The Ultimate “Gift-Away” for Mom!

What do Norwex, Essential Oils, Scentsy, Stella and Dot, Lularoe, Chocolate Apple Orchard, and a New York Times Best-Selling Author have in common?

They’re all a part of the first annual Klover House Mother’s Day Gift-Away!

mother's day

As I sat down for what felt like a hundred times to type this post, my kids did everything imaginable to stop my writing in its tracks. They fought, they whined, they asked for food, they asked for drinks, they begged to go outside, and I caved, they sat on me, they climbed my back while choking my neck, they used my body as a ladder to try and reach the lightswitch in the dining room… I thought, “This is hopeless! I wanted to get this up and running HOURS ago!”

And it hit me – that is EXACTLY why I’m doing this in the first place. Motherhood is hard! Yes, it is rewarding beyond words, and most, if not all of us, would gladly take on tantrum-filled days and sibling bickering any day just to be with these special people that call us, “Mom.”

But moms need a little love, too. Moms need random care packages and love notes. Moms need encouragement and affirmation as much as sunshine! Community, sisterhood, and good old fashioned kindness can fill any mom’s love tank.

So, here is our chance! I threw a note out to my friends on Facebook a few weeks ago, asking if anyone would be interested in participating in this giveaway, and the response was huge! I was so humbled and touched by the generosity of my friends.

I think we’re generous because we “get it.” We get it that moms need that spontaneous pick-me-up. We kind of hope for, or even expect, trinkets of appreciation from our spouses and children on Mother’s Day, but when total strangers, people who “owe” you nothing, pull together just to bless…that’s something extra wonderful.

So to all of you amazing ladies that pitched in to make this the most crazy-great giveaway Klover House has ever offered, Thank You!!!! Your kindness has knocked my socks off, and I pray that God would bless your socks right back – tenfold! xo

There will be TWO winners, and each will receive a plethora of goodness including*, but not limited to, the following:

Chocolate Apple Orchard – A local, Pittsburgh family-owned confectionery. Their treats are so decadent and delicious! I can eat an entire apple myself. They are crisp and fresh underneath layers of delicious caramel, chocolate, and toppings. She makes party favors and gift baskets, too. Remember my friend Kristi when you need your next sweet gift or favor! You can’t go wrong ordering from this mom, and guess what else…she ships!!!

Elysian and Eden (formerly Canvas and More by Aly) – Interior design student by day, the amazing Aly D. is a gifted artist with a heart of gold. One of her treasures hangs in our playroom, and I smile every time I glance at it! Her gifts are lovely, unique, and full of heart! She loves my kids and, already an old-soul, she gets moms, too. Aly is so special and you are going to adore her shop!

Grillin’ Magic – I’m so excited to try this product for myself! We are a grilled-food lovin’ family. What mom wouldn’t be happy to hand over a delicious seasoning blend to her hubby on Mother’s Day and take a night off?! Or if you are a mama who loves to grill…even better! My friend Donna is generously gifting each winner their very own bottle of this secret blend of spices!

Lularoe – Need I say anything?! These leggings have taken America by storm. They are the official mom uniform of 2017. They are as soft as silk and they hold you tight in all of the right places. They’re my husband’s favorite on me. 😉 lol Alanna’s Lularoe business has skyrocketed, because she has two amazing things going for her – an awesome line of clothing to offer and her! You’ll love having Alanna as your go-to Lularoe girl.

Norwex – I have two words for you… yellow Sharpie. My kids decided to “color” our light tan carpet with neon yellow Sharpie. I was mortified until I remembered my friend Kylie gave me a Norwex Envirocloth and some carpet spray for a raspberry stain last week. So let me tell you, I sprayed the raspberry stain, and 30 minutes later, I went back to blot it up and it was gone already! So, I took it to the yellow Sharpie. Sprayed, waited, and dabbed with the Envirocloth, and GONE. So not only are these products toxin-free and antimicrobial by design, but they work! I’m sold!

“Only Love Today” by Rachel Macy Stafford (including “OLT” Swag handpicked by Rachel, herself!) This book is such a great read for the soul and spirit. I use it as a devotional and it ministers deep into my mama-heart on the weariest of days. Rachel has such a gift of encouragement and you will love this book. And when she heard that I was personally gifting two copies, she offered to send additional Only Love Today items! That’s her! So generous and kind. She truly wants to make a difference in the lives of others. One lucky winner will receive an incredibly soft OLT t-shirt (I’m jealous!), and another lucky winner will receive a gorgeous bracelet! I wear mine everyday and it reminds me to put my love on, hang in there, and do my best to be a loving mom. Kids don’t want perfection; they just want our love.

Rodan and Fields – Rodan and Fields has become one of the most well-known companies in skincare. Their results speak for themselves. My friend Teri’s skin is stunning! She is giving away some samples of some R&F, and what woman wouldn’t love a little pampering, right?! I know I’d love it!

Scentsy – I love Scentsy… My kids love their Scentsy Buddies… One of my favorite things to do is toss a scentsy pack on the heating vent in my closet. I walk in, and the whole room smells like Black Raspberry! I can’t wait to see which scents my friend Renee has in store for you! Their gorgeous warmers and wax packs would make the perfect gift!

Stella and Dot – Stella and Dot items are just gorgeous. When I hosted a party last year, I seriously wanted everything. Their jewelry is stunning and well-made. I love how classic and timeless the pieces are. They also make beautiful handbags and clutches. I’m keeping it a surprise, but what Jessica and Julie have in store is just W.O.W. Two of you are receiving amazing Stella and Dot surprises!!! Lucky girls!

Essential Oils – I love my essential oils. They are so beneficial! I use them to prevent sickness, treat ailments, make our home smell good, clean and sanitize, scent my wool dryer balls, add to the bath… The list is endless! If you aren’t an essential oil lover yet, don’t worry, you will be soon!

Friends, the value of these packages are easily OVER $200 EACH! *Packages will vary and not contain identical items, but each will contain items of equal value!

