, shapes of its objects, symmetry of its proportions- all of this tells us that he wants us to worship him through spirit filled intelligent skilled artistic symbolism & abstract beauty” (-Dave Cover).
So, what does it look like to not merely value the utilitarian side of motherhood, but to bring artistry to it? In the midst of meeting my kids’ physical needs, to bring a sense of beauty & wonder to things? I find it’s harder than it looks. It takes time. And effort. And thoughtfulness.
So, when we have company and I’m up late kneading dough for cinnamon rolls the next morning… or I’m using naptime to sew tulle for my girls’ Halloween costumes… or I’m bending my pregnant belly to weed our first flower garden… I’ve questioned myself at times: “WHY am I doing this?!?! Am I weird?!” Probably. Could I have made my life easier by buying coffee cake, cute costumes and avoided the work of planting and tending a garden? Sure. And yet, I’m drawn to- almost need to- have these creative joys in my life.
Dave ended his sermon saying: “Excellence in the arts always points to the Transcendent in some way.”
It struck me: Could it be that my handmade Humpty Dumpty piñata, my peach cobbler, the time it took to plan a neighborhood luau and the roses in front of my house… could all be used to point to God Himself in some ways? …That God could use these creative efforts from a tired mom to create a meal or memory that would speak in ways that words cannot? No wonder I enjoy these creative outlets. And not because I have some mom standard to live up to, but because I crave that beauty. And probably because I’m experiencing the God of these decorations and flavors and flowers as I sew or cook or tend to them. And the thought that God could use these creations to point myself & others to Him encourages my heart.
There have been many times I’ve judged myself- “Why do I WANT to do this when it would be so much easier to just… not?!” And although I think it’s good to evaluate one’s motives- whether from guilt or performance- this sermon really encouraged my heart to keep creating because:
“Art done right inevitably declares the praise of its giver in ways that words sometimes can’t touch. And in some ways it always whispers that lingering question in the soul: ‘Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God and the Creator of the ends of the earth’” (Dave and Isaiah 40:28)
(***Note: Dave credits Phillip Ryken’s book Art for God’s Sake and Art and the Bible by Frances Schaeffer for much of the thoughts he shared throughout his sermon.)
How do you bring artistry and beauty to your vocation?
Throwing a block party is a great way to foster feelings of fun & connectedness amongst your neighbors. It’s also a great way to break the ice and meet people you might not otherwise meet. Don’t be intimidated to be the first one to step up and coordinate- everyone loves a good block party and you’ll be surprised how great the reward is for a little work on your part. Here are some tips to help:
1. Get Input on a Date & Go With It. Picking a date can be the largest obstacle for some. It’s hard to nail one down because inevitably great people won’t be able to come, whichever date you choose. Put some feelers out there and then just move forward with what works for the majority of people you talk to.
2. Make a Flyer. This is one thing I didn’t want to delegate because I personally enjoy a little graphic design. We distributed ours through our Homeowners Association management company. See if they’ll mail everyone a hard copy versus an email version. I use google image & Picmonkey.com.
3. Create a Sign-Up/ RSVP. For one, this will give you a gauge as to how many people are coming. But also, people are more likely to come to something they’ve committed/ RSVP’d to. We used Sign Up genius which I liked because people could also sign up for which side they were bringing. It also gave me the emails for every person coming so that I could email them a few days out with last minute details.Please comment below if you have something else you prefer!
4. Budget/ Food. My theory is that people like to participate. And we didn’t have a lot of money to pull this thing off. So, we asked people to volunteer- which they did GENEROUSLY. Don’t be afraid to ask people if they’re willing to run with something. If they don’t want to, they can say no. You might be surprised though- a lot of people want to feel involved. We also had everyone bring their own main dish, plus a side or dessert to share. We are considering food trucks for the future, but the downside is that I think that people like the feel of a potluck dinner. We’ve also considered catering the main dish and having people chip in a few bucks. We’ve also considered a shrimp boil, which I’ve done with another group. Last year, we did a fish fry, which was a blast. But similar to the shrimp boil, it does make a for some extra work for those working the fryers.
