Thursday, October 31, 2013

Balancing Act- the end and a sneak peak of what's to come

Happy Halloween! Today is the last day of this series that was not quite 31 days. And also the beginning of a little break for me because I have a lot going on this month. I have about 15 birthdays to celebrate this month, a holiday, and a wedding. So postings this month will be sporadic and mostly reviews.
So here is a little preview of some things that you will see in the near future:
- Allume handed me a new dream. One that I am holding close to my heart for now but I will soon (Decemberish) do a Video post all about it.
- Allume also asked me to step out of my comfort zone so we are going to be getting uncomfortable on here when I get back to normal.
- I discovered a new organization and you will be hearing all about it and how to be involved.
- And of course there will continue to be reviews and giveaways so keep a look out for them.

So I will see you soon and I am looking forward to what is to come!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Balancing Act- True Confessions of an Imperfect Mom

No graphic is coming- sorry. Because this really has nothing to do with balancing anything. I just felt bad that there were only 2 days left in a 31 day series and I am probably not going to actually finish it.

So here's the deal. I am not a perfect mom. I have no plans to be. Perfection is over rated. I feel like greatness comes from failure and so it must be going to happen soon as much failing as I am doing. Someone told me that they didn't like a certain blogger because she felt that blogger gave moms permission to not strive for perfection. Well- I love that blogger. Because I can relate. I am absolutely not saying don't strive to be the best mom for your kids but I don't want to be perfect. I sometimes feel like bloggers give off that "I'm perfect. I do no wrong." vibe. And I want to apologize now if I have ever done that.

My house is a mess. I still have not unpacked from this past weekend. And I have not cooked since being at home. There really is no plans for that to happen before tomorrow. I am exhausted. I have a very short fuse. AND we have soccer practice tonight. My head is full of ideas and posts and I just want to get them out and onto paper (or screen) before they fly back out again. So the housework will suffer for a couple of days. As is the cooking because let's face it that just is not on my interest radar for right now. It will be okay though. I promise. Because it will get done- eventually.

I tried that whole not yelling at my kids challenge. Complete and utter FAILURE. I didn't make it one day. I didn't make it a full hour through today. I have some hard headed children and sometimes that is the only way that they stop and listen.

I spank my kids. I know that is taboo today but oh well. It works in our house. I actually had someone threaten to call the cops on me last week because I spanked my 3 year old after he ran out into the parking lot at soccer practice. I told them to go ahead. Needless to say she didn't do it. It's not child abuse to spank your kids. It's being a parent. It's teaching them that there are consequences to their actions.

I let them eat ice cream for breakfast (or lunch). Somedays it's okay to do that. I wouldn't do it everyday but every once in awhile. Go ahead and admit that you do it for yourself. Let the kids in on it every once in awhile.

They have holes in their underwear. I readily admit that especially after hearing Ann Voskamp admit it about her household. I can't even tell you where the holes came from. But I can promise you that a couple of them came from climbing trees and acting a fool outside because I have seen the pants that they have torn the holes in too.

I don't always engage with my children like I should. Somedays I let them go play outside while I sit on the couch and read a book or watch Hulu. I need the break and they do too. And somedays I use this computer and social media as an escape to ignore their yelling and bickering.

I am not a perfect mom, wife, person. I don't want to be. Because being perfect means that you need no one. And we all need God. We all need Jesus. And perfection does not exist without them. I am content to be broken and imperfect and to fail- because that makes me have to rely on God. To hand things over to him. I will take that over perfect any day of the week. That does not mean that I am happy with my brokenness all the time. But I am happy to know that I can hand it over to God and he is going to do a better job that I ever could do on my own.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Allume and the Changes It Made

So in all honesty I went to Allume to learn to blog better and to meet a few people on my "bucket list". God obviously had other plans. Because y'all I didn't get anything about blogging out of the weekend. What I got was conviction, life, brokenness, a new mission, and a new dream. I know that that will translate into this blog. It was so unexpected. It was so real. It was so wonderful. Y'all I saw true music worship instead of what I am used to. I saw where my failures are as a worshipper, a mom, and a wife. I developed a true pull and heart for missions (John is kind of worried but thankfully understands), and I heard God tell me what his dream is for me (and it scares me to no end). My heart was shattered in a way I didn't know that it could be and God told me where to go from there. My dream changed and  my heart changed.

    I am glad that I "knew" my dream sisters before going I will honestly admit. But I had never met them inRL. So after driving to Tallahassee and finding this house (and my GPS taking me on the very scenic route to there and Starbucks) I walk up to the front door. From the second she opened the door I knew that this completely online friendship became a sisterhood. We drove for a little over 8 hours even though it was only supposed to take 6 and a half. We played the game of dueling GPS's and took a lot of wrong turns. Most of them were because we were talking so much we paid no attention to those GPS's. We FINALLY get to Greenville and check into our hotel room. This was quickly followed by a late night of talking with new inRL friends but old online friends. This online friendship that seamlessly flowed into real life is still amazing me today. We are sisters and it was not a meeting of friends it was a family reunion. When we met up with the rest of these amazing women on Thursday the family reunion only continued. I am grateful for these women who helped to keep me grounded and engaged the entire time.
Photo by Melissa Aldrich

    That first night was filled with uncomfortableness and awe. I've said it before and I will say it again here. I am Church of Christ. So worship music with instrumentals, hands raised, and non-hymnal is not my norm. I love "Christian" music and I love to sing it but it has never been in my vocabulary as "worship" music- until this trip. Y'all- I have been doing it all wrong. I am not saying that I think instrumental music has a place in my worship service by no means. I am saying that seeing these men and women at this conference sing with eyes closed, hands raised, and their whole heart and mind focused on God and Jesus was eye opening and convictional (don't you love how I make up words sometimes?). I sat there uncomfortable but in awe. And then Ann Voskamp starts to speak. Oh my word. God pours out of this women in a way that you can't help but stop and listen. She is so soft spoken, kind, and lovely in person and then she stands on stage and she is powerful. Her voice does not have to be more this soft spoken lyrical music but there is power behind it. A power that says God is here. God loves you. God wants you! Oh be still my heart!!!!

