Friday, December 30, 2016

What Helps the Most

I was recently asked by someone I hold very dear to me, why it is so painful that I may never birth a child.  She said it with more grace than I just wrote it, and with true curiosity in her voice.  I got teary eyed and stumbled over how to express it to her.  It has been running over and over in my head the last few days though.  Does it matter if I birth a baby or not?  I've written several posts on this type of issue -- God Never Wastes a HurtWhat if?All I have to hold ontoI wonder, who you'd be today?Lessons of Grace and Open letter on Grief.

This woman who had some trouble getting pregnant.  This woman who also lost a baby.  This woman who has fought many battles in her life, yet, her faith in God and her marriage stand the test of time.  She also has a family full of children and grandchildren who adore her.

There’s this question that must be addressed before I can move on to answer the real question though and it is:

Why was it easier for me to be open about our infertility than our miscarriage?

Personally, I think it is because while they both hold stigmas of their own and people have varying opinions on them....there are WAY more unknowns about infertility and that is why it was easier for me to share.   It's the loss of a potential child.  It's the potential to never be able to carry a child to term.  So many unknowns, is it me or him that's the problem?  Is it this or that, or this or that....the list goes on.  But at this point, we've seen a specialist to see options but haven't gone any farther.  We don't know if we want to know "who" is the "problem" per se.  If there really is a problem.  Since God is the one who opens and closes the womb anyway.

With miscarriage though, it is more cut and dry. (Sort of) Because I was pregnant.  I had a positive test, and I was growing a baby inside my womb for a time that was cut too short, too soon.  I lost the baby.  Not just an idea.  I lost an actual human baby.  Our baby.  And that's sad.  

I felt like I failed as a mother to protect our child.  
I felt like I failed as a woman to be able to carry a baby and help them grow.  
I felt rejected and ashamed of what was once but then was no more.  
I felt unworthy, unable, incomplete, judged and a whole slew of other emotions.  
I'm not saying that all those feelings are true or right.  I'm just telling you how it was for me, and I’m assuming others have felt that way too.
And now, more than a year later….There are good days and not so good days.
I realize that it wasn’t my fault.  I realize there was nothing I could do. 

But even though it doesn't matter one bit in all reality whether I give birth or not.  And the fact that it's a bit of a relief because I've heard more terrifying birth stories than I ever needed to and the actual birth process isn't something I was EVER looking forward to.  It still hurts.

I think I am most sad about never getting to feel my belly expand far beyond what seems normal, or feeling them kick from the inside, or feeling their hickups, or all the other enjoyable and un-enjoyable moments.  I know that I'm no less of a Mom because I didn't birth my child.  But it sure makes me thankful for my son’s birthmother who did.

Two phrases that I shared several months ago: "God never wastes a hurt" and "Your most effective ministry comes from your deepest hurts".   Our hurts aren't in vain.  As I wrote this post yesterday featuring my most popular posts from 2016, the theme was clear.  This is a blog about real life—ups and downs, but the most popular posts are the ones that are about the hard stuff.   So, for that reason alone it’s evident that God has given those hurts a purpose.  And, after all God is the one who is in control and He's always been around, knows all and works everything together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.   John 1:1-5

I want to share some things that hurt and also things I have found that help me most, because I imagine they can help someone else too.  

What hurts the most/What to avoid saying

  • Insensitive comments in general.
  • "You'll get pregnant the moment you adopt"  We've all known someone (or have heard of someone) that this actually happened to, which is awesome!!! and overwhelming, I'm sure!  And it happened to us too...the week our adoption was finalized I got a big fat positive but then lost the baby a few weeks later.  So even though we got pregnant didn't mean that we got to have that baby. 
  • "Just relax.  As soon as you quit trying, you'll get pregnant."  Just let the irony of that second sentence sink in for a moment.  And then also let's all relish in the fact that as soon as someone says "relax" it actually puts everyone at ease....not.


What helps the most/Helpful things to say/do!

  • One on one time, over coffee or lunch talking.
  • Questions about any and everything. (be it in private, pulling me aside, texting, emailing or over coffee/lunch like above)
  • Pitter Patter (well, more like stomping) of my son's feet.
  • Encouragement in life in general.
  • Giving space for me to talk about it, or not.
  • Seeking God through prayer and study of His word.
  • Fellowship with other believers.