And REMEMBER – even if you don’t win one of the “Gift-Aways”, feel free to contact these fantastic ladies! They often have items onhand and may be able to help you out in the gift-giving department anytime! They can hook you up down the road, too!

Entering is so simple! Just use the rafflecopter found here! Happy Mother’s Day, friends! Remember – you are valued, appreciated, and very loved today and everyday. xo
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Latest Elsewhere: The Biggest Lie We Believe As Parents

Every so often, I am blessed to contribute to Kids Activities Blog. This latest article is based upon a revelation I had last year and is dedicated to my precious Eden Grace, who taught me a very important parenting truth.

Parenting Lie

THE BIGGEST LIE WE BELIEVE AS PARENTS…

I think when you become a parent for the first time, and maybe even before you become one, there are certain lies you tell yourself. You don’t realize that they are lies, of course, until after you’ve been in charge of another human being for a certain amount of time.

As we add to our families, ideals that we had adopted and lived by successfully as the parent to one child can also shift innocently into lies. One of the biggest lies I’ve ever told myself about parenting was that I would figure out how to parent, who I was a s a parent, and the rest would fall into place. I’m here to tell you that hasn’t been the case…

Read the original post HERE.

Full Color KAB Watermark

Seeking the Simple Life

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, friends.  Can you believe 2016 is just days away?  Our schedules are packed, wallets are emptied, bellies are full…  And yet, something is missing for this mama.  It became painfully obvious this morning.  All the kiddos are home from school today, and while they played in their pajamas, this mama stepped outside in her’s.  My pajamas, that is, and a big, fluffy, pink robe.  I had to throw a piece of mail into the mailbox, and I didn’t care who saw me on my quick trip to the street and back again.

simple

But as I took that first step out of our front door, I was greeted with the chimes of church bells in the distance, and the thoughts rushed in like a gust of wintry truth.  I long for simple.  For simpler times.  For crisp, clear moments, like that one.  In this season in which life-moments are fleeting, like fast-falling snowflakes, I am finding myself wanting to linger.  To catch some on my tongue.  To examine a few on my gloves.  To laugh as they rest peacefully atop my child’s head.  And I’m not talking about literal snowflakes, well, not entirely, anyway.  I mean those life moments.  They are melted and forgotten before I’ve even taken the chance to examine them in their rawness and beauty.

 

Where are you going, life?  Will I ever catch up to you?  Or should I be slowing down and force you to stop for a breath yourself once in a while?

 

With each step, a bell chimed.  It was so serene.  I couldn’t tell if it made me feel nostalgic – almost transporting me back in my mind to what I imagine a winter morning at Christmastime felt like before cell phones, and deadlines, and social media…  Before too many appointments and activities…  What would it be like?  To walk outside your door in the morning and just take a little walk, listening to the church bells chime as you delivered cookies to an elderly neighbor?  Wouldn’t that be something?  To “digress”?  To live, and breathe, and just be once in awhile.

 

Or maybe it made me feel lonely.  Maybe those somber, deliberate steps taken in the stillness on a quiet street reminded me of how full my life is but how empty it feels most days.  Sure, we laugh.  I play with my kids, and we enjoy afternoon movies and snuggles on the couch.  I’m not all there, though.  I’m somewhere else much of the time.  I’m making mental checklists and contemplating craft ideas and designing imaginary dresses and considering business deals and dreaming up ministry opportunities and remembering to-do lists…  I’m not there, breathing in their sweet little smell, taking in their quirky little mispronunciations, or answering their innocent questions with more than two brain cells and in a decent tone.

 

The comparison of the simplicity of the moment against the cluttered space that was once my life and mind left me feeling lonely.  Even though they’re right in front of me, I miss my family.  Even though it’s all around me, I miss Christmas.  I miss waking up and being present.

 

It’s hard, isn’t it?  I feel like the modern woman longs for superhuman abilities.  We want to cook well, work well, take care of our family and home well…because we are the ultimate homemakers.  We want solid relationships and calendars full of events and play dates…because we are the ultimate friend.  We want successful businesses and accolades…because we are the ultimate entrepreneur.  We want quiet times and Bible studies…because we are the ultimate, faithful Christian.  We want book clubs and girls’ nights and birthday parties and potlucks…because we are able to just do.it.all.   And so we try.  We try to do it all and we find ourselves lonely.

Longing for less.

Feeling like we’re aiming at all the targets, but missing all the marks.

Is it just me?

 

I don’t know what 2016 holds for me, for our family, our plans and dreams, but I do know that change is coming.  I heard the bells ring this morning, and I can’t “unhear” them.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, dear friends.  Go, enjoy your loved ones.  Find someone or a whole bunch of someones and love them like crazy this week and every week from here, on…

xo,

Kristi

Parenting: Meet Your Mother, The Human.

Yesterday, like so many other days lately, was a really hard day as a parent.  Somedays, I feel like such a failure at mothering my children.  The emotional highs and lows are almost too much to bear day-in and day-out, and I’m not the only one that has them – my daughters seem to be mini emotional rollercoasters too.  At this stage in the game, the household is intense, and some days (like yesterday), I just crack under the pressure.  I crack and I shatter, and they get a good hard look at their mother, the human.

human

Some days, after hours of the kids melting down, tattling, arguing, hitting, screaming, bickering, and ignoring the very sound of my tired voice, this mama just breaks down.  We can only take so much sometimes, and it’s on those days that I let my girls see my humanity – my brokenness, and here’s why…

 

I hope that they remember more than the uglies.

My girls need to remember me, in all of my complexity.  I know, myself, that I have very few memories of my own mother showing a variety of emotions.  I clearly remember when she’d had enough and lost her cool, and I remember a few specific times in which she was crying for reasons beyond my childish understanding.

I want my daughters to remember my brokenness as much as my laughter, because one day, they too will be wives and mothers dealing with the highs and lows of the mundane.  I want them to know that emotions are real, and okay, and not to be suffocated.  I want them to remember that their mom did more than yell.  She laughed, she cried, she praised and she sighed…she was human.

