Friday, October 4, 2013

One day at a time..

Being a stay-at-home mom of four toddlers/babies is not an "easy" thing to do. But if I'm being completely honest, it's really not as hard as people think. Am I tired a lot? Yes. Are there days that I just can't wait for them to go to bed so I can take a deep breath and be able to go the bathroom without being interrupted? Absolutely. But I really do love my life and all it's craziness.

The key thing people need to understand is, just because I am a stay-at-home mom does not mean my kids are my priority (I'm sure some of you just gasped). Do I love my kids and adore them? Of course! But that does not mean they are at the top of my list, nor does that mean they consume my entire day. Confused? Let me break it down...

  • God. He is and always will be my priority. He is to thank for all the blessings in my life and for the peace I obtain through Him on a daily basis. He alone gets me through the day, so of course I put Him at the top which also means, He is first in my day. I basically make my schedule around my first-thing-in-the-morning devotional time. I get up (yes, even on the weekends) before the rest of my family to have some quiet time with God. Not only do I start my day on a positive note, but I've accepted the challenge to ask Him every day what His will for my life is that day. Not to think about yesterday or tomorrow, but focus on how I can be used that day. So refreshing and rewarding.. And I can guarantee you that if you put Him first, your day and everything you do in that day will automatically be that much better.
  • Spouse. My favorite human being on this earth is my husband. He is next in line. Although he is crazy busy with work and grad school, I feel as though I have missed the mark if I don't make time for him in the morning and at nights when he is home. Even something as small as making coffee and breakfast for him before he leaves for work shows that he is important to me. I didn't do this for a while and felt completely convicted that I would make three meals a day for our kids, but expect him to get his own food in the morning so I could get more rest. Um, really Ali? Not cool. Point is: sacrificing that extra 30 minutes of sleep in order to show him that I appreciate everything he does is extremely important and worth it. Aside from just showing him that I love him, it's important to spend time talking with one another. Whether it's first thing in the morning, a few phone calls throughout the day or ten minutes before bed, take time to ask about his/her day and how he/she is...  Really listen and engage... And whatever you do.. Don't make it about you! Lastly, don't make excuses on not being intimate. You NEED that intimacy with your spouse. If you "don't have time," MAKE TIME. If you're "too tired," drink coffee at 9pm. Doesn't matter what you have to do, just do it. The end.
  • Kiddos. I absolutely treasure my children. They are gifts and I can't imagine life without them. But it's really easy to forget to show them that. As an adult, we think that making meals, taking them to soccer and changing their diapers are ways that show we love them, but they don't think like that. What means the world to them and just puts a huge smile on their face? You on the ground acting like a tiger that's going to get them... or a silly puppy that likes wearing tiaras. Go to their world. Play their games. Does it have to be all day? Nope. But dedicate even 30 minutes of your day to do what they want to do. I'm not saying take them to the park for 30 minutes while you chat with a friend (while that's not a bad thing, they need the interaction with YOU). Just be engaged. Have fun with them! They're a hoot if you let them be... 
  • You. Yes you. Especially if you are married and/or have kids, you need to make sure you are the "best you" both physically and mentally. If one of those goes, it may affect other areas of your life. So what does "you time" look like? Working out. Reading a book. Taking a walk. Doing a puzzle. Writing. Something that improves your overall health, whether physically or mentally.. (Ladies, trust when I say that I love getting my hair and nails done, but that has nothing to do with your health. Are those nice things to do every once in awhile? Yes. Do I think that's utilizing your money and time to the best of your ability? Um... no.) Remember, "you time" is supposed to improve you so you can be a great support system to someone else. Sharpen your mind. Strengthen your heart. IF you have even more time, do something productive that lifts your spirit... Scrapbook with your aunt. Call an old friend. Take a lonely neighbor to coffee. Make a meal for a new mom. These are things that make you feel good and often are beneficial to others. While it may not seem like these benefit you emotionally, they do. Serving others tends to trump serving yourself... (e.g. watching "Dancing with the Stars".. Although you best believe it is so on my DVR right now for when I have time!!!!). Overall theme: do things for you that will benefit you and/or someone else in the long run, not give you temporary fulfillment. 
  • Everything Else. Does this category necessarily fall after "You?" No. Only you can decide how to prioritize your life. I think volunteering, being involved in your church or kids' school, are all good things and sometimes take the place of you working on your baby books, painting the house or decorating your house for the fall. But I would encourage you to always be mindful of how much you have on your plate. Are you taking on too much? Are you sacrificing time with your family? Is your health being affected? If so, let something go. It's better to do five things 100% then ten things at 50%. If you do have to let something go, talk with your spouse.. pray... Decide together what you should be doing with your time in this season. You may have to do this five times a year, but you won't regret keeping your priorities in check. 
Hopefully you get my point. I am busy. That will probably never change. But my busy day is full of things that not only bring joy to my life, but they bring joy to others. Seek God on who He has called you to be and start with that, then work your way down the list. Take it day by day. You will see fruit from cutting out the temporal and focusing on the eternal. Trust me. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Meal Ideas For Toddlers