Do you have some issue that is weighing you down that you want to let go of before the New Year?  Do you have something that you need to spend less time talking about and more time praying about?  I’m with you.  Let’s take some time this weekend to sit down and pray to the Creator of the Universe who knows us, loves us and wants to have a personal relationship with us.  I’ll start a prayer below and you can add whatever fits your situation.  Email me prayer requests at:  JJJourney08@gmail.com

Dear God,

Thank you for caring about the details of our lives.  Thank you for my family and especially my sweet son.  I have to confess that I still like to act in control of my life, even though You are the One who knows and sees all.  I want to follow your plan for my life and surrender the hurt of possibly never birthing a child to you. 

Thank you for your many blessings, and thank you for providing me grace, patience and endurance to make it through the harder things in life too.

We pray this in your Holy name,

Amen

Here's the end of this chapter and the beginning of a new one.  Looking forward to 2017!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Most Popular Posts of 2016 and a question for you!



So, while doing some planning for 2017 this week, I was looking into what my most popular posts of this year were.  And I was simultaneously surprised and not, at the results.  The most popular post of this year was the most candid and vulnerable thing I've ever written and it also received almost twice as many views as anything else I've written this year.  (And is quickly becoming my most popular post ever.  It's at #3 right now of everything I've written over the last 7 years)

I have chosen to highlight just the top 7 (my favorite number) of my posts from this year below and you'll also see there seems to be a theme within them....

My 7 Most Popular Posts of 2016:


7.  What if? 
Sometimes when I am laying in bed trying to fall asleep at night, I just can't get my brain to shut off.  A few nights ago was one of those nights...

6.  I wonder, who you'd be today 
It's been more than a year since you were here. More than a year since you were growing in my belly. More than a year since you were known and loved.... 

Yesterday you turned 17 months old.  In some ways you seem much older, perhaps it is because you are very tall for your age and just have the sweetest disposition...

So when we see a friend hurting (whether it is from emotional, relational or physical pain), let's say an encouraging word, pray with them and maybe even offer....

After recently doing some soul searching and deciding to make my way back onto facebook to be able to stay connected with friends...

Since I posted about my miscarriage last week, it's come to my attention that I didn't share it with those closest to me (with the exception...

and my most viewed post of 2016 was (drumroll please):

It's almost been a year since one of our best and worst years ever.  In 2015 we became parents to the sweetest boy (through our first choice...

As you likely know, I recently changed the name of my blog to more accurately reflect what I have been writing....but I wasn't even realizing that the posts that are most popular are real life (and mostly hard issues like: miscarriage, grief, grace, encouragement, patience, etc....) and ways to work through the hard and not so hard stuff.  I have been intentionally being more real, and showing the good, the bad and the ugly and apparently that's what my readers would rather see than just the put together or 'pinterest perfect' version.

So, I have a few questions for you:

What would you like to see more of in 2017?

Do you have burning questions you'd like answered about:  infertility, grief, miscarriage, adoption, or anything else that you'd like me to cover?

I have also been enjoying more lighthearted stuff about happenings, seasonal bucket lists and style posts, so let me know if you are enjoying those too!

Do you follow me on social media?  Would you like to see a facebook page (and community) start where you can ask questions easier, and see when post on my blog?  Or do you prefer to follow my personal page?

While I have a lot of reasons I write, one of the reasons is to connect with people as a ministry tool, so your feedback really is invaluable!  Feel free to fill out this google form, comment below, comment on facebook/instagram or email me:  JJJourney08@gmail.com!  Thanks!



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas 2016


 We sure hope you all had a great Christmas.  We haven't gotten to see our whole family yet due to some weather (cold and snow) but we've seen my side and my husband's parents so far!  We'll celebrate with my husband's siblings here in the next few weeks.  Here are a few pics from the festivities....