5. A Bounce House is Key. If you have kids in your neighborhood, I can’t emphasize enough what a big hit this is. Nowadays, a lot of people own bounce houses because you can pretty much buy one for the same price as renting one (around $200). We actually had TWO this year! We were fortunate that our next door neighbors were willing to volunteer theirs for the smaller kids… and Century 21 has one you can reserve for free. One neighbor reserved it, picked it up, set it up and returned it. Amazing.
6. Greeter’s Table & Name Tags. Our first year, we had no one to officially greet people when they walked up, so some people just kind of wandered around. We saw it was hard for people to break into groups/conversations if they didn’t know anyone. This year, we had a welcome table where we could greet each person, give them a name tag, further instructions about the food and encouraged them to introduce themselves to someone new. We also had people write their address under their name so that we could have a general idea of where people lived as we mingled- especially helpful if you found someone just a few doors down! If you are more administratively bent and less of an upfront person, consider asking someone with a more outgoing disposition (even better if they’re already connected in the neighborhood) to be the official greeter at the welcome table.
7. Take Pictures. People love to have their picture taken. We tried to get a picture of everyone who came through the line (although I know we missed people) and asked if they’d feel comfortable if we posted the pics to the Neighborhood Facebook group. Hoping this creates a sense of connectedness and belonging as well. If you have your hands too full that night, assign someone else to the Greeter’s station to take pics.
8. Have a Bathroom Plan. For the first few years, rather than pay for a porta-potty, we offered our house for those who needed a bathroom, as did our next door neighbors on the culdesak. If you’re coordinating down the street from your home, make sure you ask (don’t assume!) if you can use the bathroom of the nearest house. Some may feel uncomfortable with this for a variety of reasons, including if they have babies or small children they need to put to bed before the party ends. In that case, respectfully figure out plan B. Now that it’s grown so big, we’ve decided to get a couple porta potties (the company we’re using is charge $150 for 2 and will deliver them and pick them up the next day).
9. Music. Music is a powerful tool that brings joy & sets people at ease, so don’t let this be an afterthought. If you delegate this, ask someone who will choose fun, familiar songs that are also appropriate for kids if they’re around. Consider making a long playlist on Spotify.
10. Get Others Involved. This is a big deal. People will feel way more connected to the neighborhood if they’re personally invested and have served even in a small way. These are some tangible needs you may have in addition to those listed above:
Also, utilize social media. Our neighborhood has a Facebook group, so I was able to communicate with a core of about 40-50 people. If you don’t have a Facebook group, consider starting one for an easy means of communication.
At the end of the night, I heard several people say how connected they felt and how much they already loved the neighborhood. Just by throwing a party, you can literally help people build relationships, feel safer and less isolated in their home. I hope this gives you some vision- as well as some steps- to reach out to your neighbors and make some new friends.
Good luck & let me know how it goes!
To read my thoughts on some of the why’s behind The Art of Neighboring, read my guest post on the Every Square Inch blog.
For those of you who went to a Block Party growing up, what’s a fun memory you have?
I’m a huge 4th of July person. And part of that is because my birthday is the 5th.
A couple of years ago, when I had more time, I made a bunch of 4th of July party decorations- chair covers, fireplace banner, star “wreath” for our front door, etc. It was fun pulling everything out again this year and since I know some of you out there are always looking for holiday decoration ideas, I thought I’d share. Happy Summer!
What’s a cute idea for something simple I could do to add next 4th of July?
When we got married, I was so excited to register. We went to Pottery Barn & Bed Bath & Beyond and got our little gun and went nuts. Everything was pretty straight forward- plates, pillows, platters and silverware. But when we got pregnant for the first time with Ginger, I remember getting online, going to babiesRus and thinking, “What the heck IS all this stuff?!” Thankfully, a friend forwarded me an email that 7 or 8 different moms had replied to, in which they all chimed in about what they did and did not need with their two cents on the best baby stuff out there. This is my version of that email to you.
SnugRider Stroller- Let’s start with the most important: the stroller. I have two strollers that I have used a TON. The first a base that my Graco SnugRider Carseat snaps into. It is extremely lightweight and easy to use. Baby Trend has a similar one called Snap N Go- not the one I have, but same idea. You don’t even have to take your baby out of their carseat- just (literally) snap and go. I recommend looking on Craigslist before you buy it new for $80 (I got mine for $15) but either way, trust me- you will like this.