After a couple years of what seemed like a never-ending battle trying to get my kiddos to eat whatever I put in front of them, I've found a system that works pretty well for my almost 2, 3 & 4 year olds: 

Small Portions of Variety

Not only does this help the kiddos to eat ALL of their food, 
but it makes meal prep a lot faster. 
It's really simple. 
Just make a list (like the one below) of family favorites or items you tend to always have in the pantry or fridge. 
Buy separated plates with 3-5 sections so the kids can see their "options" clearly. 
Pick one "main" item for either lunch or breakfast, one fruit, and two other sides 
And there you have it. 

(Tip: The more colors and different textures that there are, the better)  

If you have REALLY picky eaters, try adding a dip (other than ranch), such as these:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Praying with Your Children

When my oldest daughter was only two weeks old, she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. I'll never forget that moment. Immediately I called my husband and just broke down. I didn't know what to do with this. I was a new mom, I barely knew how to handle a newborn, let alone one that would deal with illness her entire life. That night, our family and pastors came to our home. We all circled around Addi and just began to intercede.. I couldn't even get words out. I just weeped and weeped, completely overwhelmed with every emotion possible. That night I went to bed completely drained, but oddly enough had peace in my spirit.. I knew at that point God had a plan for her life and whether she would be healed from this or if she had to walk with it, it was going to glorify Him in the end. We took her in for more testing a couple days later and the pediatrician gave me some information on what I need to start looking for, what to expect, etc... I didn't even read it. I wasn't ready. A couple more days passed and I just tried to enjoy her as if nothing was wrong. One night I was preparing dinner when the doctor's office called me. The nurse informed me that the second round of tests showed absolutely no sign of cystic fibrosis. She wasn't sure what had happened, but there was no indication that anything was wrong with Addi. The doctor decided instead of doing yet another set of tests, we would wait to see if she showed any signs and then possibly test again. Well my friends... She never did. I had always known that prayer works, but I will never underestimate it's power again. My daughter was completely healed and it was all because we prayed.

Needless to say, prayer is an important part of our everyday lives and we've tried to instill that in our children since birth.. 

"Start children off on the way they should go, 
and even when they are old they will not turn from it."
-Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

Even though our boys can't talk, they pray with us and since the girls can talk- they do a lot of the praying. I had a friend ask me the other week what our prayer time looks like... It was a blessing for me to be able to share that with her and gave me the desire to share it with anyone out there who may have the desire to pray with their children, but really haven't started... 

In everything my husband and I do, we try to take it back to the Word. So as far as praying with our children, we can model it after "The Lord's Prayer" in Matthew 6:9-13. 