 My first completely from scratch gingerbread house.  Kind of looks like a 5 year old did it...but...hey, it tastes good and is all natural! (With the exception of the candy canes)
One of our little man's outfits that he wore for Christmas this year.  I love the train on the vest.  And him, of course.  He's such a joy.
Little man helping daddy push great grandma during our Christmas visit. Love it.  He's getting SO big!
Our little fam.  Little J wasn't in the mood for pics with the cousins, or with us, so I gave him a cookie and that's what you can see in my hand and his mouth. LOL  #reallife  (Still glad my mom got this pic of us though!)

Mostly it was so nice to spend time with family celebrating the incarnation of Jesus, and get a little time away from the worries of the world.  Whether you had a great Christmas, or it fell short of your expectations, I sure hope you are having a better last week of 2016.  Can you believe it's almost 2017?!?!  What are some things you are resolving to change for 2017?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Mommy Style Monday: Favorite Christmas Traditions

This week's Mommy Style Monday topic is all about Christmas Traditions, just in time for Christmas!  I don't know about you, but I love Christmas.  I love the sights, the smells, the lights, the bell ringers, the family gatherings, advent and of course, the whole reason for Christmas -- the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus!

Here are a few of our favorite Christmas Traditions with our little family.  This is our 9th Christmas as a married couple, and our 2nd with a little person.
My little man taking a little break from decorating last year. 

  • Decorating for Christmas:  We usually put our Christmas tree up (we use artificial) the day after Thanksgiving, but sometimes it doesn't happen till the first week in December.  We love trimming the tree and looking at all the ornaments that we have gotten together and a few that we have from our childhood.  It's so fun to have a little one to 'help' decorate with us too.  We always put a wreath on our front door and have some other decor throughout the house, like our advent calendar, Nativity and Christmas lights.  Did I mention that we may have the best toddler ever?  I almost didn't put up a tree this year because I thought he would tear it apart, but we put it up and he will walk over and look at it and point to baby Jesus in the Nativity scene ornaments and that's about it.  He's amazing.  And I've been so impressed and thankful!  :)
  • Christmas Music:  Truth be told, my husband and I both kind of listen to Christmas music year round, because why not?  But we listen to basically only Christmas music (with the exception of some kid songs) from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  And I looooove it.  We also sing along most of the time (or I do at least) and also do sing-alongs around the piano (keyboard).
  • Christmas Lights:  Each year we take drives either just to see Christmas lights around town, or we'll take the long way home from being somewhere to see them.  This year it's been fun to show J and see him get excited to see all the lights. (or 'lie' as he says it)
  • Gifts:  No matter of where we'll be for Christmas, we have always set aside a time to open our gifts together beforehand.  Between work, travel and everything else going on, it's traditionally been on the 23rd (although sometimes earlier), and I love our little Christmas together.  Last year it was SO fun watching little J open his gifts and get so excited.  This year is going to be even more fun because he'll understand it a little better!  (This is a great article to help us get away from being torn about gifts around Christmastime!  Let's give boldly and generously!  Whatever that looks like this year!)
  • Advent Devotional:  This is likely one of my favorite traditions ever.  All year long we try to do family devotions together after dinner, but I love doing an Advent Devotional in December in preparation for Christmas.  It's a great way to keep more of the focus of this season on Jesus and learn more about Him and His purpose (to live a perfect life, die on the cross and be raised) to save the world from an eternity away from God.  (A couple of Advent Devotionals we recommend by John Piper:  Good News of Great Joy and the Dawning of Indestructible Joy)

Those are a few of our traditions, and be sure to check out the other Mamas sharing this week at the links below.  If you or someone you know would like to sign up to join Mommy Style Monday next time check out Kiana or Madeline's blogs to sign up!

Kiana at Glitter & Donuts | Madeline at CaseyLand
Erica at Good Job Momma | Cayli at Nightchayde | Britt at My Little Sunshine
Chelsea at Naturally Chels | Sue at Sue's News

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Psst, this is something we all need to hear.

I don't know where you are right now.  

I don't know if you're on a lunch break, or coffee break.

Maybe you're in the bathroom sneaking a bite of chocolate and a peak at your phone while the kids are screaming in the hallway.

Maybe it's nap time.

Maybe you're watching football or a show.

Maybe you just got off work.

Maybe you're taking a break from searching for a job.