Phil & Ted’s Stroller- I am extremely passionate about the Phil & Ted’s double stroller. This is for when your baby outgrows the infant car seat. I HIGHLY recommend getting it from the start. The doubles kit is detachable, so you can use it for just one child. It is narrow and streamlined and pretty lightweight. The major downfall is that it’s expensive, like very expensive. I got mine used off the Denver Craigslist one summer for $200.
Car Seat- I got the Graco Snugride because I liked the stroller concept (see above). But it truly has been a great car seat, 3 (soon to be 4) kids later.
The Woombie- I swear by the Woombie (ie: Baby Straight Jacket) and prefer it hands down to any swaddle. There is no extra fabric that can cover their face to cause suffocation because it zips. I’ve worried with every child that they would have a hard time sleeping without it and so far, no problems. The Swaddle Pod also works.
Glider- I didn’t skimp on my glider. In fact, it was the group gift from two different showers. Five years later, I still LOVE it. So many sweet memories. I couldn’t find the exact one, but this a similar style in a different color. Funny how a simple chair can hold such special memories, especially late night ones.
Bidet- Yes, I said bidet on a baby gear post. But if you had one, you would put it on here too, I promise you. Long story short, my parents have one & gave us a high end one for our wedding (HA!) complete with a remote control. It rinses you with warm water (my parents have a seat warmer and built in dryer as well). For mamas who are adopting, some of this may not apply, but listen to me- you still need this. And you never knew it was a need until now. For the rest of us moms, this is your at home “sitz bath“. At the hospital, they will give you a little squirt bottle and a portable bidet to keep your bottom sanitary after all the trauma you’ve endured. Coming home to this convenience after having a baby is… wonderful. It is also great for just keeping you clean down there on a regular basis and well, honestly after sex. So there you have it. You do need an outlet in your bathroom near the toilet and though I can’t personally vouch for this one, I know they sell them for cheap ($26) on amazon and it has 1000 reviews, so apparently I’m not alone. Just think about it.
The Right Coffee Table- And by the right coffee table I mean the right toy box. Having a giant chest for a table allows our family room to double as a playroom by day, but turn back to a quiet living space at night. This was probably the best $200 we’ve spent yet.
Pack N Play- Don’t be an idiot like me and buy the heaviest one you can find just because the pattern looks like gucci. I want to kill myself every time we take a trip, which is constantly. Consider these lightweight options: Phil & Ted’s Traveller (still $100 cheaper than the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib) or the more affordable option, but works better for kids around 3 yrs- The Pea Pod.
Swing/ Bouncy Seat- My first swing was huge and took up a ton of space. When Pearl was born, I got a Fisher Price swing/vibrating bouncy seat combo. I really like it. It doesn’t go side to side, but other than that, I love.
Breast Pump- Some friends of ours got us the Medela Pump in Style Advanced (double electric). It’s nice. If you have a friend who has one, you can also consider buying new tubing and using theirs. This is also convenient for long car trips if you have a car outlet adapter.
High Chair- Again, I like small & streamlined, so I’ve liked the Fisher Price Space Saver because it reclines. But June is 8 months and I’ve switched her to the Fisher Price Booster Seat. These are also obviously great for traveling. If you don’t want to do a space saver, but still like small, try Ikea’s cool looking Antilop chair.
Baby Carrier- I liked the Moby for the closeness, but it did get hot in the summer. I’ve heard a lot of people rave about the Ergo, that they love the back support. And I really like the way that looks. It is pricey, so we opted for the Moby.
Diaper Bag- The key to a good diaper bag is this: POCKETS. Especially side pockets, but just lots of pockets in general. I got mine 4 1/2 years ago so it’s no longer available, but I’ll post a pic so you get the general idea. It’s the Fossil Key Per Coated Canvas Utility Tote. I like that it stands up and I can put my coffee mug on one side and a bottle on the other. I keep 2 different sized diapers in the pockets in the front. It has a ton of room and 4 large pockets on the inside as well. I tried a couple other ones before this that just didn’t work and haven’t seen anything like it since. If you’ve found one you love, post in the comments.
