It’s Not All About Behavior

It’s Not All About Behavior…

It’s not all about behavior, but sometimes I wish it was. I wish we could just address each behavior, deal with it and move on. But when it comes to our kids – it’s never just about the behavior. In the words of John Crist – we have to check their hearts.

It’s ALL about their heart. Our girls are 2 and 4 years old – learning how to shepherd their hearts has been quite the challenge. And we still have such a long way to go. We want them to feel loved and cherished, but also learn self control when things aren’t going their way. It’s a tough balance to find – but we’re learning. Paul Tripp says it best:

“As a parent you are never, ever dealing just with the words and actions of your children. You are always also dealing with the thing that controls their words and behavior: the heart.”

We’re learning about emotions – that it’s ok to have big emotions and feelings. It’s ok to not always agree with Mom and Dad. It’s ok to question us when you don’t understand. It would be easy to answer with, “because I said so!” when the questions arise. But our kids are curious and longing for reasons, not just rules.

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I’m currently reading “Why I Didn’t Rebel” by Rebecca Gregoire Lidenbach. One thing that stood out to me above the rest is the idea of creating reasons not rules. If my four year old knows why a rule is in place, she is much more likely to comply (most of the time). But if I give blanket statements and expect her just to listen because I’m Mom, that doesn’t work out so well. It’s when I take the time to explain why we have to wait our turn when someone else is speaking. I often ask her how she would like to be treated, and if she would like to finish speaking before being interrupted. Now she has the chance to understand why we don’t interrupt others. She has a very big personality, and loves attention of any kind, so fostering that can be a challenge at times – but it’s one I want to face head on.

Growing up, I did a lot of listening and obeying out of fear of the consequences. It worked. I made my fair share of bad choices, but I didn’t spiral into a rebellion because of fear of what would happen. I never truly had the desire to live fully devoted to the Lord until I completely surrendered to Him on my own. My hope is that my children won’t obey out of fear, but that eventually they will learn that this life is not about them, but about Jesus. It’s pretty hard for a two and four year old to grasp that concept, but we can’t let that keep us from talking about why we were created in the first place.

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There are a number of books out there on discipline. I’ve read way too many. But out of all of the books I’ve read, one thing remains true – we are here to shepherd their hearts. There is no magic formula or something I could say to get my kids to obey. But I do know one thing – the more time I invest in them, the more likely they are to respond positively. I don’t say that to put any pressure on anyone, because I’ve done that to myself. I use it as a reminder to keep myself in check. There is usually a root cause of their behavior. After addressing the behavior in that moment, I will try to figure out why it happened. I’ll wait till a calm time of day, like right before bedtime, and talk to them about what happened. They are usually much more receptive once their emotions have settled.

The good news is we cannot change the heart of our child, only God can truly do that. It takes the pressure off. We can guide them and lead them, but God has to get a hold of their heart for true change to happen.

There are days when I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. Honestly that’s most days. But I do think that we don’t have to just “survive” the toddler years. I believe that we can live an abundant life now, and we don’t need to wait until this phase is over. Because once one phase is over, another one follows. Parenting has been a constant challenge of figuring out what works best for our family, and for each child. It’s never easy, but we’re praying our way through it and adjusting as needed. I love this quote from Paul Tripp:

“in every moment when you are parenting, you are being parented. In every moment when you are called to give grace, you are being given grace. In every moment when you are rescuing and protecting your children, you are being rescued and protected. In every moment when you feel alone, you are anything but alone because he goes wherever you go.”

If you feel like you’re in the trenches of toddlerhood – know that you’re not alone. He is there with us – giving us grace and protecting us. And you don’t have to do this mom thing alone. Finding like minded moms that “get it” has saved my sanity on those rough days. I am determined to make the most of these toddler years and I hope you’ll join me. There are so many moms I look up to that have been where we are, and have made it to the other side. I hear things like, “it gets better,” and “it’s just a phase.” And while I know those things are true – I pray that these years don’t just turn into a blur. I don’t want to just survive; I want to live this live abundantly, regardless of the age of my children.