   The second day was full of sessions, naps, and more goodness. I went and I heard Holley speak and went to a blogging session to only be quickly followed by this overwhelming need for quiet and rest. So I scapped my afternoon session plans and took a nap. But I was up in time to go to hear Phil Vischer (aka the "veggie tales man"). To be reminded about how important our story is and being reminded about being conscious of how we live that story was great. At dinner that night, we heard Jennie Allen speak and realized how broken I am but that it is where I need to be. I need to be broken. I need to be able to say "Jesus- I can't do this without you. I need you!" I also loved hearing her say "Batman and parables- I'm a dork!" This woman was real as real could be. But the truly defining moment of the night came with Anthony Evans who told the sound guy to turn off the track. And then came "It is well with my soul". Y'all I tell you God was in that room. Never in my life have I heard anything so beautiful. 

God was already working on my heart. He was. I could feel it. I was already raw. But Saturday morning was what I was looking forward to the most. Bianca Olthoff was the speaker. My first "real" blog that I followed. She had already inspired me. Her passion, her knowledge, her love for Christ, and her drive to end slavery in this world today. I was ready. I was prepared with kleenex that I could not find at the time. And I was still completely and totally shattered. As in I still have tears streaming down my face as I remember the total pull and shattering that happened. Tears flowed unchecked. And God worked on me through her. And my dear sister/friend/fellow dreamer reminded me to get a picture and to talk to talk to her again. (I was actually washing my hands in the bathroom Thursday night when she came walking in and I turned and introduced myself to her wet hands and all because I did not want to miss it.) So I waited. I helped the sponsor of the meal clean up to let the line go down. I stood there. I told myself I was not going to cry in front of her. (I did- as in the complete ugly cry.) And I got that picture. I told this woman how much I admired her. And she told me to listen to the mission laid on my heart. To keep going. To remember that I make a difference too. I have a voice to use. And in those words a new dream blossomed. 

I did not make it to sessions that morning. It just didn't happen. Instead I poured out my heart to the woman and listened to her advice. That afternoon I worked with an amazing organization called Sole Hope and you will hear more about it in the months to come! I then met with friends. Got some books signed. I took pictures with friends. I also spent time writing in prayer journals for friends who I am even more thankful for now. 

 Sunday brought me home. Had me pouring my heart out to John and hoping that he understood. God used this weekend to change me and made me even more certain that I will be back next year. I am going to give Logan time to rest but my dream will begin in a couple of weeks. Because if these women can use their voices to spread the word of God, to encourage others, and to not stay in their comfort zones- I can too. I am about to get uncomfortable. And that is what God wants me to do. This time, I am listening!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Balancing Act- Quiet Time

Quiet time is at a premium when you have kids. But it is very necessary for both mom and the kids. One great way to get this if you are a stay at home mom is at nap time. My children have decided that they no longer need naps but I do try and get them to at least go to their rooms and be quiet for an hour everyday. It sometimes works. I know that most of us use that time to accomplish stuff that otherwise goes undone but every once in a while or everyday (which ever you prefer- I like everyday) I like to use that time to read, write, or even nap if my 3 year old will cooperate. It is definitely one of those things that I say be deliberate about. For those of you who work, I used to relish in the drive time. I know that you can't read or nap then but you can definitely have quiet time and use the time to think and pray. Or you can take advantage of an empty car and let your inner rock star come out.

How do you spend quiet time? What do you do during your quiet time?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Balancing Act- Dishes + OCD

I am going to admit that when it comes to washing dishes I am a little OCD. I wash in a certain order- glasses, mugs, bowls, plates, silverware, casserole dishes, and the pots/ pans. And if for some reason I miss a glass I have to start back over with new water. I also have to wash dishes in hot water. If the water turns cold before I get done then I have to get new water in the sink.
So as much as I would love to have someone else help me wash dishes and I do often hand that chore off to my oldest, I cannot be in the room when someone else does it. I want to go in and take over because no one else in the house will wash them in the right order. I may or may not rewash a glass before I use it if someone else has done the dishes.
Oh and they are absolutely never washed as well if you use another liquid other than Dawn.

Are you a little OCD about any particular chore? Do you wash your dishes in a certain order?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Balancing Act: Somedays You Just Have To Be Lazy

Some days you just have to be lazy. If you don't you spend all your time cooking, cleaning, and taking care of others and you will lose yourself. Of course if you are like me then that one lazy day may end up with extra work the next day but it is oh so worth it. On my lazy days I like to read. And I read a lot anyway but those days there is a book in my hand all day. I recently read 2 books that I want to share with you.

Book #1

"Jewel of the Pacific" by Linda Lee Chaiken is a interesting read. It is book 3 in a series called The Dawn of Hawaii. I actually did not realize that when I requested it. You can read the story without having read the rest of the books and you will be okay- just a little confused at the beginning. After that you're good.

Eden and Rafe have been through a lot. Then a fire almost takes Eden's life and Rafe loses his eyesight. A series of misunderstandings leads to heartbreak for them both. With strife in the Hawaiian government and both families heavily involved, will they find there way back to each other?

Even though this is the 3rd book in a series it is able to hold its own. You can invest in the story and the characters without a lot of the background provided in the first 2 books. You definitely find yourself getting mad at some characters and cheering others on. And you know how you are watching a movie and you keep telling the characters to watch out or keep going? You definitely do that here.

This is a period in history that I actually don't know a lot about but this book made me interested. The story is set before Hawaii becomes a territory of the United States and tells a little of the history of the leper island communities. It is definitely an  interesting time in history.

Book #2

"Unspoken" by Dee Henderson is the story of Charlotte and Bryce. Charlotte inherits a large collection of coins and decides to sell them to Bryce. Bryce takes on the challenge after stating that he was a "bored". But Bryce gets more than he bargains for. Ann and Paul are investigating a cold case and find new leads to a break. Not everything is as it seems and digging brings up some hard questions and memories.