Maybe you are living in a town that is reeling from another life lost far too soon.

No matter where you are:  Hi.  How are you?  I'm glad you're reading this right now.  You know why?  Because you're special.  You're loved.  And you matter.  You may not feel like it all the time, or let's face it--some of us have a hard time ever feeling like that.

Between the laundry, chores, endless to-do list and work, who has time to feel like you're anything more than just a nobody?  Well, I hope you can get a little sense of why you matter and why that matters from here.

I was recently talking with my best friend about how unique my son is.  I mean he's the most friendly, sweet, handsome child with the most beautiful shade of chocolate skin.  He's unlike anyone I've ever known.  And then I look around and I am completely different than him, so is my husband, our neighbors...everyone.  I'm not talking about the skin color or age.  I'm talking about the whole of him.

He is completely unique and so is each and every one of us.  The really wild thing about that, though?  Is that we were all created in the image of God, every one of us.  So that means that God is even more multifaceted, with infinite diversity than we thought, right?

No matter what you look like, where you live, what you do for a living, your martial status, your age or disposition--You are unique.  You were created for a purpose.  You are exactly where God has you. 

Now for some of us, that might be a very hard place right now.  It may not be pretty, clean or safe.  We may face tough decisions moving forward.  We may need to reach out for help.  We may need to pray for guidance or a way out.  We may need to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and move on, move away or move back.   

I don't know where you are today.  I may not even know who you are reading this.  But I can tell you some truth.  You were made by the Creator of the Universe.  You were hand picked to be where you are.  You are the only you who has ever been or will ever be.  And to quote Dr. Seuss “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Only you can make the choice to change your life. 

If you need to walk away from the bottle or other unhealthy habit, do it and get help so you succeed.

If you feel hopeless, reach out and get help so you know you're not alone.

If you feel tired, reach out to a friend and get some coffee or something together.

If you feel overwhelmed, take a step back and see what you can say no to, to make things more manageable.

If you are in an unhealthy relationship, seek counsel and get help.

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, reach out and talk about it with someone, even if that someone is somewhere on the interwebs.

If you are anxious, reach out and get help so you don't have to live in worry.

If you are depressed, reach out and get help so you don't have to go at this alone.

If you are lonely, reach out and hang out with someone, or go to Church, Moms group, College group, Singles group, Bible Study, or other meetings where you can connect with people similar to you.

But really, if you are hopeless, tired, overwhelmed, grieving, anxious, depressed, lonely or a whole slew of other things -- please know that you are not alone.  You are loved.  You are on this earth for a reason.  You were created for a purpose.  You are unique.  And the One who created you, in His image wants to know you.  He wants to have a relationship with you.  

In fact, He wanted to so much, even though we had all sinned and separated ourselves from Him, that He sent His only Son to earth to be born of a virgin and later die on a cross for the sins of the whole world.  Just so, as it was written He was raised in three days and the veil was torn.  We have a direct line, a direct way to God now, through Jesus.  All because of Christmas, and even more so because of His resurrection.  Do you know Him?  Do you want to know Him?  Do you want to walk closer with Jesus?  Do you want to find a local Church where you can get plugged in?  Here's a place to start to find Churches in your area:  https://9marks.org/church-search/  Or you can reach out to me if you said yes to any of these questions and I will try to help the best I can!

If you or someone you know needs help, reach out.  Reach out before it's too late.  Show you care.  Show you need help.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

An open letter about grief: Permission to give ourselves grace


Since I posted about my miscarriage last week, it's come to my attention that I didn't share it with those closest to me (with the exception of my husband) until now and that it was hurtful.  I certainly didn't mean to be hurtful by doing that, in fact, I think a big part of me was just trying to forget and move on.  But the thing with grief is that you can only stay in denial for a time, and then you must face reality and only then can you truly move on.  I think we are all quite familiar with the stages of grief and loss (whether we realize it or not):  Denial/Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  Although people will not necessarily go them in the same order or experience all of them.

I think for me, I really only made it through the first one, and that's where I stayed for months, upon months.  And then, I wrote a couple posts about it.  I think that writing has really become the way that I process a lot in this life.  There's something about a pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard that helps me organize and make sense of all the thoughts stirring around in my head.  Anyone else feel like that? 