Thanks so much for reading, and for being here. I’d love to hear your heart on this, please leave a comment below so we can chat!

xoxo,

jenny

Five Photography Tips to Get REAL Smiles From Your Kids!

If you’re having trouble getting genuine smiles for pictures, get ready to try these 5 tips with your kids! As a professional photographer, I’ve gone through the struggle of getting real smiles out of little ones. But after implementing these strategies, it’s very rare that I can’t get a true smile!

  1. Don’t say “cheese!” I still have trouble with this one, but if you ask for cheese, that is what you’re going to get. Avoid saying cheese because this will for sure cause them to fake smile.
  2. Make it exciting and fun! There is usually a lot of stress involved when families show up for a photo shoot. The first thing I like to do is make sure the kids are comfortable. There will be no real smiles if they aren’t feeling it! Let them play with the camera and take pictures of you, or do silly faces for a while to loosen them up. Kids love pressing buttons and being silly, so use that to your advantage!28954617_749157965289069_1613505010342312570_o
  3. Don’t force it. If all of a sudden your child is done and over it. It’s ok to take a break. Forcing them to continue to take pictures will only make things worse. Let them run around for a bit and try again when they’re up for it. At photo shoots, I’ll usually take pictures of another child during this time. I make it look really fun so the other littles will want to be a part of it again!
  4. Do what makes them normally smile. You know your child the best! What do they love to do? Sing a special song? Play hide and seek? Do they absolutely love being tickled? Your best bet is to be playful and do what normally makes them smile. 26849915_717607178444148_5127267887886230105_o
  5. Ask them what they want to do. Sometimes we just need to empower the child and let them tell us what they want to do! If it’s their idea, they are more likely to be excited about it. Once they tell you what they want to do, you could say, “That sounds great! Let’s do that, then we’ll let Mommy pick what we do next!” 22712363_685372975000902_689571135907898783_o

I hope these tips help you the next time you go to take pictures of your little ones! My favorite pictures are the ones that aren’t posed, but the ones that catch them in their element. For example, if I gave my three year old a pile of dirt – she would be all smiles and I wouldn’t even have to try! Remember to make it fun for them. You don’t want to look back at that picture and think of how you forced them to smile, but rather how much fun they really were having.

If you have any questions at all, please comment below! I’d love to hear from you!

xoxo,

jenny

Read More: 10 Ways to Simplify Your Life THIS WEEK!

Read More: 10 Marriage Books that Transformed Our Marriage

 

 

Mother’s Day Gifts That Really Matter (A Gift Giving Guide for Dads)

Mother’s Day Gifts That Really Matter

Every year my husband asks me what I want Mother’s Day. And every year I have the hardest time coming up with an answer.

I don’t necessarily “want” or “need” anything. I feel so grateful everyday to have the opportunity to raise these little humans and do it alongside such a wonderful man. But it got me thinking about what Mother’s Day gifts really matter.

Related: 10 Books That Transformed Our Marriage

If I could have one thing, what would it be? This question got me thinking about what refreshes me, and what makes me a better mama. I also asked some fellow mamas what they would want. Here’s a list of what I, and many other mamas, are wanting this Mother’s day. And for those on a strict budget, most of these are FREE!

  • A nap. Now, I know this seems like an easy one. But it’s going to take some planning. We cannot take a nap if we can hear the children. We love them, but we don’t want to hear them. So taking them outside or even on a little adventure would be perfect. Two hours would be ideal.
  • A FULL day off. When you’re a mom raising toddlers, you are never really at rest during the day. They are all-consuming and we’re keeping them alive, so they require a lot of attention. What would be AMAZING is a full day off. A day when the kids are taken care of all day long, and we get to do whatever we want. When we can get a break from all the responsibilities of taking care of our family and household, then we can really relax.
  • Weekend getaway. Or date night. Whatever fits your budget. But here’s the deal dads, YOU have to plan it. It takes so much stress off of us when you plan the date or the getaway. If you can take care of setting up childcare, we would be forever grateful. Also, extra bonus points if you can keep this a surprise.