In my opinion a good book plays out in your head like a movie. This is one of those books. I found myself wishing that someone could turn this book into a movie until I remembered how much they would change to do it. Suspenseful, page turner is just one way to describe the story. I enjoyed reading it and absolutely did not see all the twists that came.

Great ending to the story but it is also left open for further stories about the characters. I am adding Henderson to my authors to look for list and will be looking for new books by her.

**I received "Jewel of the Pacific" from Moody Publishers in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own. **
***I received "Unspoken" from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.***

Friday, October 25, 2013

Balancing Act- Making Lists and Sticking To Them

I used to be that person who went to the grocery store without a list. Well I had one in my head but never down on paper. My husband was the same way. The lesson that we learned- we always ended up making multiple trips because we wouldn't get something- we needed a WRITTEN list. Since making a grocery list we have saved time and money. Or we did until my husband started going off the list. Lesson learned really quickly that we have to stick with a list.

I am also a to-do list fanatic. I have to have a to-do list if I am going to get anything done around the house. It's the way that I function. So I make a to-do list every morning. And I stay with it. And if it doesn't get done it gets moved to the next day. I try my best to stick to the list.

Life became easier for me when I realized that making realistic to-do lists was the key to my success. You may be different. For me lists are the key. What is organizational style????

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thoughts from Allume

Tonight was the first night of Allume! I have met some of the greatest people, had a road trip of 8 hours to get here (it was only supposed to be 6), had the most amazing conversations, and have been this complete extrovert at times that I do not recognize. After almost having to cancel my trip a couple of weeks ago, I came to Allume with no expectations, no lists, and more of a faith that God would put me where he wants me with the people he wants me with. He has honestly already done this and I stand (or sit in the bed) in awe of the power he has here. My goal became go grow in God and don't worry about growing the blog about the time the whole ticket craziness happened and I am telling you if the next 3 days are like the last 2, I will meet that goal because I already have. These women from my Dream Team are like family- there is no holding back with them. I met one of the amazing ladies from the (In) Courager group that I lead. I met Lisa Jo Baker and I was so star struck I didnt think to get a picture. I also met Bianca Olthoff in the bathroom tonight. I felt so stupid turning around from washing my hands and introducing myself but I knew I would never get another chance. So I met her in the bathroom. Seriously! I am already blessed beyond measure from this trip and can't thank Michelle Pickle Statefarm, a consignment sale, and my hubby enough for this trip!

Balancing Act- Laundry, Laundry Everywhere.

Is it just me or does the laundry  seem to multiply and be never ending? Well in my household it is way behind right now. We have not moved our washer and dryer over yet so I blame the fact that we have to go over to the other house. But in reality it is because I hate doing this chore. Separating lights and darks, towels, whites, etc just makes me cringe. And let's not even get started on the whole ironing agenda. So I am always open to suggestions. 6 people in a household results in lots of laundry. Our system right now is to wash two loads of clothes a day. That means 3 trips out there. Once we get everything moved (hopefully this weekend) then the system will change to at least one load of each person's clothes until I get caught up (if there is such a thing). I didn't used to separate stuff but have found lately with my oldest uniforms that it is necessary evil. So now I separate everything. It takes so much longer. And I also didn't use to iron- hello, that's what a dryer is for. But then came uniforms, so now I iron everything. Laundry tips and advice- go!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Balancing Act- Balancing a Budget.

I am probably not really the person to be writing this post. But if I can do better that our government I will do my best. A budget is essential in every household. If you don't have one you will not pay your bills, you will not have money, and you will be in a world of trouble. No one taught me to budget. We learned by trail and error after we were married how to do it and we are still working on it. I highly recommend visiting Dave Ramsey's website or buying any one of his books to help you get started. I am currently waiting to hear back from our insurance company about how high our premiums are going to go so that I can start working on next year's budget now. There are many different ways that you can do this- I like the envelope system myself. Every week or payday you divide your money into envelopes with your budgeted amount divided in 2 or 4 depending on paydays. And you don't touch it until the bill is due. By dividing the bills up into smaller portions it's not a huge chunk of each check for this bill or the other. One thing to remember it that gas money has to last throughout the whole week or two weeks between checks. So really in this system there are no extras until all the bills are paid at the end of the month. It is a great system and one that will work wonders if you just stick to it. You would also be surprised how much extra money you have by no extra spending. What is your budgeting advice?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

We interrupt this blog series for a GIVEAWAY!!!!!

Do your kids struggle with patience? Mine do. I can really understand my 3 year old because well- he's 3. But my 13, 8, and 7 year olds- no so much. So when I was contacted about reviewing a new children's book about patience I said yes.

The circus is coming to town! And Willow is excited. She wants to see the show and to eat pink cotton candy. But on her way to the circus, Willow keeps meeting temptations. So by the time she gets to the circus, she doesn't have the money to get pink cotton candy and she is too late to see the show. Willow is given a second chance to do it again the next day. Did she learn her lesson? Can she say no?

This book was a fun story that kept my 3 year engaged. The illustrations are colorful and very well drawn. It is a fun, interactive story that also teaches a valuable lesson. Great, great book!

You can buy a copy of this book at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

I was provided with a copy of this book to review and also a copy to give away to one of my readers!
Go to Facebook and like the Hentown Mama page and I will randomly draw a winner on Monday, October 28!

** I was provided with a copy of "Can't Wait Willow" from FlyBy Promotions in exchange for my review.***

Monday, October 21, 2013

Balancing Act- Household Management

Household management is one area that can be complex or simple depending on how you approach it. I am a capricorn and that means that I love to make lists. And it is so true. I am a complete list person. But you may not be. You may be a see and so person. So my approach to household management is probably different from yours. But I am going to talk about my system.

I used this book back at the beginning of the year to help set up a notebook that contains everything that I use-
  Getting It Together

I don't use every printable in this book because I love to make my own To Do lists. But we use the inventory sheets (which makes my grocery list so much easier to make), the schedules, the contact information sheets, and the project lists. 