When we were on our adoption journey, especially the fundraising part of that journey I found so much joy (am I even using the right word?) in updating about funds or baby things, etc.  It was so clear that God had placed adoption on each of our hearts separately for a reason, and that we had chosen the time to pursue it and it was working out.  Writing became fun again and I journaled both offline and online.  

Then we became parents and priorities shifted (so not complaining!) and I didn't have much time for either kind of writing.  But, then I got back into the groove at, likely, a pivotal point.  If you look, I made a few posts in the first year or so after we became parents, but then just about six months ago I started really writing/blogging again.  I started out kind of slow with just a post or so a week, and then I've built it up.  Some posts are about style, or other not so serious things, and others have been quite meaningful, at least to me.  

I have never really found it easy to open up to people (in person) about the hard things in my life.  I had an easier time when I was in high school and still living at home, or even in college and I was living close to my mom and had close friends.  But now, at this season in my life, I'm kind of isolated.  Partially because I want to be, and partially because I don't know how not to be.  That in itself is another topic for another post though.

But for now, I love the community through blogging and social media, and the outlet this provides for both my creative, silly side and the serious, grieving, thoughtful side.  And, I'm sorry for those who I hurt in the process.  I am a work in progress, and I am working through all this the only way I know how:  one day at a time.

In addition to offering those we come into contact with grace, I think we also need to extend grace to ourselves, always but especially during the whole grieving and growing process.  I know I could use it more, but why don't I allow myself time to grieve?  And grace in order to actually do it?  I suppose that comes back to the whole work in progress thing. :)

If you happen to be reading this Thursday Dec. 17, may I ask you to join me in praying for a sweet little heart baby having surgery today?  Update:  Surgery is over and he is recovering in the ICU.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for baby D.  He is so precious and has already defied odds.  We pray you protect him as he heads into another surgery and if at all possible, we pray he makes it home for Christmas.  Thank you for the joy he has already brought his family and we ask You to be with them as he heads into surgery again.

In Jesus' name, Amen

These are some verses that I have been clinging to for the last thirteen months, and maybe be helpful if you, too, are grieving.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God."  Matthew 5:2-9

Praise the Lord!  For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.  The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.  He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.  Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.  The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.  Psalm 147:1-6

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The most beautiful gift

The speaker for a Women's Event at my Church over the weekend is a local counselor and gave some tips about how to get through this time of the year with all the joy and sadness that comes with it.  I must admit that it was a quite timely message for me. (this post will catch you up) Perhaps my favorite thing that this counselor said was something to effect of:

"I'm giving you permission to not get everything on your to-do list (this month) done".

Do you know how freeing that is?  In a month that brings so many emotions and memories to my mind, and I'm sure many others, is also a month that has countless events, gatherings, concerts, etc...filling up our calendars.

Life isn't always beautiful.  And that's ok.  Life has moments of such beauty, like the joy in a child's face when experiencing Christmas for the first time.  Or new life that has come into the world.  And then there are moments when we have to say goodbye to a loved one too soon, or when tragic events happen around our world or neighborhood.

You know there is one thing that is truly beautiful and only one thing that is all of the time though.  And his name is:  Jesus.

He may have come to earth as a baby, but that's not how it ended.  The whole reason He came to earth was to save us from the path that only was leading to destruction and an eternity away from God.  Jesus humbled himself and came to earth to be born, live a somewhat normal human life (except for the fact that unlike the rest of us, He never sinned) and then even though He did nothing wrong He was forced to die on the cross.  (Phil 2:6-8)

A horrific, painful, awful death on the cross for the sins of the whole world.  But that's also not where the story ended either; Because on the third day He rose again.  And if you think about it, without the resurrection we wouldn't have Christmas.  Jesus' life, death and resurrection fulfilled prophesy and gave us a way to be able to be seen as sinless in the eyes of God, even though we did nothing to deserve it.