 

I hope that they observe that their choices affect others.

Even if that “other” is their own mama.  We were reading the story Cinderella: Kindness and Courage (aff. link), and as I was reading the words on the page, they were sounding familiar to both me and my girls…

They made her do all of the chores.

Who does all of the chores?  Mama.  Not because I want to, or because I don’t require help from them, because I do.  Little ones are expected to pull their weight around here in little ways – bring mommy your dirty dishes, throw your own trash away, clean up your toys, put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket, hang your coat and place your shoes in the closet…  Little stuff.  I don’t think I’m being a terribly mean parent by giving them responsibilities.  They choose, however, more often than not, to ignore me.  Yes, there are consequences, and yes, they oblige under pressure, but they don’t willingly offer to lend a hand when the task at hand doesn’t involve “testing” cookie dough or stirring cake batter.

So we had a brief chat after that line.

Cinderella’s family makes her do all of the chores.  They don’t help her out.  Who does all of the chores at your house?  Mommy?  Right.  The book said that that was cruel of them.  Do you think her step-family is being cruel?  Do you think it is cruel to ignore mommy when mommy asks for your help?  Do you think that if they helped Cinderella more and maybe took care of themselves sometimes that Cinderella would be thankful?

It’s important that my girls grow up with the understanding that their mom is not a doormat.  Yes, I serve them and serve them with love, but they need to appreciate being served or else they will grow to expect it.  When a service is no longer perceived as an act of love but rather as an obligation on my part and an entitlement on theirs, we are headed for trouble when they step into the real world.

 

I hope that they learn that others’ feelings matter.

A few weeks ago, I really angered my four year old.  I forget now what I said or did that made her so angry, but I think I put one of her favorite toys on top of the refrigerator for naughty behavior.  She was stomping her way down the stairs towards me, looked me right in the eyes and said,

I don’t like you, Mommy.  You are the worstest mommy ever!

And she meant it with all of her little heart, which broke mine.  It was the first time she had ever said those kind of words to me, and they hit me hard.  Little baby darts that stung her mama’s heart.  As I directed her to “Time Out”, a few tears streamed down my cheeks.  She locked eyes with me as I sunk to her level.

I know that you are angry with me for taking your toy away.  It is your consequence for naughty behavior.  You hurt my heart with your mean words.  I love you very much.  I love you too much to let you make bad choices.  Do you know that I love you?  Good.

And then, I hugged her tightly.  She didn’t escape her “Time Out”, but I didn’t want to let that moment pass unaddressed.  Otherwise, her harsh words could become commonplace, next time directed at her sisters or a friend…  I want her to remember my tears and think twice before uttering cruel words again.

 

I hope they see me modeling unconditional love and forgiveness.

In every situation, they need to see and feel the effects of my love for them.  As their parent, my love is unconditional.  I need to use these times of weakness to emphasize that truth.  Sometimes, it’s not easy.  Sometimes, I flat out want to take a break from being “mommy”.  You know that saying, “I love you, but I really don’t like you right now”? If their constant fighting pushes me to tears, I need to let that be evident (within reason).  Sometimes, moms cry.  Guess what?

Mommy is a person, just like you, with thoughts and feelings, even frustrations.  What do you do when someone hurts your feelings?  How does it make you feel when your sister shouts at you?  Does it upset you when you ask her nicely to help you with something, and she says ‘No!’ and walks away?  It does?  Well, I feel the same way.  And even when I am angry or frustrated with your choices, I still love you.  I forgive you for your naughty behaviors and love you always.  Do you know who else loves you that way?  Jesus.

 

I hope that they see me relying on and learning from Jesus.

In teachable moments, I use my brokenness to share with them the love of the Father, our need for Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds.

After our really hard morning/afternoon yesterday, both of the Bigs were enduring “Quiet Time” in tears.  I won’t go into great detail, but they are required to have a “QT” every day, and all they must do is remain on their bed for one teeny hour either sleeping or reading.  That’s it.  Well, a rowdy, frustrating morning rolled right into an even more frustrating “QT”, and neither child was giving in without a fight.  I let my humanity leak (too much) and yelled at them both, vowing to take away their most precious belongings for the rest of the day.  When they saw that I wasn’t budging and my inner monster had reared its ugly head, they tearfully retreated and laid in their beds just sobbing their little hearts out.  It was just a cumulation of the entire day’s frustrations boiling over within each of us.  I thought, “We can’t keep doing this.  They need to know what my intentions are here.”  So I sat down with the oldest one first.

Ava, all I want to do each day is wake up, make you and your sisters a good breakfast, and enjoy our time together.  I want to read you stories, watch movies with you, play with you in the playroom, run around outside with you, help you make things and watch you paint and draw…  I want to have fun with you and your sisters.

All I need from you is for you to listen to me.  Obey when you are told to clean up your toys.  Then, I will have more time to play with you.  Be kind to your sisters, so that they will want to play with you.  Take your “Quiet Time” without fussing, so that it’s short and you’re up in time to enjoy the rest of your day.  You are still growing, and your body needs good rest.

I don’t want to spend my day yelling at you and putting you in “Time Out” for things.  I want to enjoy you and laugh with you and play with you.  It hurts my heart to yell at you.  I am working on that.  I don’t want to yell so much.  Can we both do better?

And then, I repeated my conversation with Isla, stroking her face and wiping her tears.  She fell asleep in my arms, and while I knew this process was painful for them and ugly for me, I found some reassurance in knowing that all three of us were learning and growing through it.

Today, I’ll try to do things better than I did yesterday.  I may actually do worse, but I’m still trying and learning, and I want them to know that.  I want them to grow up seeing that.  I want them to watch me change before their very eyes into the mother, wife, and woman that God created me to be.