On top of the Home Management Notebook, we also have chore sheets (that the kids tend to ignore) and plain old see and do. My house tends to be a cluttered mess most of the time with toys everywhere but I don't mind that. And you will probably see a laundry basket sitting in every room of the house, the ironing board sitting out, and dishes in the sink. But I am raising kids. And sticky floors and clutter are just part of it. 

I am still working on the whole organization thing- for two parents who are either OCD or loves organizing things, we have the most disorganized children ever born. But I have recently re-discovered the Container Store (wishful thinking about affording that stuff) and Pinterest has so many ideas. So we are a work in progress in this house. 

The key to any of it is to stay on top of it. It's easier to clean up a mess while it is still small than when it gets huge. My key word this month has been "Deliberate". I think that it goes with household management too. Be deliberate with a budget, household chores, and schedules. It will go a long way. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Balancing Act: Kids and Your Church Family

I am probably going to get in trouble for this post. I have been a member of a large congregation and the member of a small congregation. It is much easier to handle it in a small congregation. You still need to monitor who your child is hanging out with. I know what you're thinking- this is church! Well you would be surprised what "church kids" will do. Learn to tell your child no about these kids too. And I know that you are supposed to be able to trust the adults at the church too but I know that you have seen the news to know you have to be careful. I am very fortunate to not have to worry about these things where we go to church. I would trust any of the adults with my children no questions asked. (I have run out of the church with a hurt child and never even worried about my 7 month old child sitting in his high chair. Yep just left him never even thought about whether he would be okay or not because I knew he was.) I don't question my children's safety with any of these members of our family. We are lucky in that regard. But sometimes there are church activities that your kids just can't go to because of expense and you need to learn to say no and be honest with your children as to why. These are also church activities that may not be an "approved" activity for your family on a normal every day basis. And you need to go ahead and teach your children that just because it is church does not always make it okay. There is even times where the amount of activities is becoming so overwhelming that there is no family time in there. This is another situation where you need to help your children learn to say no and learn to balance their activities.

Just because it is church does not mean that it is necessarily always a yes.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Balancing Act: Marriage Resources

So yesterday I talked about parenting resources, today I am going to talk about marriage resources. Like yesterday, I am going to go ahead and link them to Amazon (affiliated links).

Again- these are in no particular order. I love all these books and I have a lot more. You would be surprised what you can learn from these books. Even if it is just a greater understanding of your spouse.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Balancing Act: You are not ALONE

Just a little reminder for you today. You are not alone. I know that you feel that way sometimes. But you have friends, family, and online communities. Ask for help when you need it. And if nothing else- read a book for some advice. I have a whole lot of them in my Nook and on my bookshelves. I sadly love parenting books. Here are my top 5. I am just going to go ahead and link them to Amazon.

These are in no particular order and there are several more. These are just my top 5. These books will definitely make you feel like you are not alone and that you have a support group. I am so honored to call Kayse and Teri Lynne friends as well. Teri Lynne is definitely a mentor and Kayse is too.

And if you are in a new place- make friends at church. It's your best bet. Also remember that you have an online community with Facebook and Twitter that will encourage you and help with advice. Just be prepared for more than you bargain for sometimes.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Balancing Act- Kids and Their Friends

We all want our kids to have friends. But here's the thing about that- you need to know these kids and keep an eye on them. You want your children to have good friends, not friends who are going to drag them down. Keep an eye on those relationships. Nip them in the bud as soon as you can if they are going the wrong direction. Something else you need to remember- you are a PARENT, you are not your child's FRIEND. It is a great side benefit to ALSO be their friend. And it is better if you are. But before all else you are their PARENT. You have to be the bad guy. It's your job.

I personally want friends for my kids who are from christian homes, manners are taught and expected, their is no bullying among them, and they encourage each other. You have to take the time to meet and get to know the kids your kid is hanging out with and you have to get to know their families. Being friends with their moms is always a plus. And if you don't like what you see and find out- stop the friendship. It's a tough job but you have to do it.

Pay attention to your own child. Don't compare him/ her to other children. And if their behavior changes find the source. If it is a certain friend, explain to your child why you don't approve of that friend and why you don't want them to be your child's friend. That will go a long way.

So get to know these kids. But always be a parent first.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Balancing Act- Kids and Their Self Esteem

Our kids are all different. They are individuals. And sometimes that is hard. Bolstering self esteem in our kids is an important but difficult job. We can constantly tell them that we love them and how great they are and praise their accomplishments BUT all it will take is one negative comment from another child and everything that we have done to build them up is torn down. Teaching them to love themselves is so important. And any way that you can do that is essential. 

Enter a new book by Angie Smith. "Audrey Bunny" is the story of a stuffed bunny with a mark on her chest. Over and over again she is not chosen by the children who come to the store all because of the mark. Finally, a sweet little girl named Caroline choses her. Audry constantly tries to hide her mark until the day that Caroline tells her that she was chosen because of her mark. She is loved and wanted. 

I love this book. Knowing the background of Audrey Bunny from reading Angie Smith's previous books and blogs made the story that much more important. The illustrations are beautifully done and make you happy just looking at them. My son loved the story and kept pulling out all of the many bunnies in our home to hear the story with him. He has asked to hear it again and again. 

Here is Angie Smith talking about "Audrey Bunny".

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: 'Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.'"

I received a copy of this book for my self and also a copy to give away by Fly By Promotions. To be entered into the giveaway all you have to do is sign up for my monthly newsletter in the right sidebar. A random winner will be chosen on Friday afternoon from the list of subscribers. They will be notified by email on Saturday.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Balancing Act- When the Loss of a Child Hits Your Marriage

Nothing will ever hit your marriage quite like the loss of a child. Whether that loss comes as a pregnancy, a still born child, or the loss of a child after enjoying them on this earth. The walk through life after is one that will forever have it's ups and downs. And unless you have experienced it you will never understand it. And the amount of judgement that you will receive over how you handle it is astounding to me even to this day. So here are 3 stories today for babies who will never be forgotten and will forever be loved.