  • Recognize & Honor God (v9). Starting your prayer out with something like, "Dear Heavenly Father," may seem simple, but it's really important. By praying to God, you're acknowledging Him as the Alpha and Omega... The One who holds the world in His hands and that He has the power to answer your prayers. With your children, this is a great teaching moment. Tell them why we pray to Him- who He is. Make it personal so they understand who they're talking to.
  • Honoring His Will (v10). Jesus asked that God's will be done. We should do the same. It doesn't have to be those exact words and be the same everyday, but just ask Him to be with us at work or school, or even at home raising our children. That whatever He has called us to do and be, that we can do it joyfully and with excellence. It's unreal the amount of peace you obtain when you're doing what He has called you to do... Share that with your children. As parents, your best example is what His Word says in Ephesians 6:1 "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." Tell them that by obeying you, they are honoring God. 
  • Asking For Our Needs (v11). Whether we realize it or not, God is just waiting for us to talk to Him. Just like we as parents love blessing our children, we sometimes are just waiting for them to ask rather than just expecting. If they lived everyday acting as though we never existed, even if we did bless them, chances are, they wouldn't notice. Notice Him. We make it a habit to thank Him for all the blessings we DO have before asking for anything else... Because when it comes down to it, we are blessed no matter what we do or don't have:
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, 
because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
-Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)
  • Forgiveness (v12). 1 John 1:9 is pretty clear.. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Talk with your kids about what it means to sin. It's important for them to understand that there are consequences for their choices. It is also important for them to understand God's love and grace. 
  • Forgiving Others (v12). In a house with four little ones, the phrase "I'm sorry" is used about every half an hour. It's great if they are quick to apologize, but its also just as important for them to forgive one another. 
"Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, 
so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow... 
Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. 
And what I have forgiven- if there was anything to forgive-
I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake."
-2 Corinthians 2:7 & 10 (NIV)
  • Protection (v13). We make it a point every morning and night to ask God to guard our minds, our bodies and our spirit. That our home be a place of peace and even if we leave it, that nothing would come against us. 
"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God
in whom I trust.'"
-Psalm 91:1-2

This may seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Simply talk to God. Your children will learn how to pray more from you doing it with them than they will by you or a Sunday school teacher telling them how to. 

Other areas to pray about and/or teach your children:
  • Full Armor of God (our children "put it on" daily) Ephesians 6:10-18
  • Fruits of the Spirit (what we should be full of as believers) Galatians 5:22-23
  • Prayer Psalm 145:18, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  • Sins 1 John 2:12, Romans 5:8, Proverbs 28:13
  • Protection Psalm 138:7; 46:1, Isaiah 41:10, 2 Samuel 22:3-4, 2 Thessalonians 3:3
  • Obedience Proverbs 1:8
  • Fighting Romans 12:17, Philippians 2:14
  • Lying Proverbs 12:22, Colossians 3:9
  • Complaining Philippians 2:14, James 5:9

Friday, April 5, 2013

Faith Is Refined in the Fire and Storms of Pain

If I were to make a calendar of the "main events" in our home over the last few weeks, it would look like this:

  • March 10th- Aksel is born
  • March 12th- Come home from hospital
  • March 19th- Addi becomes ill
  • March 21st- Addi hospitalized 
  • March 24th- Addi comes home on oxygen
  • March 26th- Jae & Cobi become ill
  • March 28th- Jae & Cobi put on oxygen
  • April 3rd- Aksel hospitalized
There are two ways to look at this: 

1. The glass half empty
2. The glass half full

Okay. Lame cliche, but I'm serious.. 

You see, when we first discovered Aksel was getting sick after the other three had to be put on oxygen, I lost it. I started balling and being foolish about "how hard life was." JoJo (the hubby) then said to me, "It could always be worse." At the time I had a smart aleck response of, "It could always be better" because I was upset at what was happening in our home with all the sickness and didn't care that "it could be worse"- I thought I had already reached my breaking point. But as the days passed, I couldn't help but keep thinking about his statement. My perspective slowly started to change... Then, when we were transferred to the NICU, it punched me in the face. Here is my 3 week old son who basically has a couple of colds "on steroids..." He doesn't have a terminal illness... He doesn't have long-lasting effects that may hinder his quality of life... He hasn't been here for months... It COULD be worse...