Mommy is human, just like me, and she messes up and makes mistakes.  She gets back up when the day knocks her down, and she asks for forgiveness and gives it too.  She loves me even when I’m making bad choices and her arms are always ready to embrace me, even when I’m disobedient.  She expects good behaviors, because she knows that I am good.  She prays for more patience and kindness, and she leans on Jesus for strength and grace.  I know Mommy has Jesus in her heart, because I can see Him working on her.  He’s changing her and helping her to be the best mommy I know.  I’m glad that she wants to be more like Jesus.  I want to be more like Him too.

human2

Diastasis Recti: Shame in the Middle

Diastasis Recti: a separation of your outermost abdominal muscles. The job of these muscles (called rectus abdominis), is to support your back and your organs.

Umbilical hernia: a sac (pouch) formed from the inner lining of your belly (abdominal cavity) that pushes through a hole in the abdominal wall at the belly button.

Shame: a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute

Me: all of the above

diastasis

Five months ago, my sweet Miriam Jane was born.  She was actually my smallest baby, born at just 6lbs, 14oz.

miribirth

Many of you may remember my complaint towards the end of this fourth full-term pregnancy that my upper mid-section was burning all day, every day, without rest.  I went on to find out that I had developed diastasis recti, an abdominal separation that is common among women of short stature and having multiple pregnancies (or multiple babies in a single pregnancy).  This pic is me at 38 weeks.  Miriam Jane made her debut just four days later.

miribelly

During my quick check in the hospital after delivering, one of the doctors advised that I have my abdomen checked well at my six-week postpartum appointment, and until that point, take it easy.  When I went in, they recommended that I continue to wear a belly band and forgo all exercise for an additional eight weeks.  That’s fourteen weeks postpartum of no exercise.  They also informed me that, in addition to having at least a 3 cm separation, I had an umbilical hernia.  My doctor suggested I see a surgeon and warned me against doing any core exercise that could exacerbate the issues.

I left my appointment feeling so discouraged.  Not only did I find it sickening that a part of my body that was supposed to stay intact on the inside was oozing through to the outside, but the thought of surgical repair scared me to death.  Realize, I have had four natural births, zero epidurals, no c-sections…  The closest I’ve ever gotten to a real surgery was a D&C after losing EJ, and, other than anesthesia, I would consider it a pretty easy/non-life-threatening procedure.  I don’t do surgery, friends.  I am terrified.

A friend of a friend recently messaged me a detailed description of her surgery.  I had to open it about six times to make it all the way through.  I kept getting queasy just reading about it.  As much as I’d love a nip and a tuck to heal and flatten this pooch out…I can’t.

So, like any chicken would do, I vowed to watch it just heal and melt away. Amen.

Yep.  Not happening.

Granted, my diet lately hasn’t helped (way too many sweets), and I am pretty sure that I’m one of those breastfeeding moms whose body hangs onto weight rather than burns it away, because I am still 25 lbs heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight, and it hasn’t budged by even a pound in four months.

I never had any problems like this before.  Just my natural activity had done wonders after my previous deliveries.  Between running around after the kids and good eating habits, I could always get back to my normal weight/shape fairly easily.

This is me just five months after having Eden Grace.  No tricks, no diet programs, gym memberships, belly bands, or workout videos.  This is just how my body bounced back before.  I call it the “I am a busy mom of three” regimen.  You know the one…you have coffee for breakfast, get to eat a handful of blueberries for lunch, devour a healthy dinner in 45.7 seconds, and you never sit down…

meande

Notice, my “mommy tummy” was relatively small, especially in comparison to my stomach now.  The “I am an even busier mom of four” regimen isn’t working, and according to what I’ve read on diastasis recti…it’s never going to.  I have to be more intentional this time, more focused.

Those closest to me already knew about my stomach’s condition, so they’ve never said anything in naivete.  Unlike strangers, they’ve never judged me as lazy, pregnant, large, or alcoholic.

Yep.  Alcoholic.

That was a new one for me.

Enter shame.

We went to visit my brother and his family in WV this past weekend and ended up having to take one of our daughters to MedExpress for a suspected UTI.  We left Ava and Eden with my sister-in-law, and hubs and I took Isla and Miriam with us to see the doctor.  Hubs dropped the three of us off and ran some errands, expecting to be back before we were even called into the room.

If you’ve been to a MedExpress, then you know that you check in, sit and wait, and then you go to another window to verify information, sign a couple of forms and pay your co-pay.  We had already been waiting for some time when we were finally called to the billing window.  The only other people in the waiting area consisted of a woman (by herself) and a married couple (probably in their late 70s).  It was quiet and peaceful.  I had just had a nice, heartfelt conversation with the staff member at the billing window, and I returned to our seats feeling totally at peace with the moment.  Isla, before returning to coloring a picture of Elsa that I had brought along, stopped to coo over Miriam, who was pleasantly hanging out in her carseat.

The elderly woman made a comment to me across the rows noting how much Isla loves her baby sister.  “Yes,” I replied.  “She’s one of four, and she’s by far the most nurturing.”  Then, I sat down next to Isla, who had returned to her artwork.

That’s when I heard the man’s whispers.  Apparently, he didn’t know how to whisper very well.

She must drink a lot of beer.  (brief pause)  Why else would she have a belly like that?

His wife in quiet rebuttal:

She did say she had four kids.

And when I heard the wife’s response, I knew it was me.  Initially, I just thought he was talking about someone else.  A friend, a family member…  I just thought they were resuming a conversation that was taking place while I was at the window.  I was wrong, of course, and when it clicked, something snapped in my spirit.  I felt it.  It was a dead-emptiness that suddenly took over all of my thoughts, and I felt such…shame.

I never, ever felt that way before.

Beer belly?  I never even drink.  Like never.  It’s kind of a joke between one of my friends and I that she’s going to find me a wine that I can drink, because I honestly hate the taste of alcohol.

I know, you might be thinking: What’s the big deal?  If I were you, I would’ve turned around and said x,y,z…  Who cares, right?