Related: 5 Steps To Creating A Budget

  • Maid Service. I love taking care of my family. A big part of that includes keeping a clean home. Deep cleaning can be a daunting task when you have toddlers, and takes a lot of strategy to make it happen. If it’s one visit from a maid, or a yearly service, anything would be appreciated!
  • Pampering. A massage, a pedicure, a facial. All of these would be included in the pampering category.
  • Uninterrupted sleep. Do you have a baby that doesn’t sleep through the night? As much as we don’t mind getting up with those babies, an uninterrupted nights sleep would be a dream come true. Offer to take the night shift and let your wife sleep. If the baby is still nursing and won’t take a bottle, you may need to just offer a nap instead.
  • A handmade gift. Some of my favorite gifts are the ones my husband made with the kids. It’s because it takes a lot of effort to do that. Sentimental things like that mean the world to us. Get your Pinterest scroll on and see what you can make!

Mother's Day Thumbprint Art Painted Flower PotsMother's Day Special Plate CraftMother's Day Footprint Butterfly Flower Pot

There are a lot of options there, and I think I speak for most moms when I say, the meaningful gifts are our favorite. While a new purse or outfit would be great, it’s not what we’re going to remember. We’ll remember the handprint craft you made and the special moments you created. It warms our heart to know that you really wanted to make our day special.

Related: What does the Bible say about Self-Care?

This will forever hang in our house. We have backyard chickens and my husband used his and our daughter’s handprint to make chickens. Out of all the Mother’s Day gifts, this one meant the most.

Mother's Day Chicken Handprint Craft

So remember, a day full of pampering would be amazing. But what pulls at our mama heart strings are the meaningful, well thought out gifts. We are constantly thinking of you and the kids, and what you all need. It feels so good to be thought of as well. And make sure you tell us that you appreciate us, that one will be the icing on the cake!

 

Biblical Affirmations to Speak over yourself and your Children

Biblical Affirmations to Speak over yourself and your Children

It has begun. The girls (2 and 3 years old) have started repeating everything I say. They’ve even started mimicking the way I do things. If I pick up a broom to start sweeping, they immediately start looking for their broom so they can “help” mommy. When I yell at the dog, they yell at the dog (working on that). If I hug their Daddy, they want to hug him even more.

They are watching us, listening to us, and repeating what they see and hear. Since they are paying so much attention, I am trying to incorporate biblical affirmations into our speech as much as we can. In this post we’ll go through seven affirmations for you, and seven for your children.

I’m realizing that this is just the beginning. They are learning from us. Not just when we sit down to teach them something, they are learning by simply watching us. What a blessing it is to teach them by example… but what a scary thought as well! I have put a lot of pressure on myself lately to do things right and say things in the right tone. I know these little people are imperfect and will make mistakes, but I want to be the best example I can possibly be. The goal is not perfection – but to be a better version of myself each day.

My heart would be broken to hear my daughter say that she wishes her hair were different, or to look in the mirror and be filled with feelings of disappointment. What am I saying when I look in the mirror? After I get myself ready, I’ll usually come out of the bathroom and say, “Well, this is as good as it gets.” I laugh through it, but what kind of message am I sending to my girls? My confidence is not built upon the fact that I really need highlights and I wish I had a few more curves. My identity is in Christ alone. Through His strength, I’m working on the way I speak over myself and to my children. Here are a few helpful examples of how we can biblically affirm ourselves and our children.