Cloth Diapers- They’re not as weird as you think- they go on & velcro just like real diapers. But you do have to be willing to get your hands a little dirty. We did bumGenius diapers with our first two. We registered for 25, which was plenty and just used disposable wipes. I loved doing cloth diapers and highly recommend them. I just chose to stop doing them for a while because they are a big time commitment and I couldn’t keep up with so many little ones at once. But if you are able to get them as gifts and even use them for your first couple children, it’s a major money saver (especially if you have an HE washing machine) not to mention it’s awesome not throwing all those diapers away. Speaking of diapers, no one ever told me about cloth SWIM DIAPERS! I just discovered them a year ago. I will never buy swim diapers again!
Diaper Cream- You’re not supposed to use diaper cream with cloth because it can strip the absorbency of the inserts, however… when I needed to, I used Beudreauxs Butt Paste.
Crib Sheets- You’ll need 2, maybe 3. Make sure they fit the mattress. I have a couple that are annoyingly small and I get int a fight with them every time I have to put them on.
Small Thermal Cooler Bag– For bottles & breast milk. The hospital gave us one for free & it was nice to have.
Other- 3 Changing pad covers, Bathtub & support insert, Bobby Pillow, 1-2 padded pack n play sheets, car seat head support, playmat, exersaucer, bumbo, burp bloths (at least 7 or 8 if not more), binkys(?), Bassinet & sheets (something easy to borrow), Dr Brown’s Slow Flow bottles (glass or plastic), bibs, baby spoons, sippys….
What I didn’t need:
Diaper genie- No. I recommend a small trash can for pee diapers and keeping plastic bags in a drawer ready for poopy diapers that you can put in the garage.
Changing table- You really don’t need one. Just a dresser that you can put a changing pad on and you’re good.
Sheet savers, lap pad & waterproof pads- I’m not even sure what these are & you don’t need them.
Crib soother- our kids used sound machines instead.
Car mirror- I always wanted this to work, but it never really did for me.
Jumperoo- I know some people swear by these, but I just used our exersaucer.
Wipe warmer- Seemed a little high maintenance but what do I know.
JJ Bundle Me- EVERYONE told me I needed this. And again, I wanted to use it a lot more than I did. But they’re kind of a pain to get on and off and a blanket works just as well.
Video Baby Monitor- I know people who couldn’t live without these, but I got freaked out by a segment I saw on Good Morning America about hackers who could see into your baby’s room and sometimes even talk to your baby. Needless to say, I didn’t get one.
On a not-so-side note, this stuff adds up. In Columbia, we have a Facebook group called Como Moms Exchange were 2,000 moms buy & sell used stuff. It’s like an ongoing garage sale, except I can see if we have mutual friends. And because of it, my girls have a Barbie Jeep, two bikes, scooters, and lots of other fun things. Check & see if your town has one & if not, consider starting a group yourself.
What Baby gear do you have that you have loved? Do you have a diaper bag you love?
I know birthday parties can sometimes be overwhelming for Mom. But for me, I look at it as an opportunity to have a creative outlet, which I don’t always make time for. When Pearl turned one, we did a “Girls in Pearls, Guys in Ties” theme and it was so much fun, I started thinking in themes. Ginger & Pearl’s birthdays are only a few weeks apart, so I decided to save on food & make things easy on myself by combining both their parties into one. And since these little years won’t last forever, I thought it’d be fun to do something with nursery rhymes. The food was fun to do because it was so easy to find corresponding nursery rhymes to “match.” I used google image to make some labels on my computer & printed them off for everything including water(!) Here are some pics:
We ordered our Mother Goose cake from Kathleen Gardner, who runs a local place called Tartelette. It far exceeded any expectations I had! And our amazing friend Maria made the cupcakes, which were phenomenal!
I also made (& froze) some cookies ahead of time. I’d never made royal icing before, so for an amateur, I was super pleased with how they turned out. For the tutorial I used, click here.
Most of the decorations were made from old plywood we had. My husband put his jigsaw to use and helped me with the shape and then I used the kids’ paint to create a Humpty Dumpty, Mother Goose, Clock tower and Cow Jumping over the Moon.
Games: We played “Pin the Tale on the Black Sheep” with cotton balls and had a Humpty Dumpty Piñata. Ginger & Pearl actually helped make this- it was fairly simple to do and they LOVED being involved.
Lastly, the favors I kept super simple. To keep costs low, I used construction paper & a stapler and leftover candy from the piñata to make little Humpty Dumpty treats.
Finally, I also made a wooden Dish Ran Away with the Spoon Photo Prop (could’ve also been used for a bean bag toss).