I tried thinking those things too.  I almost turned around and explained my condition, but I didn’t.  I just sat there, in my cloud of shame and hurt feelings.

My husband walked in just as the nurse called Isla back to see the doctor.

When I told him about the whispers later on, I broke down into tears.

After consoling me, he joked, “You should’ve told them that you drink a case a day and you were drunk right then.  How else can you stay sane with all of those kids?”  I told him that I’d be dealing with a whole other can of worms, but I appreciated his humor.

Fast-forward to two days later.  Isla had her follow-up with her regular pediatrician, and then I took her fabric shopping with me in a fun, upscale neighborhood nearby.  Since I was pricing fabric for an upcoming wedding, I spent a great deal of time speaking with the shop employee.  She was so kind and helpful, so our conversation eventually turned personal with her telling me about her daughter just having a baby boy.  Then it came.  The naive and innocent dagger.

Looking directly at Isla, she said:

It looks like your mommy is going to have a baby too!

And the automatic response came quickly:

No, I just had one.

Just had one…  How long can that possibly work?  Five months, eight months, a year?  Just is reserved for newbies.  I am quickly crossing that imaginary line, if I haven’t crossed it already.

So, I did what I do.  Left the shop with a smile and a “thank you”, and took Isla to the local coffee shop, where I drowned my hurt in a blended caramel latte and a double chocolate biscotti.  Counter-productive, huh?  I know.

Since then, I’ve had a few more cries, I’ve googled a lot, I’ve called my ob/gyne doctor, and I’ve decided to buckle down and take care of this problem.  I’m still trying to avoid surgery, and luckily, my hernia is umbilical, so bringing my abdominal muscles back together should also remedy the hernia.

I have created a Pinterest board to keep all of the information I find in one place.  I am also looking into the Tupler Technique (aff. link).  I’ll keep you posted on that.  The burning pain is less noticeable, but still present, so I am going to be more diligent in wearing a belly band and remaining aware of my posture throughout the day.

As far as the shame part, I’d just appreciate your prayers.  I know that until I am able to flatten up, the comments and questions are probably going to keep coming.  Please, be kind to those moms you see out there whose postpartum bellies are still hanging around.  They just might be facing the mother of all tummy troubles too.

 

 

 

The Girl Who Saves Me

Isla Rae.

My precious girl just turned four on Monday.

I look at pictures from just one year ago, and I am beside myself.  I can’t believe how the baby face has melted away and a little lady is emerging.

isla4

The gap between her two front teeth that once was so prominent, has closed so gradually, that I feel like I never even noticed it waving goodbye.  Her blonde locks have taken off, cascading down her little back, catching up quickly to her big sister’s.  I can’t believe she’s four.isla95

 

Four.

Four years ago, I endured the most painful delivery of all my four.  She took her sweet time making an arrival, so I decided to speed her along.  I found out the disastrous way that Pitocin and “natural birth” don’t mix.  Alongside wishing I had wisely avoided the incredible added pain, I have always felt as though I hijacked her birthday and have regretted rushing her every day since.

Isla2That’s Isla, though.  Teaching me patience and keeping me in check.  Since before Day 1, she’s been my chisel-child.  The one who is shaping me continuously.  

Be more patient, Mama.  Trust me, Mama.  I’m good, Mama.  I can do this on my own.  

I’ll dress myself, Mama.  I don’t need your help, Mama…

She’s this little, independent, mysterious soul, and I am her constant observer.

She’s been fierce from the start.  I wrote about our challenges when I was pregnant with her – the hemorrhage that loomed over her little body like a rain cloud.  It didn’t bother her, though.  She’s not easily affected by outside circumstances.  She’s steady and stable.  Fetus, infant, toddler, child…it didn’t matter…she’s always been my calm, cool, and collected child.  I admire those attributes in her, and I have this feeling that they will still describe her well as a young woman one day.

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But what sets Isla apart the most for me as her mama, and what I think of everytime I think of her birth, her existence…she saved me.  She saves me.

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After we lost EJ, Isla saved me and my mama-heart.  I fought hard for her.  Fought the darkness that invaded my soul.  Fought the raincloud that loomed over her and the fear that came with it.  Fought the 41st week of pregnancy, the intense summer heat, the ankles that were the size of He-Man’s thighs, and the Pitocin.  Fought and fought and fought and won.  We won.  She saved me and we won.  I won the greatest gift when God gave me Isla. I was already the blessed mother of Ava and EJ, but with Isla came the gift of hope.  She’s my “Sunshine”, my “Bright and Shining One”.

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All of my babies are so amazing and breath-taking in their own unique ways.  This is Isla’s specialty.  She saves her mama.  On days that I want to yell and throw my own tantrums, she speaks to me in her adult tones, and she may as well be holding up a mirror, because instantly, she saves me from my ridiculousness.

I look at her and I get lost in her dark eyes.  They pierce my soul, reminding me of the depth of God and His goodness, and she saves me yet again from any petty distractions I’m facing.

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She climbs up next to me while I am “working” and adds her two cents to my vlogs and asks me about what I am working on, and she saves me from any loneliness that has crept into my morning as a SAH/WAHM.  In a silly kind of way, she’s like my little co-worker at times.

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She randomly (and frequently) talks about Baby EJ.  It completely confounds us.  It’s as if she somehow knows that she is EJ’s womb-buddy.  They were conceived just three months apart.  Although I’ve written about EJ as a daughter, she is convinced EJ is her brother and she talks about “him” as though he is a very real part of her daily life.  It amazes me.  When she talks about EJ, she saves me from any heartache, because I am instantly reminded of this beautiful family that God is allowing me to build during my time here.

I’m humbled daily – by a four year old.

I’m changed daily – by a four year old.

I’m moved daily – by a four year old.

I’m challenged daily – by a four year old.