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Affirmations to speak over yourself

  • I am accepted. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:4-8
  • I am secure. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
  • I am significant. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
  • I am unique. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13
  • I have a purpose. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
  • I am His. “But now, this is what the Lord says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1
  • I am forgiven. “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” Isaiah 44:22 

Affirmations to speak over your children

  • You can do hard things. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Phillipians 4:13
  • God has a plan for you.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
  • God is always listening to you. “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12
  • You are special. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
  • You are kind. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
  • You are chosen. “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4
  • God loves you unconditionally! “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16

What a joy it is to raise these little people. What a gift it is to be a mother. They are watching us and they are really paying attention. Before I react to what may seem like a disaster in the moment, I’ll think about how I would want my girls to react in that situation. It’s changing the game for sure!

Do you have any other suggestions? What do you try to speak over yourself and your children? Tell me in the comments below!

 

Some other posts you may like:

https://raisingthemkind.com/2018/03/05/10-ways-to-simplify-your-life-this-week/

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10 Marriage Books That Transformed Our Marriage

Please Stop Telling us we are “in for it” when the Teenage Years Come.

I was a teenager once. I had an attitude problem. I disobeyed. I was unkind to my parents. I made bad decisions. I didn’t have a full on rebellion, but many of my peers did. And I know it’s possible. I have no doubt that raising teenagers is going to be extremely difficult.

With that said, let’s talk about what we, as young moms, keep hearing from moms of teens. We are constantly being told that we are “in for it” when we hit the teenage years. Whether they are raising teens or their kids are out of the house, not many people have anything good to say about the dreaded teenage years. And again, I know they will not be easy. But when someone tells me that I should enjoy this time now because of how bad it’s going to be, it puts fear in my heart and is very discouraging.

I’m raising two toddlers. It is a daily challenge to keep a good attitude, be patient and speak kindly to my children. When I hear that it’s going to get so much worse, it crushes my spirit. I already feel like I’m in the diaper and tantrum trenches at times. I need to be encouraged during this time, I need to hear that we are not all doomed because one day our kids will be teens.

Emily Ley, Simplified Planner, Grace Not Perfection

My prayer and my hope is that these words will not ring true. I know my kids will struggle through the teenage years, but my prayer is that the investment I am putting into them now, will come to fruition as they grow. That our relationship will have ups and downs, but the foundation will be strong. I pray that when those hard moments come, they won’t define who they are. They won’t define their teenage years. I have hope that as their parents, we can somehow turn the hardest moments into teaching opportunities. I pray that we can show them the forgiving, understanding and loving characteristics of Christ.

Now, if you have teenagers and you’ve got a good eye roll going on, bare with me. I do not fully know what we will deal with in those years. I know that it will be tough. But since we do not know what it will be like, let us have hope. Let us keep a positive attitude instead of speaking negatively about a season we’re not even in yet. Instead of telling us we’re “in for it,” just encourage us. We know you’ve got some wisdom up your sleeve because you have more experience than we do. Share it with us. We already know it’s going to be hard, we hear it all the time. But instead of treating kids getting older as a downward spiral, give us some hope we can hold on to.

Please know that as a mom of young children, I am enjoying it. What I normally hear is that I should “enjoy it now, because it’s going to get so much worse.” I cherish the moments I want to remember and try to forget the ones that made me cry in the grocery store. We are soaking it in. And we know it is going to fly by. I’m not sure that any season of motherhood is easy. Let’s try our best to encourage each other, no matter what season of motherhood we are in.

With love and donuts,

Jenny

What I Wish I knew as a First Time Mom

What I Wish I Knew as a First Time Mom

First time Mom probs. I had a lot of them. It was so hard to see when I was in the thick of it, but I was having a tough time adjusting to motherhood. I loved being a mom, I loved (almost) every aspect of taking care of my baby. But just like many first time moms – I struggled.

I struggled with control.

I struggled with worrying.

I forgot about my husband.

I isolated myself.

When I was pregnant with my first, I received so much advice on how to do this mom thing well. Good advice, bad advice, advice that made me go… “say what?” All kinds of advice. But it didn’t matter what I heard or read, nothing could prepare me for what motherhood would be like. No one knows what they will be like as a mom, until they are a mom. So regardless of the advice you hear, remember that your journey is just that, it’s yours. Take the advice you like and leave the rest. And if you need to adjust or seek different advice once you are a mom, you do that!