Pregnancy Loss-
  • At 10 weeks pregnant, I laid down and took a nap with my then 3 year old son. I woke up bleeding. I went to the emergency room and waited. The OB never showed up after countless times telling them she was coming. After several IV attempts, an exam, and a lot of tears I was wheeled into ultrasound. They turned the screen away. I was alone with just the technician. No one to hold my hand or comfort me. She found a heartbeat and a baby. And an empty sac. She didn't tell me that. The ER doctor told me I was dehydrated and made me an appointment with a different OB for first thing the next morning. I went home. I stayed in bed like I was told in a semi- reclined position. I prayed hard. The next day, John and I went to the OB expecting the worst kind of news. They did another ultrasound. Again- a heartbeat, a baby, and an empty sac. We went to an exam room and waited for the doctor. He came in and told us that there were 2 babies but now there was 1. There is an emotional roller coaster that you go on, that unless you have been there you will never understand. I blamed myself, I blamed John, I blamed the world. We will never actually know if that baby was a boy or a girl but I strongly feel that it was the girl that we have since desired. And I will see her again one day. I remember her everyday. I miss her everyday. I love her everyday. She is still my baby. She never came into this world but she is still in mine.
Infant Loss at Birth- 

Infant Loss From SIDS-

  • As heartbreaking as pregnancy loss is and even infant loss at birth, losing your child after having the joys of loving them and holding them in your arms for any amount of time is worse. It is a heartbreak all it's own. And to not be able to have the answers for why your child is gone is just devastating. And while it has not happened to us personally, it has happened to some friends and I can not even begin to describe the absolute heartbreak and devastation that has been left behind. Sealie Ellis Harrell- such a happy, beautiful, healthy baby boy. He was dreamed about and prayed for. And then the unthinkable. He was unresponsive in his bed at daycare. No answers past SIDS. No answers to the why this baby. I am going to tell you- the look in his mom's eyes the next day will haunt me forever. Because there was nothing that I could do. Nothing that I could say would ever be enough. All I can do is continue to pray for her and her husband. And be there if there is anything that they need. 

All three of the above babies are still loved. They will always be loved and missed. I know that Brooks and Sealie are real to other people while pregnancy loss tends to only be real to the one's closest to it- but all of their lives matter. They always will. So today- we are remembering these babies in a very public way. Spreading the word about losses is a way that we have to honor their short lives. And spreading the awareness for SIDS is another way. Learn everything that you can about it. Take a CPR class that includes infant CPR. And keep memories alive to keep these babies alive however we can. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Balancing Act- Friends and Family

When you become a mom you expect to have to balance motherhood and your marriage. I don't know anyone who actually expects to have to balance friends and extended family. For the most part those two things are great and needed. But sometimes there is too much of a good thing. You need to learn one word- "NO". Repeat it. Memorize it. Use it.

Your parents drop in with no prior warning and want to come to dinner. Every once in a while that's fine. But several times a week- not so much. Your house will is a mess, you're exhausted, and you were planning on PBJ for supper because it's all you can muster. That visit can go one of two ways. You can say "Come on in. Watch the kids for awhile. And hey, do you mind helping me cook too?" And this is the one I would recommend most of the time. And they may even take pity on you and help clean up a little. But if they say "no" then you should probably as politely as possible figure out a way to say no too. Even better yet, set guidelines before hand. No drop ins unless you come bearing food. Or "please call first if we haven't asked you over. We may not be having a good day." Most parents are going to respect that. If they don't, well you can decide how to handle that. I don't recommend slamming the door in their face but if that's what it takes- just don't burn that bridge.

Same thing goes for friends. Say no. Set guidelines. Schedule things. Respect each others boundaries. I am going to include siblings and cousins in the "friend" mix because at this point in your life that's what they are. Make sure that you all understand that the occasional drop by is cool BUT call first. Schedule dinners and playdates but don't over book yourself. Limit it. You need rest and if you are always on the go, you're not going to get it. In fact, you are going to grow to dread them.

Don't not have friendships and don't miss out on the great opportunities to build grandparent relations but limit it. And learn to say no. Set boundaries and learn to be firm in them.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Balancing Act- Tell Him

Tell you husband that he is a good husband. Tell him he is a good father. Build him up. Pray for him. Pray for your marriage. Pray for your family. You are building him up as a spouse and as a father. Be supportive. And never fail to tell him that you love him.  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Balancing Act-

God made your husband the leader of your home and you the helpmate. Plain and simple. I am not saying that he can sit in his recliner and do nothing while you do everything. I am simply saying that your husband is the leader of your home in God's plan. That does not make you a piece of property, give them any authority to abuse you, or mean that you have to obey commands that would go against Christ's teachings (think Vashti). That does however mean that he is the spiritual leader, the main decision maker, and should be treated with respect. As a wife, we are supposed to help with the running of our households, raising our children, and back up our spouses. We don't always have to agree with them but don't make it a public show- discuss it in private. And if you are unequally yoked and you have to take on the role of spiritual leader in your home- pray for your husband in that area.

I was raised by a single mom. She was the everything in our household and she taught me to be self sufficient and independent. It has taken me a long time to relinquish all of that and it is an area that I still struggle in. But it is God's plan and that makes it important to follow.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Balancing Act- Why are they so different?

Go ahead and resign yourself to the fact that your husband is a different creature than you are. He came from a different planet even. Life would be easier if they weren't so different, right?

So here's my suggestion. Apparently you liked something about him so putting a little bit of work into this shouldn't be that hard.
Find out his love language.

Don't know about those? Gary Chapman wrote a couple of books about them. Check on of them out. There are 5 of them. You will be amazed at the difference knowing that one piece of information will change everything. It also helps to know yours by the way.

Embrace the differences. They say opposites attract and I know that is the case with my hubby and I. We have polar opposite love languages too. I have to remind myself of that all the time. But learning that changed my perspective a lot. It's good information to have.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Balancing Act- Love Him Even When You Want to Hate Him

Ha. I just laughed at myself over this topic. Mainly because I am livid at my husband as I write this. I love him anyway. And for some reason, no matter how mad I am, I cannot look at the man without smiling. It's so much easier when he is at work to stay mad at him. So there are days that I want to hate him and walk out the door- but I just can't stop loving him. Because I chose to. I make that choice everyday. Even when I want to hate him.