I am so thankful for our sweet Isla Rae.  She’s beautiful through and through.  She’s our little painter and chocoholic.  She can house a dozen donuts or chocolate chip pancakes in a single sitting.  She is all muscle, though.  Even when she was a baby, she was a teeny little muscle.  She can stand on the knuckles of her feet in an amazing and totally unnatural way.  lol

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She can sass with the best of them and she loves being in the kitchen.  She’s got the most beautiful hands and nails I have ever seen.  No joke.  She’s a Rockstar and one tough cookie.  Dental work…doctor appointments…ER visits…she doesn’t even whimper.  She loves her sisters so deeply.  I can count on her to always be caring for someone.  All day, every day…she’s taking care of her sisters.

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She will ask me if I like her outfit, hairdo, shoes, because she’s destined to be a fashion blogger. 😉  She loves having her nails painted and is a natural dancer.

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She wants to learn to play the violin and loves to swim.  A cup of hot chocolate, a Hershey Kiss, a cookie… it doesn’t matter if we’re picking Ava up at school or if she’s returning home from a Daddy-daughter date, she is NEVER empty-handed when it comes to her big sister.  Ava is tops in her book and Isla is always thinking of little ways to bless her.

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Her mealtime prayers are especially long and almost always include a wish list of some kind along with a plea for the “people that don’t have any aw-fer-ring”.  Her heart makes mine melt.  Every.single.day.

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Happy Birthday, sweet Isla Rae.  Thank you for saving me.  Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for refining me.  I thank God for you, precious girl.  You bring such strength and beauty to my world. xoxo

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Strawberry French Toast

Sweet, delicious, and unbelievably simple Strawberry French Toast!

Nothing says summer like strawberries, and nothing says breakfast like French Toast! (In my humble opinion anyway!) Put them together and you’ve got a pretty satisfying start to your day!

My entire family looooves French Toast, so I am always trying to adjust and perfect it so that it is closer to restaurant-quality and delicious. I think you’ll be pleased with this latest version. It’s golden and crispy on the outside…it’s warm and soft on the inside…and it’s sweet and flavorful. Plus, it’s SIMPLE! And we all love simple, right?!

Start out with a good quality bread, like a rustic Italian loft from Trader Joe’s. (Note: I have also made this with regular store-bought sliced wheat bread, and it’s just as yummy, but you do not have to let the bread soak in the egg mixture as long.)

In a shallow dish (I use my glass pie plate), combine the following with a fork or whisk:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 c. strawberry-flavored Kefir (see photo)
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. raw honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract (optional)


Slice half of the loaf into 1/4 in. pieces.  This recipe will coat 10-12 slices, depending upon thickness.

Allow each slice to soak in the egg mixture on each side.

Pre-heat your oven to 400* and prep a stovetop griddle on medium heat (if you have it, use coconut oil on your pan in place of butter…it will be divine!)

Place 3-4 sliced at a time on the oiled/buttered griddle, flipping once, and removing once lightly browned on each side.

Line the toast on a wire rack over a baking sheet (so the toast is raised above the pan).  Bake for 3 minutes, flip and bake for an additional 3 minutes.  

Remove and serve!  Garnish with fresh berries and/or a light dusting of powdered sugar.  Voila!



(Because Kefir comes in a variety of flavors, you could easily make new and interesting versions of this recipe!  Kefir is a fermented milk beverage.  My kids refer to it as “yogurt milk”, and it is lower in lactose, for those of you with lactose intolerance.  Here’s the wiki link for more info…  I also like to use it in the muffin recipe found in this post.  Enjoy your Kefir creations!)

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One Day to Clean a Dirty House

Can you believe it only takes ONE DAY to clean a dirty house – top to bottom – one day.  I promise, because I did it, and you can too!  Come mid-week, you’ll be searching for things to clean, like lint in the laundry room!

Your guests are arriving in two hours, and your house is not-so-tidy. Your adrenaline kicks in and, whoa mama, did you really just “clean” your whole house?! Seriously. That overwhelming mess was no match for your determination, right? That’s me too! I am what you would call a “procrastinating perfectionist.” If I can’t do it ALL, do it WELL, and do it COMPLETELY, then, I CAN’T DO IT. So, whatever I am intimidated by or feel that I don’t have enough time to accomplish…I put off. And that is almost always the housework.

Trouble is – I have this motto. It’s this nagging motto, that I actually want to live by, but can’t seem to consistently, because of my little character flaw mentioned above.

A Clean Home is a Calm Home.

And I believe it 100%. Or at least, I feel like it’s calmer. Maybe because I am calmer, and there’s a trickle down effect happening with the children, and my hubby catches it…it’s glorious. Calmness is glorious.

But what happened?! How did I end up here, in utter desperation?

Well…  We held our daughter’s birthday party here at our house in early May. Like every other time we have company coming, my hubby and I busted our tail-feathers the night before and morning of to get the house in respectable order. Mail piles were stashed, not dealt with, laundry stacks were straightened, not put away, surfaces were cleared and dusted, and the floors were tended to, BUT…the house was not clean and the calm that came after the exhausting hustle would be gone within the first hour of the following day.

That’s what kiddos do, right? Destroy a”tidy” house in just minutes.

The laundry is put off a little longer; the vicious cycle continues.

Forget getting down to the nitty-gritty levels of clean, because you’re just looking to maintain a little sanity and have your home not resemble a warzone come 9PM nightly.

I try following cleaning schedules like Clean Mama’s (she’s my favorite by the way), but on vacuuming day, I was like, “But I would have to CLEAN the mess off of the floors to vacuum…” Wahhh!  I would end up frustrated and overwhelmed. It affected me, my kids, my husband. I couldn’t keep my head above water.

I even had the kids sit down and watch an episode of Hoarders with me during our usual Sesame Street time-slot in hopes it would give them a proverbial kick in the rear. It didn’t. Three and five year olds apparently don’t care if Miss Mess lives in squalor. They can’t see how it relates to toys constantly underfoot.  Then, the straw came that broke the camel’s back in form of a bug…a carpet beetle.  Ewwww!