Overall, it was a blast… and such a sweet & memorable theme these two.
What was a memorable birthday theme you had growing up?
Let me begin by saying that I went to preschool when I was two. I think it’s a great thing. We just aren’t doing it. And it’s not that we plan on homeschooling- we don’t. In fact, at this point, feel pretty called & compelled by the vision to be involved in public schools. For us, it’s a couple things. For one, there’s the cost of sending 4 kids to preschool in a 6 year time span- it can be expensive. And more importantly, for me- I figure, they have the rest of their lives to be in school, but I have a short window where I have all day to invest in their little hearts & minds. And I’m up for it. Obviously though, I also want Ginger to be prepared for kindergarten in a year. So, for anyone out there who may be in a similar boat as us, or for the mom who is just looking for a few ideas for how to be intentional with young ones, here are a few tips & thoughts:
There have been so many things that have surprised me about myself since becoming a mom. One of those things is how much I’ve enjoyed making the kids’ baby food. I’m no health nut by any means, but it’s nice to know exactly what’s going in their little bodies. Not to mention, it saves a lot of money in pre packaged baby food- and it’s super easy.
I highly recommend a website called www.wholesomebabyfood.com. I have used this site a TON over the last five years and it continues to be an amazing resource. There’s info on how to prepare food, allergies, age appropriate food charts by month (when to introduce what)… and honestly any question I’ve ever had about food for my littles has pretty much been answered on this website. I like to do a ton at once as you can see. This morning, I did pears, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, acorn squash & peas. (The broccoli & peas were frozen- another way to save a bit). All in all, it only took a couple hours & I have tons of food now in my freezer!
If you have older kids & can’t think of how you’d have time to do something like this, let them help!! Above, Pearl is helping me take the seeds out of these acorn squashes. Then we poured a little olive oil & salt on them and roasted them for a mid morning snack. At times it’s overwhelming having so many littles at home, but they LOVE being involved and helping in the kitchen any chance they get!!
If you’re thinking about trying your hand at making your own baby food, don’t be intimidated- if I can do it, you can do it! good luck & enjoy!
What motivates or intimates you about making your own baby food?
When I was in college, my mentor Jane gave me some feedback: “You’re good at a lot of things, but service is not your forte.” Ouch. Ever heard the phrase, “Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy”? Yep, it’s true. I have had to learn the hard way what Tim Keller describes as the freedom of self-forgetfulness. It’s that certain upside-downness to the Kingdom of God: “He who finds his life will lose it and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
I used to sit across the table from Jane in a Starbucks with my Bible learning these things. Nowadays, my discipleship comes in the form of three little ones demanding my time & attention, stripping away any last shred of patience and the will to act like I have it together. When my kids are throwing temper tantrums in public or I’m covered (literally covered) in poop, it seems impossible that I could have any pride left. And yet, there it is again. So I am mindful that my children and current circumstances have become my teachers and disciplers. And while the lessons have become more humbling and exposing, I see it as a good thing. Instead of allowing myself to be crushed under the standards of trying to be that perfect mom, I drink deeply and daily of the grace of God. Believe me, I need it.
As my kids grow and become more aware of my flaws, I don’t feel the pressure to try to hide or defend my shortcomings. I say to them, “There’s only one Jesus and I’m not Him. I need Him just as much as you do and all the rest of us.” Rejecting the urge to self-defend or self-deny, I put myself in a vulnerable place. A place where I must refuse the Momguilt and at the risk of repeating myself- embrace the grace.
[Side-note: I define Momguilt as shame felt over failure to be all things to all people at all times. When you’re working, you feel like you should be playing/spending time with your kids. When you’re focusing on your kids, you feel guilty that you should be cooking or cleaning your house. And so on & so on. I remind myself that I am finite and have limitations, therefore I cannot be all things to my kids or anyone else.]
Speaking of embracing the grace, I will be doing lots of more of that in the coming months. Current snapshot: It’s a Saturday morning. My 8 month old Juney, is sleeping and Ginger (4) & Pearl (2) are fighting while they watch Dora. And we found out a week ago that we are cooking a fourth. Ummm, what are we thinking??!?!? People tell me I’m crazy and honestly I agree- HA! What better time to start a blog, right? 😉
What’s a lesson you’ve learned from caring for a little one?