So love him anyway. Walk away so that you can remember that you love him. Never go to bed mad at each other. Even if the conflict isn't resolved, tell him you love him. If I have learned nothing else over the past two summers it is that you never know when it will be the last time that you see him. Always tell him you love him.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Balancing Act- Date Night

Ah date night. Almost non-existant in our house. Twice a year guareenteed because kids can't go Christmas and Easter shopping with you. But you know that date night does not mean that you have to leave the house, don't you? You can watch a movie together after you put the kids to bed. You can serve the kids in the kitchen and set the dining room table (if you have one- otherwise serve them before you sit down so that they will be done) and have dinner together. Now if you just laughed and thought “yeah right, that's going to happen”- remember that I have 4 kids. I know that there will be interruptions and that the likely hood of staying awake through an entire movie after you put the kids to bed is slim to none, but try it. It may work. Or you may find something else that works for you. The point is to remember that you need couple time and to make it happen deliberately every once in a while. I'm not even saying once a week or once a month- just whenever you can.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Balancing Act- Marriage and Technology

I may talk this topic blue in the face BUT put down the phones. Spend some quality time with your spouse. We don't have a single meal together at our house where we are both 100% present. One of us is always on the phone. And if we are out at a restaurant, you will more than likely notice that there is always a phone in my husband's hand- mine has usually been passed off to a kid to keep them entertained. And if we actually get to go on a date- there is no conversation between us. We are both on the phones. So why do I tell you to put down the phones and then admit that we don't? Because I am going to challenge both you and me to be the one to put down the phone. To put communication back into our marriages. Have a conversation with your spouse. Remember why you fell in love with them in the first place. Stop wondering what is happening on Facebook.

That's it. That is today's entire post. A challenge. Can you do it? Can I?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Balancing Act: Balancing Marriage

photo credit-
The balancing act of moms goes further than just that because she also holds another title- wife. The job of "wife" has it's own responsibilities and juggling apart from being a mom, though no more or less important. This is your partner. The person who you want to spend forever with. They better rank pretty high up on that list of priorities.

One thing that is important to think about is that you will be married to this man long after the kids have left. Do you want to be married to a stranger? I didn't think so. Things are a little different when you have little, little kids running around. They demand a lot of  your time and your attention. I will be the first to admit, sometimes the husband gets lost in the shuffle. During those years, a text saying "I love you", holding hands while sitting on the couch, giving him compliments, and even leaving the dishes in the sink to spend 5 minutes of uninterrupted time with him will make a huge difference.

I keep hearing about this thing called "date night". We have that. It's called Christmas shopping, Easter shopping, and occasionally our anniversary. And 2 of those events don't even involve us being together- just in the same store with separate lists. So here's the thing. "Date night" does not have to be going out. It can be cooking at home together and then watching a movie after the kids have gone to bed. The point is that date night is not that big of a deal- although I keep being told it is. Date night is just a extra treat when it actually happens. The big deal is that you are together. You are focused on each other.

My husband and I have this system. It's called he goes and works 2 jobs and I stay at home and raise the kids. That means very little time together. Because one of those jobs is rotating shift work. For example- last week was 4-12 shift at his "main" job. So he gets up and leaves the house by 8 to go to one job, leaves there at 3 to go to the other job, gets off from that job at midnight, comes home, and goes to bed. The only time we see each other is the 30 minutes while he is getting ready. When I worked full time I didn't even see him then because I was already gone when he got up. SO that is one week every month gone. But we talk. All day. We text back and forth the entire time. We stay together even though we can't be together. We make it work. We are deliberate.

Because that's what marriage is. A deliberate choice. You have to chose to make it work. We could go on and not talk or see each other that week, but we would suffer for it.

So the key to balancing marriage among this thing called motherhood is to be deliberate! Put effort behind it. Sit next to him on the couch. Kiss him in front of the kids. Always tell him you love him. Hold his hand whenever you can. Send him a text everyday. Pray for him. Pray with him. Be deliberate with him.

Moms, Technology, and Toilet Paper, Oh My

My dear friend Kayse is at it again. In January she showed us how to organize our family notebook (which I use A LOT in my house) and now she is showing us how to be undivided moms. This 15 day devotional e-book is perfect for all us moms who are trying to be undivided in our attention to our children. Every odd day is a scripture devotional and every even day is a funny little story and what Kayse learned from it. Now my favorite is the toilet paper tasting in the bathroom.

Filled with reminders that you are the daughter of a king and that you are not forgotten, Kayse gives us permission to have grace with ourselves. She reminds us of our calling, "Jesus has called us to be wives and mothers, yes. But first and foremost, he has called us to Himself!" (8). She challenges us to remember that God and Jesus are the one thing that we need each day.

Kayse also challenges us to be undivided when it comes to our families. To put down the phones and the computers and focus on our children; to know "that boundaries need to be set so that priorities can remain" (17). Our children are only little for so long. How do you want them to remember you? That you always had a phone in your hand, that you never made time for them, or that Facebook was more important? I am guilty of always having my phone or being on the computer. I am focusing on doing better.

On day 1, Kayse says something that has just stuck with me and keeps running through my mind. "She [Martha] couldn't see past her to-do list to realize that the Savior of the world was sitting in her living room." Don't we all do that? We are so busy with our lives, keeping up with the housework, shuttling kids around, and just general stuff, that we forget about Jesus. He doesn't forget about us. He has not forgotten us.

I am honored to call Kayse my friend and I am delighted to be able to introduce this book to you. Just click on the button below and buy this book. Also check out the printables and her first book "Getting it Together" in her store while you are there. I promise that you will not be disappointed! Kayse is hosting a HUGE giveaway on her blog today. Click here and go check it out! She is also hosting a Twitter party tonight- invitation is below. Also if you sign up for my newsletter I will send you an exclusive coupon code for Kayse's ebooks.