I loathe bugs. I keep watch for them. They don’t stand a chance in this house. I had seen a little beetle like this before. I googled him, after I flushed him good-bye of course, and I read that they are common in homes and show up in the springtime. And what do they eat? Organic matter. Ick. I didn’t want any parts of it. So, how do you keep them at bay? Vacuuming. Yes. The chore I most often neglected, because I could never get down to the bare bones of cleaning before bedtime, and no one would dare touch the vacuum while the three blondies were snoozing.

That’s when it hit me. The idea that I could clean, really clean my entire home in just ONE day. It works, friends. My husband has asked me what I have been doing differently to keep our home clean. It’s that clean, folks. It looks clean, it feels clean, it even smells clean. I love it!

When I shared my process (that works perfectly for this adrenaline-loving, procrastinating perfectionist), he said, “You know what you did, right?” Me, I responded with a blank stare… “You created a project plan.” And then he joked that I needed a GANTT chart, and I had no clue as to what that is, but I took it as a compliment, because, seeing that he’s a Director of PM, it must have meant I was doing something right.

All it took was a list, an estimation of my time, and a challenge – a challenge to beat that list and the estimations.  The desire to beat the times that I had listed is what gave me that rush of adrenaline I needed.  That same feeling of, “Come on; let’s do this!” that you get twenty minutes before the doorbell is due to ring.  And you know what? It worked. Every time I tested it. As you’ll see in the attached video, this was my process:

  • Grab a sheet of paper
  • List each room in your home
  • List each task to complete in each room in order to consider it “clean”
  • Attach an estimated timeframe to each task
  • Mark you starting and finishing times as you go
  • Enjoy your clean home!

A few tips:

1 – Notice, I don’t always get to finish a room in one fell swoop, so if I spend one hour in a space or ten minutes, I mark my list accordingly.  It may take three or six “visits” to that particular room, but it will eventually be completed.  I want to stay true to my chart and make sure my times are accurate, so I stay on task for those minutes or hours and focus on the space that I am in.

2 – Clean the rooms/things that make sense.  Don’t try to clean bathrooms while your kids are in the kitchen eating lunch.  You know that they are going to need you anyway.  Why make yourself extra crazy?  Allocate meal prep time and eating times to coincide with doing the dishes, wiping down the appliances, cleaning out the refrigerator, clearing a mail pile…  I chose to clean the playroom in the morning while the kids were in there playing.  I told them each to grab one thing, I put in Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast on their mini tv, and I went to work knowing that they were going to be entertained.  Because I was in the room with them, they were on-task, playing nicely, and we were able to have conversation easily while I worked.  I was able to clean everything with the exception of my fabric stash.  I wasn’t too concerned with that, and it wasn’t a goal on my list anyway.  I tended to it later, after they were in bed.



3 – Consider doing this on a Monday (if you stay at home).  Mondays kind of stink for me anyway, and so I’d rather devote one day to hard work, so the kids and I can enjoy the rest of the week.  Knocking this out in one day also allows you the opportunity to do the nitty-gritty stuff over the course of the rest of the week.  For example, I was walking around yesterday morning actually looking for things to clean.  I cleaned the stair banister (which honestly hadn’t been really cleaned since we moved in almost TWO YEARS AGO!)  It was gross.  That’s a perfect example of something that looks clean, but really isn’t.  Those things are often overlooked and neglected because we are trying to stay on top of the obvious areas.  Today, I plan on tackling the shoes piled next to the front door.  I don’t recommend stretching this out over more than 2 or 3 days, though, and here’s why:  KIDS.  Small children will destroy those spaces you’ve conquered faster than you can blink.  My girls knew that “today, Mom means business,” and they kept themselves a little more in-check.  When I’ve tried to clean at a prolonged pace, it has backfired every time.  My estimations told me that I could have a clean house from top to bottom in 7 hours, and by golly, that’s exactly what I needed.

4 – Follow a schedule throughout the rest of the week that involves LIGHT cleaning.  Like I said, I love Clean Mama’s.  I now have a routine of Five Habits that Kickstart a Good Day (post coming soon), and plan on devoting just 10 minutes of every hour to tidying up.  That’s what I call, 10 Minutes to Better.  

I am proof that this method is effective.  It’s great exercise too! Lol!  Think about it…it’s honestly like going to work for ONE day a week!  I know our job as mama is the toughest, most-involved and time-consuming job in existence, but you can do this!  

I used to buy into the, “The kids come first, forsaking all housework” stuff, but let’s be real here.  When your house stinks, your day kind of does too.  You feel overwhelmed.  You feel defeated.  You even feel like a failure.  

You’re not!  You’re not any of those.  Take it from me.  I considered selling things off to afford a cleaning service, because I felt so out-of-control.  

I thought I needed outside help with four small kids, but I did this, and we’re on top of it now.  I like my home now!  Even with the unfinished-project to-list staring at me, I.Love.My.Home.  You can love yours too!  And in just one 7-hour workday, I was given back the chance to enjoy what really matters…

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Dear Daughter, I Enjoy You.


Dear Daughter, I Enjoy You.

As I was slowly making the descent from upstairs, I allowed the exhaustion to wash over me, mentally, physically, emotionally. Out of nowhere, a thought hit me, and I knew immediately that it was one worth paying attention too.

“How tiring these kids are.”
“These days are long. They are hard.”

And it hit me.

The faces I made throughout the day. The sneers. The snorts. The sighs…

And a voice asked me a simple question…

“What if you could look at yourself that way? You wouldn’t be your own friend. You would lose a friend over such behavior.  And yet, you treat your own flesh and blood…your baby in such a way.”

I have gone as far as to roll over in the bed in the morning and growl angry words like, “You are being sooo annoying right now, child.”  All they want is breakfast.  All I want is more sleep.

Seriously.

I did that.

And it started to sink in how I was hurting little hearts everyday. I am hurting little hearts. With my words. With my actions. With my eye rolls and sighs…

But those things aren’t  real. They aren’t reality. Reality is, I am simply exhausted and poorly behaved. Reality is that my children are…children. They are silly. They are wild.  They require a lot of energy.  They are beautiful. They are loved.