I was so caught up in preparing to be a mom. Like most of us, I dreamed about what motherhood would be like. Since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a mom. Needless to say, I put A LOT of pressure on myself. I just wanted to do this mom thing right. But man, when you put those kind of expectations on yourself, you’re bound to fail.

Here are some things I wish I knew as a first time mom:

  1. Things will not go as planned. From the time that baby is out of you, things will probably not be the way you pictured it. When I first became a mom, I found myself feeling so disappointed with the smallest things. I was striving for perfection, and it is not even close to attainable. Grace on grace on grace. There’s beauty in the unpredictable moments. Rather than letting those moments stress me out, I wish I would’ve seen them as opportunities to lean on God even more.
  2. Take a minute, or thirty-seven for yourself. I was so fearful of something going wrong if I left her with someone. She was used to me and how I did things, what if the person watching her didn’t know those things? It’s an opportunity. It’s a chance to benefit everyone. I needed time for myself that I didn’t think I needed. The baby needed time away from me. Grandma got some one on one time in. It was hard, but it got easier each time.
  3. Include your significant other. I read all the books. All the blog posts. All the articles. I was ready to tackle whatever this baby would bring. My husband couldn’t possibly know what to do because he didn’t read the books. Turns out, he did know what to do! He’s Daddy. He knew how to love that child and bond with her. At times me and my internet knowledge got in the way of that.
  4. Grandparents want and need to help. My biggest regret from early parenthood is that I pushed them away rather than welcomed them in. I was so over-protective that they felt like they were walking on egg shells. That was their grand baby and I was just sitting there keeping her to myself! Goodness, I wish I could go back to those early days and share her with the people that love her so much.
  5. You will fail… daily. I wish I could tattoo grace on my forehead. Maybe I’ll run that idea by my husband and see how he feels about it. I failed daily and I still do. I used to beat myself up over it and feel like such a failure if things didn’t go as planned. I’ve learned to give myself grace in those moments. All I can do is all I can do. And as long as I’m doing my best, that’s all that matters.
  6. FIND MOM FRIENDS. I can’t emphasize this enough. As my daughter got older, I made this a priority. But I didn’t realize how important it was until I developed those friendships. We are all in this together. Put yourself out there. Go to MOPS. Go to Chick-fil-A where dreams come true. Invite another mom over for a play date. We need adult conversation and our kids need to interact with other kids. Get out there, mama!
  7. You will sleep again. I remember being in zombie mode for months. I was trying to enjoy the early days, but I was just so dang tired. The whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” didn’t make sense to me because there was always so much to be done. But looking back, I should’ve just slept.
  8. Do what is best for YOUR family. Oh the opinions that come in. It never stops. We are all doing what’s best for our family. Mom shaming is real, don’t let yourself go there. Don’t compare what you’re doing to what other moms are doing. Do what is best for your family and know that they are doing what’s best for their family.
  9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. “No. We are ok. Thank you though.” My classic response as a first time mom. “It takes a village” is a real thing. When someone offers help, take them up on it. You deserve a break and if you don’t want to leave your baby, have someone come over so you can take a nap while they watch them.
  10. Try really hard to cherish the moments you want to remember. I was so worried about every little thing that I forgot to stop and really enjoy those sweet, subtle moments. Was I doing the right thing with the schedule and nursing and diaper changes? Who knows. I just know I was doing my best, and I’ve learned to recognize those sweet moments, and stop to really cherish them.

11. It’s not about the pictures. I’m a photographer, so I am all about the pictures. But I also think there’s a time for it. Sometimes it can really take away from those moments. You don’t have to take a picture of every little thing. My fondest memories aren’t on my iPhone, they’re in my heart because I was really present for it.