Undivided Mom

****I received a copy of this e-book as part of the launch team in exchange for my review. All opinions expressed are my own. ***
*Affiliated links used. This means that I receive a small amount of the sale. All proceeds go towards the maintenance of Hentown Mama.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Balancing Act: Kids and Scheduling

Photo credit
You have a kid. You have a husband. You have a job. You have 500 appointments. This is why we have schedules. My best advice- BUY A PLANNER! Or if you are super techno savy get an app. Either way. Have a calendar where you write it ALL DOWN. We have 3. One in the kitchen for everyone to see, one with only K12/GCA meetings, due dates, etc on it, and then the "main" planner that is in my purse. Yes that means I write stuff down multiple times but it also helps me to remember it. 

I used to be all fancy and color code everyone and have it all written neatly. Now I have it all on the calendar and important things like doctor's appointments highlighted. If you are trying to juggle more than one child and all the appointments, play dates, games, etc that come with them this is a must. 

And if you don't write it down with more than one child good luck. In our house, we have one on a team at school,  3 that play soccer on 3 different teams, braces appointments, regular dentist appointments, school meetings, early release days, youth events, and blog deadlines. To be honest, I gave up keeping up with my husband's schedule between two jobs because it was driving me crazy. So 4 kids' schedules, my personal schedule, my blog schedule, and making sure I know what family stuff we are supposed to go to on both sides- I HAVE TO HAVE A WRITTEN SCHEDULE. 

And that is just the extra stuff. We also have a day to day schedule that is not written but pretty much followed to the letter. 5:30 AM- My oldest son and I get up, eat breakfast, and he gets ready for school. 6:15- 6:25 AM- the bus comes. 6:30 AM- Hopefully Mom quiet time. 7- 7:30 AM- everyone else gets up, eats breakfast, and gets dressed. 8 AM- School starts. 3 PM- School ends (hopefully), 6PM- Supper, 9 PM- bedtime. So all that other stuff gets plugged in where ever it has to go. If we didn't have a schedule, it would be complete bedlam. 

So if you have children- buy a planner. USE IT. Set a daily schedule that can be changed as needed for all those appointments. And most importantly breathe. If you forget something I promise it will be okay. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Balancing Act- Kids and Chores

Just in case you think that I have it all together- I DON'T. Especially in this area. Kids and chores. I am still after 13 years at a complete loss here. I give them chores. They don't do them so I end up doing them. And then Dad buys them something at the store anyway. They don't get an allowance and they complain about it. But no work no pay. So here is what I think is supposed to happen (in blue) and what actually happens (in red).

You have a pretty chore chart with everything checked off at the end of the day/week. 
You have a pretty chore chart with nothing checked off at the end of the week and you end up doing all the chores. 

Everyone has a job and they all do it. 
Everyone has a job but you do them all.

Everyone gets paid their allowance on Saturdays for a great job done all week. 
Nobody gets their allowance including you even though you did all the work.

So, see my dilemma. I have tried everything. Chore charts, allowances, losing privileges, all of it. Nothing changes. And the work load just keeps getting bigger. SO here is the part where you all come in.


Because when it comes to balancing chores with my kids- I am an epic failure. So any and all advice would be appreciated.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Balancing Act: When You Have More Than One Child

I have 4 boys. It is hard to have one on one time with any of them. Most of the time the best we can hope for is time with just two of them. The goal in this as with every area of motherhood is to be deliberate. Schedule time for each child in your day. You would be surprised how much 5 mins of undivided attention a day will matter to a child.
My younger three have the advantage of being home with me all day. That means at some point during the day they will each have my undivided attention. For two of them that typically means when we are doing school and they are either reading out loud to me or I am explaining something to them. For the “baby”, that means at bedtime he gets held and rocked. It’s a little trickier with the oldest one. It is normally just the two of us up for about an hour each morning until the bus comes. But he is getting ready and he is not very talkative. Just trying to get him to talk to me for 5 minutes everyday is a challenge.
So I can sympathize with you. Especially if you have more than one child under the age of 5. Those were some rough years. It gets better though. I promise.
As hard as it is to get some one on one time at our house we do try and go to the grocery store with only two of the boys. That means we each get one and so for the hour it takes to go through Walmart and shop off of the list, we are one on one. If we go with all 4 then we split them 2 and 2. We find little ways to make it work. Even if it’s directly focusing part of the conversation on one child during a meal they are getting individual attention. It really does go a long way.
Be creative with this. And again be deliberate with it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Balancing Act- Kids and School

I have both sides of this school thing at my house right now. We have one in public school and 2 who home school. I can't tell you which one is easier. I honestly think that it is an even draw on difficulty.

Home school-
This is the hardest thing I have ever done. I am far from being a teacher and this proves it everyday. But I get a lot more say in what my kids are learning than I did when they were in public school. It is also a lot of stress. And in full disclosure we do not do traditional homeschool. We are actually enrolled in a Georgia charter school named Georgia Cyber Academy. So my kids have teachers and they do everything that they would in a regular public school. But we have flexibility. If they are struggling then we slow down until they get it. We have teachers that we can go to if we need them. And all records are kept for the state without me having to do it. It also means that they do all state testing. However they are at home and I am their primary teacher. So the fact that Josh struggles with reading is all on me. I am their teacher. I am with them for all of it. And there are days that it is not a good thing. I am trying to balance being their mom with being their teacher and it is not easy at all.
It also is a lot of together time. Add that to a 3 year old who I had fully planned on starting school with this year and hello craziness. Needless to say he has not started school. It's all I can do some days to finish school with the other two. It takes on a whole new level of balance.

My advice:
- BREATHE!!!!!
- Walk away if you are getting frustrated. It will only get worse.
- Remember that they are kids and they are learning.
- Ask for help if you need to.
-Take breaks and just go out in the yard or on a walk. When you come back, you will be surprised at the attitude change.