Of course we take all of this seriously and know that at any point Aksel's little newborn body may stop fighting, but we aren't going to walk in that fear.  Instead, we are going to be thankful for the health he does have and walk in faith that regardless of what happens, our God is in control... 
"Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." (Prov 19:21)
 "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."        (Rom 8:28)
Yes, it is hard. Yes, there are moments when my heart is broken. But... 
"In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire- may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:6-7)
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance" (James 1:2-3) 
... we need to rejoice in the glass being half full.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" (Rom 12:12)

Our lil' Aksel Tate startin' to show a smile.. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

December Advent Calendar of Activities

I realize this post can be viewed as either three months late OR nine months early... Either way.. Thought I should get back to posting and start with what occupied me all December!!!!

Warning: If you are doing this for the first time, there is a lot of prep work, especially if you decide to do crafts. 
Not gonna lie. BUT, it is a ton of fun when it's all said and done.... !!!!

How To Create Your Activity Calendar

1. Decide how many activities you'd like to do. We did at least one a day everyday of December leading up to Christmas. If you have a lot going on, you may want to limit to 5 days a week or something that is more suitable to your schedule. Be realistic about your time.. This should be fun, not stressful!!!

2. Decide what types of activities fit your family style. Here are some different ideas:
  • Outings (some are free, some you pay a fee.. )
    • Drive around & look at the Christmas lights
    • Go Christmas caroling 
    • Give food to the local food drive
    • Search for local seasonal events taking place at the mall or other shopping centers
    • Kids workshops at your local Home Depot or Lowe's
    • Events at local attractions (the Zoo, Aquarium, Butterfly pavilion, etc)
  • Crafts (there are a MILLION ideas on Pinterest... Start pinning!!!!)
  • Home-Based
    • Watch Christmas movies -We wrapped all the movies & let the kids pick & unwrap one like a present on movie nights
    • Read Christmas books-  We did the same with the books as the movies... Always a surprise!
    • Drink hot chocolate
    • Decorate Christmas cookies
    • Make Christmas gifts for neighbors or families

3. Plan your calendar. Start with the activities that may have only certain days and/or times that work (i.e. local attractions, special events, etc). Then, add any crafts. Pick days that give you time to prep AND help with the craft itself. Lastly, add the home-based activities that are pretty simple to get together. For instance, on your busy errand day, pick a Christmas movie to watch that night so it doesn't add to your work load.

4. Create the advent calendar itself. You can either buy or make one. Again, Pinterest has sooo many cute ideas for these. I printed the names of the activities with pictures on business cards so my kids (toddler age) could see what we were doing since they couldn't read & stuck those in an already made advent calendar.

5. Have fun and enjoy the time making memories with your kiddos!!! Take lots of pictures!

Our First Activity Advent Calendar & Some of the Activities

The Advent Calendar & Activity Cards
Making Santa Faces
-Construction Paper, Googly Eyes, Cotton Balls, Glue

Christmas Lights out of Fingerprints
- Finger paint, Paper, Sharpie

Free Home Depot Kids Workshop- Made Christmas Picture Frames.
Decorating Christmas Cookies

Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo

Christmas Tree Waffle Cones
-Icing, Waffle Cones, M&Ms, Mini Marshmallows, Food Coloring

Paper Strip Christmas Trees
-Construction Paper, Colored/Decorative Christmas paper cut into varying sizes, Glue

Pom Pom Christmas Trees
-Construction Paper, Glue, Pom Poms

Candy Sleighs for the Neighbors

Snowflake Art
-Canvas, Masking Tape, Paint

Delivering Food to F.I.S.H.

Looking at Christmas Lights