12. Nap time is your time. Tired? Sleep. Want to read a good book? Do it. Call up a friend? Go for it. Whatever you do, do not let yourself feel bad about it. Nap time is an opportunity to take care of you. Without self care we can’t be the best version of ourselves. So take the bubble bath!

What a gift it is to be a mom. Enjoy it. Cherish it. Be the best mom you can be and call it a day. Don’t let yourself overthink every little thing from that day. Tomorrow is a new day with new mercies. And if all else fails, get yourself a DONUT.

Don’t Wish Moments Away…

Don’t wish moments away… but what about the hard moments? I really want to wish those away. I want to skip through those and get to the good ones. The reality is that there will be hard moments throughout our motherhood journey. There most definitely, without a doubt, be hard moments. I’m only 3.5 years into this thing and the hard moments are much more present than I would prefer. I find myself thinking: “This will be easier when she’s 4, or 5, or 12.” What I’ve realized is that each age is going to be challenging. Each age will have wonderful moments and hard moments. The beauty is that those moments are just that – moments. Moments that will pass. Moments that will probably get harder before it gets better.

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I have to stop wishing these moments away. What an opportunity we are given when these hard moments come. An opportunity to lean on God and seek his face when we feel like we have nothing left. It’s such an honor to raise these little people, but it can also be a daunting task at times. I have cried out to God so many times because of these moments. He reminds me that this will pass. He surrounds me with the peace that passes all understanding. And turns out I can never understand it. How does He do that? He just wraps us up and this overwhelming peace just takes over.

Instead of wishing those moments away, I’m trying to see them as opportunities. Opportunities to hear from the Lord. To feel His presence even when things are hard. He’s teaching me that these hard moments are an opportunity to get closer to Him. I’m learning more about myself (especially my weaknesses), and in the midst of disciplining toddlers and trying to stay sane – I’m learning how to be a better person. How to be more patient and understanding. While I definitely do not enjoy this hard part of parenting, I can see what God’s doing there.  We’re disciplining our children, while God is giving us chances to grow. Now trust me, I fail at this daily. More like hourly. But when I can do it well, I can look back and thank God for giving me that opportunity to teach my children, as well as grow as a Mom.

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I’ve learned that it’s ok to not like the hard moments. That phrase, “Enjoy it, it goes by so fast” is most definitely true. But I have had some really long days, some really hard moments. And during those times I am not enjoying it. That’s ok. I remind myself often that it’s ok to not enjoy the moments that are frustrating and confusing. I remind myself that these children are just longing to be heard and understood. They want us to hear them so badly. Am I? Am I really listening to their heart? Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp talks deeply about this. The root of the problem is in their heart. So many times when I want to react to a behavior, I try to stop myself to figure out what’s really going on. Number one, are they hungry? Number two, are they tired? If we rule these out then we can really start searching.

In those hard moments when I really don’t want to search their heart, I’ve realized that’s when I’m missing it. I’m missing an opportunity to learn more about my child and their heart. My oldest is three and she able to let me know what’s going on. I may have to translate it for someone else, but I totally get her. I try to take that opportunity to hear her, really hear her and figure out what the root of the problem is. Because their behaviors are just that – moment by moment changing emotions that take over and come out through their behavior. But what about what’s underneath that behavior? Sinful nature, yes. But what else? I’m diving deep into this, and I pray that you will come along with me. Share what you’re learning about this things called motherhood. Let me know how we can better search our child’s heart instead of just the surface of their behavior.

Thank you so much for being here and hearing my heart. Comment below and let me know your thoughts on this topic. We Mama’s have to help each other out!

photography by Love + Covenant

Limited Screen Time Isn’t Just for Kids…

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I was recently playing catch with my daughter and trying to check emails at the same time. I like to think I’m really good at multi-tasking. However, when my toddler came and gently grabbed my phone and put it on the table and said “not right now…” I got the hint. I’m not proud of that moment, it actually makes me really sad. Thankful for God’s grace on this one. And for the chance to improve in this area.