Public School-
My oldest is in honor classes and also is involved in Academic Quiz Bowl. That being said I am sure that the amount of homework he has is proportional to that. But he comes home some days with 4 hours of homework. And somedays he comes home with "Parent homework". Oh yes, you read that right. Worksheets for ME to do. And then I see some of the stuff that is required from the classes that my other children would have been in and I AM SO GLAD THEY ARE AT HOME. I am all for being involved but y'all the amount of costumes, projects, and other things is bordering on crazy. And field trips plus the cost- don't even get me started.

So here is my advice:
- If you have kids in school and they have a project. LET THEM DO IT. It doesn't have to be perfect. It isn't expected to be. And teachers can tell the difference.
- You work. You can't go on every field trip. Try to go on at least one a year if you can.
- All these costumes can add up. Let your teachers know that you can't afford it and ask if they can try to limit them.
- If there is an award's ceremony- do your best to be there. I know that it isn't always possible. I've been there. But always make sure that your child knows how proud you are of them.
- Keep an open line of communication with all your kid's teachers. Ask them questions. Just don't badger them. And remember that ultimately the grades are your child's responsibility not the teachers. If they don't study or get help then the teacher can't do anything about the fact that they failed a test. She taught them. She is there if they have questions. Don't blame her for your child's grades.

School is one of those things that we either have all the control over or no control over. Be involved. Be proactive.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Balancing Act- Kids and Technology

This is absolutely my toughest struggle! I seem to live on my phone. I have everything on there. But when I realized that I spent more time with my phone than I did with my kids (3 of which I stay home with), I knew something had to change. I am limiting my time on my phone and on my laptop. I am drawing a line when it comes to technology and my kids. After all, "Facebook is not a task" as my friend Kayse says in her new book "Undivided Mom".

But you know what, it does absolutely no good for me to limit my technology use if I am not limiting my kids technology use.

I have 2 kids who use K12- an online virtual academy- for school. So a good portion of their day is online. But that is it. Those two are not allowed on any other websites. But they both have DS's and I have noticed a lot of time being spent on them. The new rule for both of them is that Sunday nights at 9 PM the DS goes up until Friday at 5 PM. No DS during the school week. And if for some reason they need to do school on Saturday, then the DS stays up until they are done. There are always exceptions to this rule, like a 2 hour drive one way to a field trip or an unexpected trip out of town. Then the DS is ONLY allowed after reading is complete.

My 13 year old is a completely different story. This kid is at school all day, has online research most nights, owns a DS, a PSP, and a Nook. AND he has a Facebook page. And he tests the boundary lines everyday. His rules are simple. No DS, PSP, or Facebook Sunday evening through Friday afternoon. And the Nook is allowed out only after he has completed everything else. Simple rules that require vigilance because he will break them every chance that he gets. This kid has zero exceptions to his rules. And if his grades aren't up to par then he loses weekend privileges. Oh and he has no phone. He will not have a phone until he turns 15. And then that phone will be a regular phone not a smart phone.  I am the mean mom when it comes to all of this. But let's be honest- I would rather be the mean mom than the mom who just let's him get away with everything.

Now, let's talk TV. We don't have satellite, cable, or antennae at our house. (The no antennae thing will be changing this weekend.) The only thing at our house is DVDs. And that is a good and a bad thing. TV is not allowed to come on until AFTER school is finished each day. And there are some nights that is doesn't  come on at all. I have HULU and NETFLIX. And I am known to go to my in-laws on Saturdays to watch the latest episode of Duck Dynasty. But even during the regular TV show season, we don't watch it that night and my kids rarely watch it at all. I will watch some TV shows the next day with HULU or on Saturdays I will catch up for the whole week. But even then there really aren't that many shows on that I want to watch. TV has to be limited for us. If we don't limit it we tend to go overboard and it can become a problem.
Limiting TV works for us. And I think it is a great idea. Especially now. I mean have you seen commercials lately. And after watching some show on the Disney channel last week (the DISNEY CHANNEL) my 8 and 7 year olds came and asked me what a virgin was and what impotent means. I was SHOCKED! It is time to draw on line. Monitoring only goes so far.

Limiting technology is really hard in our house. There is just so much of it. And as much as I limit, there seems to be no limits when you go to Grandma's. And how hard is it to ignore your phone when it alerts you to every email, text message, and Facebook change? It's hard. And like with everything else you have to be deliberate. I can only tell you what we do at our house. And even that does not always work. Please share any ideas that you have. I will be grateful for it. Especially with older kids as it seems like their worlds are saturated with technology more and more.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Balancing Act- When You Work

Yes, I am a stay-at-home mom. Or I am now. I have only been that for a little over a year. Until then I was a college student and then a working mom. I went back to college when Pacey was 3 months old, went back to work when Calvin was 2 weeks old (back when I only worked weekends), when Josh was 5 weeks old, and when Miles was 7 weeks old. And I worked. Some days 12 hours and even 7 days some weeks. Because I adored my job. I still miss it sometimes. But in all that working- I also missed my kids and some important parts of them growing up. I can't go and get it back. BUT what I can do is learn from it and tell others.

1. When you get home, be at home. Be with your family. Be mommy. I know that sometimes you have to bring work home. I have done that. But really if at all possible wait until the kids are asleep and do it then. Or sit at the table while they are doing their homework and do paperwork then.

2. Make sure that your boss knows you are a mom and being at home is important. If you know that you have a soccer game on Tuesday night, tell your boss about it. 9 times out of 10 they won't ask you to work over if they know that you have a family obligation that night.

3. If you have a flexible schedule and can re-arrange your lunch break or come in late if there is something is going on at school do it. Be there as much as you can. But also make sure that if you can't be there that your children know how proud you are of them.

4. Realize that any and all "working mommy" guilt has to go out the window. Some moms have to work, some moms want to work, and some moms get to stay home. It's the way it is. You are still a good mom no matter what and you are setting a great example to your kids about work ethic, having a career, and time management.

5. No matter what- remember that you are the mom God made for your children. All else aside. You are the best mom for them.