We couldn't have done anything to win favor with God.  We couldn't just be the best people we could be.  Or give the Church the most money, or serve the poor the best.  No, there was nothing, absolutely nothing we could do to earn our way into Heaven.  Jesus paid it all, and all to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain and He washed it white as snow.  (Rom 3:23, 6:23, John 3:16, Eph. 2:8-9)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  Eph. 2:8-9

That, my friend, that gift of salvation from Jesus Christ himself is:  beautiful.  It's beautiful in a scarred, and so full of love way.  So why on earth do we think that we would make it outta this world without a few scars of our own?  If Jesus, who is God and lived a perfect life, couldn't?

Scars may not be pretty in the beginning when they are painful and fresh, but then they heal to show that we made it through.  We healed.  We are changed.  And with God's help, we can make it through just about everything.

So take a few moments to really evaluate how you are doing this month.  You don't have to do this life alone.  So, How are you doing?  How are you grieving?  What are you looking forward to?  What are you dreading?  What are you going to do to help make it through?  Do you need to seek out help from a friend or family member or maybe even a professional to work through the tough stuff?  Do you need to sit down with a Pastor, or spiritual leader?  Do you need to sit with a friend, weep and pray together?  Do you need to say no to a few things on the list to be able to have some down time?  Do we need to make a decision about God, and take Him up on His free gift?

If we were sitting down to a cup of coffee, I would ask us to pray before you leave.  But since, we're not...and I'm here writing this and you are there reading it... I will write down a prayer for us:

Dear God, 

          Thank you so much of this season where we are reminded of your birth.  Thank you for the people you have placed in our lives, whether there are still with us or not.  We ask you give us guidance on how to better equip ourselves for the weeks that lie ahead and potential triggers of grief or sadness that may come.  
           We thank you so much for the gift of Jesus and that His story didn't end in the manger, or on the cross, but that it ended in a way that was just the beginning in his resurrection.  Thank you for giving us a way back to you, and hope for tomorrow.  We pray that you help us to find Joy in all of Jesus and not in things of this world.  We also pray that you help us to find friends or maybe even a counselor that we can talk to about the tough things going on in our lives.  

We ask these things in your holy name. Amen.

Disclaimer:  This is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional help.  This is also not inferring you stay somewhere or with someone who is physically hurting you.  This is to help us realize there are times we can speak with a friend or loved one about what's going on and there are other times we need professional help.  If you need help finding a professional in your area I would be happy to help get you in contact with someone.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Indoor Physical Activities for Toddlers/Young Kids

I'm not sure what the weather has been like where you are, but here in Colorado it's been coooold the last couple days!  Now I don't mind if it's in the 30s or 40s, because as long as I bundle up my son and myself I know we'll be fine outside.  (Especially if it's sunny!)  But yesterday I think it got to about 15 and today is the same, and with the wind chill it feels closer to 0 or less.  So...that brings me to this post.  I could have also titled it something like "how to not go stir crazy inside this winter" or "how to keep your kids from jumping off the walls.." but I went with the more positive one. :)  (I think I'm so clever...)  But, maybe everybody's toddler isn't like mine.  I mean, J is a pretty big boy and very, very active.  He is a good eater, he's a good sleeper (and napper) and he needs to get a lot of wiggles out throughout the day, in addition to regular reading time and play time.

So after yesterday being the first really cold day where I didn't want to take little J outside, unless I had to, I came up with a few of these things below and then also did a quick google search to find some other clever, and inexpensive ideas!  If you have more please comment below or on social media and I will add them there!  Thanks!

Ideas for Home:

Ball Pit - we got a hand-me-down from a friend (the best right?) but it's similar this one

Tag - nothing better than a good ole fashioned game of tag to get the heart pumping.

Dance Party - Put on some fun music and just dance, dance, dance .  (Can you name that song without googling?!?!?!)

Jumping - We currently just jump in up and down, but we're thinking about picking up one of these.  Anybody have experience with a toddler on one of those?  He uses one at gymnastics some, so he has some experience and loves to jump!

Gynmastic Moves/Skills - hand/headstand, cartwheel, forward/backward roll, crab walk, bear crawl, etc...  I'd highly recommend spotting to make sure their necks are ok.  And there are probably good YouTube vids on how to do these things and how to spot.  We learned them at J's gymnastics class.