I love being able to work from home, but I go through these seasons of doing it well and doing it no so well. It hurts my heart to think that my children are not getting the best of me. The point of me staying home is so that I can spend more time with them. I know it’s time to set clear boundaries. The first being screen time.

I’ve read numerous articles about screen time suggestions for kids. Our family rule is to limit their screen time to an hour while I prepare dinner. Mama gets a break and the kids get to sit back and enjoy the best of Netflix. We also have family movie nights once a week. This works well for our kids, and they look forward to that time.

But what about parents? Who’s limiting our screen time? This has been on my heart for a while, and I can imagine I’m not the only one thinking about this. My girls are really good at keeping themselves busy, which in turn can leave me thinking: what can I get done? I’m working on changing that mentality. As women, we know that there is always something to do. Always someone we need to get back to. Always something that needs to be cleaned. How do we separate the do-list from playtime? To me it’s simple – put the phone down. Turn off the notifications and be present with my kids.

I don’t want my girls to look back and remember Mom being with them, but constantly checking her phone. They deserve better, and I can give them better.

Here are some ways that are helping me improve in this area:

  1. Setting alarms on my phone throughout the day to check emails and messages (every 4 hours), and ONLY checking at these intervals.
  2. Turning off ALL notifications – even text messages. If someone really needs me, they will call. Those messages aren’t going anywhere.
  3. Putting my phone in a designated spot. Knowing that my phone is in it’s place is a great reminder that it needs to stay there. Placing it to charge in our guest room has worked out well, since we rarely go in there.
  4. Using a paper planner. I can’t say enough about this. Since I stopped using my phone as my calendar, I really have no excuse to need it. I can check our meal plan and schedule throughout the day – without a phone. Also, Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner is adorable and gives me the warm fuzzies.
  5. Designated work hours. I hope to one day really nail this down. For now my work hours consist of early morning before the kids wake up, nap time, and after they go to bed. We will occasionally hire a sitter for a few hours. But my husband and I both work from home, so we will trade off watching the kids periodically. It can be exhausting. We are working on this one for sure!

 

How are you limiting screen time? What are you doing to be more present with your kids? Comment below! I would love to hear from you!

How Motherhood is Sanctifying Me

I knew my marriage would sanctify me, but motherhood? That was a curve ball. I didn’t realize motherhood would bring out sides of me I never knew were there. It has been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done – and I once ate an entire pizza in one sitting. But seriously, it made me really check myself.

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Here are some ways it’s sanctified me so far:

1. It’s made me more patient

Lord, has it. Patience was my thing, I really thought I had it down. Then the toddler years hit. I think most of us think we would handle things much better than we actually do. I try to give myself grace, but sometimes I find myself thinking – “Who are you? Why are you so impatient?” Grace, grace and more grace please. I’ve learned so much about God’s grace in these times. I’ve asked my kids to forgive me many times. If I’m teaching them to do that – I need to do the same.

2. I am more understanding

So much more understanding. You know when you’re checking out at the grocery store and your toddler sees all the goodness right at eye level tempting them? And they aren’t quite to the point yet where they understand that if Mommy says no the world will not end? And then the college student behind you gives you the stank eye? I was that person. I was the one thinking: “Get it together lady.” Well, now I get it. Now when that happens to someone else I give the look of: “It’s ok mama, it happens to all of us.” It’s made me realize that we are all doing our best at this thing called motherhood. Let’s build each other up, let’s lighten each other’s loads.

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3. It’s made me seek after God more than ever

Because what else can we do? There have been times when I have sought after the Lord more than others. But nothing has brought me to my knees more than being a mom. I desire to do this job well. To raise these little people to be disciples for the Lord. I can only do that if I am being a good example for them. What I teach them – I try my best to do myself. I am so thankful for a Father that welcomes us with open arms, even when we are on the hot mess express.

4. It’s made me respect my husband more

I can usually handle a lot on my plate. Or I thought I could. But in the times where I have felt helpless with my girls, or when we are going through a really challenging time – my husband has stepped up. It has brought out a side of him I didn’t know was there. He takes the reigns and picks up the pieces. He wipes my tears and tells me we are going to be alright. There are a lot of reasons I respect him, but this one tops them all.

5. Because I know they are watching me, I think twice

I used to teach a 3rd-5th grade Sunday School class. I would go home after class and think about the lesson. I would ask myself, “Am I doing that in my own life?” The lessons were basic Biblical principles, but it really makes you think when you are teaching someone else. It’s the same with my girls. We preach kindness, patience and love. Am I exemplifying those things? Am I practicing what I preach?

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6. It’s challenged me to simply be better

In all areas of my life. In my marriage – I desire for my marriage to be a good example for our girls. To know what it means to respect each other and put each other first. It’s challenged me in my friendships. I have become less judgmental and more supportive. It’s made me a better person all around. Here’s to you, motherhood!

 

Thanks so much for reading! I would love to hear how is motherhood sanctifying you. Drop a comment below! 

Give Your Toddler More Responsibility!

Toddlers. Let’s talk about them. The good, the bad, and the smells. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think of my oldest as our guinea pig. In the most loving way of course. I tend to feel like we are constantly winging it because every day is something new. She’s always changing and curve balls happen often. It’s an adventure and I adore her, it just takes some time to really learn who she is and who she’s becoming. She is currently 3.5 years old and I am starting to enjoy this stage. There are challenges, lots and lots of challenges. But overall I am enjoying the fact that she can communicate and understand better.  I am seeing who she is and really trying to hone in on her gifts and positive characteristics.

When I had my second child, my oldest was only 18 months old. My saving grace was that she became my little helper. She loved being able to help even if it was just grabbing me a diaper. I feel like kids are naturally wired to be helpers, but it is such a big part of her life now that I’m starting to see it as a gift. If someone falls down at the playground, she’ll be running to make sure they’re ok. If I drop something on the floor, she wants to pick it up right away (and hopefully not eat it). She loves every chance to help. While at times this can be inconvenient, I’m trying to foster that characteristic rather than allow it to bother me.

In the past year or so, I’ve tried to include her in everyday chores and activities (rather than treat her like a bother so I can do something). I’ll be honest, when she helps me with dinner – it takes twice as long. I have to slow down and remember that these days are flying by. If dinner takes twice as long, that’s ok. She is learning and she is loving every minute of helping Mommy. Here are some examples of ways I include her in our everyday tasks:

  • Folding laundry – This is our most recent chore. I need to stop thinking of her as “little” and remember that she is so capable of these things. It may not be the best folding job, but I taught her how to fold shirts, pants and hang up clothes. And she can totally do it! Those kids learn fast, faster than we may realize.
  • Cooking dinner – You can either lay out a sheet, or just let them make a mess and remember that it can be cleaned up. I choose to let her make a mess. If we are making dough, she is totally capable of pouring and whisking. And you guys, she lights up! I mean she thinks she is captain cool in our house when this is going on. It’s a joy to see, and also added work for me, but it’s so worth it.
  • Picking up after herself – this is one we’ve worked on for a while, and are still working on. She is by no means perfect at it, but when she does remember to do this on her own – I give her all the praise. I make it a huge deal so she knows that when she picks up after herself, she is doing something awesome.
  • Feed the dog – A little responsibility can go a long way. My toddler knows that this is her job and she feels such a sense of accomplishment once it’s done. We also implement a chore chart that involves stickers. The stickers may be the only motivation, but I’ll take it.

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These are just a few examples. I try to include her in as much as I can. My almost two year old is starting to catch on as well! I give her smaller tasks, but she still has that same sense of accomplishment when she completes a chore.

 

Thank you for reading! Does your toddler love to do chores? What else could you add to the list? Comment below and let’s talk about it!