Balance Beam - J loves to do this at gymnastics and he has a cousin who has one at their house.  We may be making a makeshift one out of a 2x4 this winter too.  And I just found this tutorial for a homemade beam that was less than $30 and looks legit.

Hopscotch - Either with these tiles or something homemade like fabric/felt!

Indoor Basketball Hoop/nerf ball - I think we're either going to clean up our hoop and bring it inside or get an over the door hoop.  Either way we'll pick up a nerf or foam ball to go with it and I think J will loooove it.

Peek-a-boo over the couch - Hours of entertainment here, or at least a good solid 15 minutes at least!  J loves to play "ka-boo"

Pile up the Couch Cushion - let the kids jump into them.  (From one of my friends and readers Sam!)  Makes me wish that our cushions came off our couch!  Fun!

Community Indoor Ideas:

Gynmastics class or drop in time - we do have gymnastics every week, but we are also going to be checking out the drop in time at the Community Center in town.  It's only a couple dollars for a couple hours of play in a padded gymnastics gym.

Mall Walking - I've likely mentioned it before that this is something my husband and I started doing a few years ago in the colder weather and it's even more handy now with a little one.  We usually still take the stroller and get most of our laps in before we let little J out to walk (and run because that's his only speed) around as much as his little heart desires.  Best part=free!

Indoor trampoline, play houses or climbing walls - These vary in price and we have yet to go to one, but we have a lot of friends who frequent these especially in the winter months.

Indoor swimming, skating or ice skating - I'm torn about the swimming in the winter because of the whole going back out in the cold with wet hair, but I suppose you could take a blow dryer with you...  All these vary depending on what you do and sometimes by length of time and skate rental.

I got a couple ideas from each of these sites below.  You may find more ideas there too, I just picked the ones that were the most age appropriate for toddlers and young kiddos. :)
http://www.nfsmi.org/documentlibraryfiles/pdf/20120501081030.pdf and https://mommypoppins.com/newyorkcitykids/25-exercise-games-indoor-activities-for-kids

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Guide to Giving Family Gifts


I don't know about you but there is something about a family gift.  My husband and I moved into doing that for our family a few years ago and we have not turned back yet.  I think it can come with the misnomer that it has to be some big impressive or expensive gift to be for the whole family.  But I sure don't think it has to be.  Gift giving is more about the thought behind it anyway right?  So it doesn't matter what it cost, as far as I think at least.

My two favorite categories for family gifts are to give:  a. something that they can do together or b. an experience.  I will give some examples of each below and you can feel free to add your own and get creative!  The greatest thing about a lot of these gifts is that they are gifts that keep giving.  Just think, every time the family plays the scrabble game you gave them they'll remember you, or every time they go to the zoo they'll think of you.

A.  Something to do together as a family:

  1. Board Games - Monopoly Here & Now Game, Catan, Scrabble Crossword Game, The Game of Life Game and Scattergories Game are some ideas.  Depends on ages of kids.  Average cost of about $20
  2. Telescope  - Couple options here:  Celestron 21035 70mm Travel Scope and Gskyer Telescope, AZ70400 German Technology Astronomy Telescope, Travel Refractor.  These can range in price from $30 to more than $300, but for around $100 you can get a quality one.  
  3. Homemade Gift Basket - Especially if it includes themed stuff like:  movie night, coffee lovers, chocolate lovers, hot chocolate bar, cookies in jar with recipes, etc.  Varies in price but has the most flexibility of all of these options, and you literally make it with love.  So it doesn't get better than that, right?
  4. Book/Series - Depending on the family this could totally work or not.  Varies in price.
  5. Photo Session - Wasn't sure where to put this, but this is a great gift that keeps on giving!  It's something the family does together and then gets the photos to enjoy!  Price varies based on location, photog and package. $100-300


B.  Experiences:

  1. Concert Tickets (or other event tickets) Price varies widely depending on venue and who it is.... But this could be something like a Solo Artist, Group, Play, Musical or even Sporting Event!
  2. Zoo/Museum Membership - different levels available depending on the size of family (couple, small family, bigger fam with adult children, etc...) Average is around $100/family
  3. Pool Membership - this is probably the most expensive option (unless it's some mega concert) but this idea popped in my head as a fun gift for a family.  Probably closer to 300-500/family




Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Lessons of Grace

It's almost been a year since one of our best and worst years ever.  In 2015 we became parents to the sweetest boy (through our first choice of adoption), my husband also landed his dream job and we also got to move back to Colorado.  But then we lost a baby in November, and then a month later found out I also may never give birth to a baby.  I haven't shared my miscarriage with many because it's still so raw and hard for me to talk about.  It's one of the reasons I wrote this post last month to help process it.  I also wrote that post because we've had many friends and family lose children throughout the years.  Some miscarriages, some from cancer, some still births, some from rare heart conditions, some from other things entirely.  But so many little, precious lives lost.

This summer I had the opportunity to help with VBS at our Church.  One morning, I had a lady at Church very (and I mean VERY) bluntly, out of the blue, ask me: "Can you not have children or did you just want to adopt first?"  Also might be nice to know that this was in a room full of people, mostly adults and youth helpers....Wow...where does one go from there?  I mean, seriously.  Like if we were sitting down to coffee together to have a heart to heart, this would have been completely different.  (And much more appropriate.)

I wish I could have had some polite little response to defer to a better time and place, or just shut her down completely in a nice way.  But I didn't.

I felt obligated to answer her.  I'm not sure if it's because I was raised to respect our elders, or what...but I felt like I had to answer her, right then.  So I went on to say that we had recently been diagnosed with infertility and didn't know if we could have kids, but that adoption had always been our first plan to add to our family anyway and we were so happy to be parents to our sweet boy.  And she kind of was like "ok", and then the morning went on to the devotion time, and we all parted ways to our designated areas.  Like, she basically just dismissed my answer and went about her business.  Weird huh?

I answered her, and then just felt so empty and vulnerable.

I'm pretty sure she hasn't thought about that morning since then, but I have a lot.  It's not that I haven't forgiven her, because I have.  I just wonder why did I feel like I had to answer her?  Why didn't I just act like I hadn't heard her?  Why didn't I politely refuse?  Why?  Why?  Why?

I actually don't know the answer to that, but I will say that since that happened I have realized that I can have a response to people that isn't my story.  Just like when people ask too many personal questions about anything in life, or more likely about specifics of our adoption, I can answer with things that don't tell my son's unique story.  Every person has a story, but not everyone we come into contact with gets to know it.  Not that I don't want to ever share my story with people, but I don't have to share it with just anyone, anywhere either.  You know what I mean?

The thing is, that I was (and still am in a lot of ways) hurting and grieving for the the baby we lost and the fact that I may never birth a child.  It doesn't take away any of the joy that I have of being a mother to the little guy I am blessed enough to call my own, though either.  But sometimes when people bring things up it can just almost be too much.

Don't get me wrong.  I am SO happy when there is new life coming into the world.  I'm so happy when friends announce they are adding to their families.  I'm so happy when I see a pregnant lady picking out tiny little clothes in the store.  I'm so happy when I see people announce they are adopting, or fostering.  I also grieve with people when they lose their babies.  I grieve with those who don't know if they will ever be mamas too.  There are so many emotions wrapped up in each and every one of us, it's hard not to touch on a sensitive topic every now and then.

But can I maybe encourage us to tread lightly on conversations, especially if you are one of those who is super direct or to the point people, that talk about having children or not, or how many or to have more and so on and so forth?  I don't mean to never ask questions, because questions are HUGE.

Questions can show that you are interested, engaged and that you care.  So, please ask questions.  Ask lots of questions.  Ask me lots of questions at least.  Just be a little more gentle in the asking please.

As for the rest of us, whether we've lost babies, can't have babies, have all the babies, long to be married or a mama, or whatever the case, let's be gracious in our replies.  If someone asks a question that isn't appropriate or worded right, let's give them the benefit of the doubt and either politely decline to answer or answer with an extra heaping of grace.  Because the Lord knows we all need it--That's why He freely gives it.  

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.   Ephesians 2:8-9


For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.   Romans 3:23-24


I've written a follow-up to this called:  An Open Letter about Grief:  Permission to give ourselves grace that I think you'll likely enjoy as well.  Grief is complex.