I like them.

I admire and adore them.

I enjoy them.

I need to remember their smallness. My eyes…my words…my touch…my moods…are their world. For 90% of their day, I am their world.

So here’s my pep talk to myself:

Get it together, girl. Straighten up, sister. You have got to use that heart and that head of your’s and wipe that nasty exhaustion off of your face. Wipe it off on purpose.  Don’t let it ruin the tenderness in your smile. Don’t give it ground. Step up your game. You are their mama. God put you over these girls like a guardian angel. One they can touch and hear and smell and look to for love and guidance. Put on your wings today, mama, because they require a whole lot of protection. And sometimes, you have to make a choice to shelter them from even yourself. Lay that bitterness of a messy house down. Cast that resentment of a sleepless night aside. Forgive those early-risers, knowing that they are just excited to start a new day. Pray for a little of that to rub off on you too… You are the mama and you enjoy them. Time to start living like it…

Dear Daughter,


Forgive me. I don’t mean to be so hard on you. I want to see you sparkle from sun-up to sun-down. You are smart, funny, vivacious, and inspiring. Your giggles are darling and your smile is so pure. You are brave and adventurous and I wish I could have more of that in my own weary bones. You are special and gifted. The Lord made you well. There is no one else like you, and no one else has my heart on a string like you do. I’d give all I have away in a moment and still be satisfied knowing that I am your mama and you are mine. I’m sorry for letting my bad mood discolor our days together. You won’t know this, but I need a reminder. Your sweet, soft cheeks are going to help me through the hard days. They were the first bits of you that I cherished. I kissed and caressed them from day one. I kissed them so gently, hoping that you could sense your precious worth when we couldn’t yet share words. I still sweep my hand along them towards your little chin to this day as a way to send you a quick love letter. So, that will be my reminder to myself to keep my word to you. To protect you from my tired looks and grumpy words. When I see them, touch them, smooch them…I will remember your smallness and my bigness, and I will behave as a mama should – with patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, love, joy, peace, gentleness and self-control. Sounds familiar, huh? Yeah, those Fruits of the Spirit {Galatians 5:22-23} that mama holds you accountable to…well, I’m going to start being those things too. You deserve that from me. I love you, Daughter. I so deeply love you.

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10 Minutes to “Better”

Yesterday, my husband arrived home at his expected time – just before dinner – and the house was chaotic as usual. Eden decided to remove a poopy pull-up and go traipsing around the living room, which elicits sheer panic in me. We captured the dirty diaper before any disasters occurred, and I whisked her up for yet another early bath thinking nothing but, “Man, this stuff just s.u.c.k.s.” Yep. It’s no fun around here sometimes. And while I enjoy my babies so much and wouldn’t trade my time with them for anything, sometimes, it just feels difficult to keep my cool.

After the bath, we sat down for dinner (hubby grilled and it was really good – more on that in a different post), and then, before I could wrap my brain around flying solo for another few hours, he was out-the-door and off to a men’s meeting. Sometimes I’m so jealous of him…adult conversation, great food prepared by people who actually, truly know what they are doing, a change of scenery… Anyway, after allowing some outside play time, I decided to forgo baths for the oldest two and put them right to bed. I then fed and gave the baby a bath and put her in the swing for her “bedtime nap,” which at this stage has been from about 9pm to 2am. Sometimes, I take her to bed early (she sleeps in our room), but most times, like last night, I just burn the late-night-oil while she sleeps, and we go upstairs together once she wakes.

Since she was sound asleep (along with the rest of the house), I decided to take a shower (I was reaching the 36 hour mark – gross, right?!). I made the mistake of thinking I could rest on the bed and read Facebook posts for awhile afterwards.  Within five minutes, I had fallen asleep. Not a deep sleep, more like that foggy twilight sleep, but not-all-there nonetheless. Thankfully, I was startled awake around midnight by Ava, who had to go to the bathroom. Once I helped her back to bed, I went back downstairs to check on Miri, and the disgustingly large pile of dishes that I had allowed to accumulate throughout the day practically smacked me in the face. I was in total avoidance mode after putting the kids to bed, so I baked a chocolate cake and topped it with a homemade salted peanut butter frosting rather than tackle any of the mess left from dinner. All of the dishes were still on the island (where we eat meals most nights now that I have chairs), and the dishwasher was full of clean dishes needing to be put away.

I almost said, “Forget it. They’ll just have to wait until tomorrow.” But I pictured my husband trying to get his breakfast and coffee in the morning, and struggling to maneuver around the mess. I decided that I would just knock it out and be done with it for both our sakes. So that’s what I did. I put all of the clean dishes away, loaded the dishwasher to the max, wiped down the counters, stove, and island, poured myself a glass of water, and looked at the clock. Just 10 minutes. That’s all it took for me to tackle that disaster. 10 little minutes.

It was then that I kind of looked back on my hectic day and recounted the good moments…

I made a conscious effort to read my Bible yesterday morning. I sat down at the island with my cup of coffee and read from Proverbs. I knew it was at least a good attempt to start my day off on the right foot. I need to be in the Word. I need to read the Bible. I need, need, need it. It felt so good to grab that little slice of time. It was probably about 10 minutes.

I stopped what I was doing when Eden was having a meltdown. I scooped her up and held her. She was still being a pill and squeezed my chest – hard and on purpose. I scolded her and she cried. You know, if you are a nursing mama, that kind of stuff can really, really hurt! I let my flesh respond to her and wasn’t understanding. She didn’t know how badly that would hurt me, and I yelled at her. I felt so guilty when her little lip quivered and she started to cry in my arms. In an attempt to apologize, I told her that Mommy was sorry for yelling, and I tried my best to communicate to her that she had hurt me. Then, I started giving her nose-kisses. You know, the ones where you rub noses – eskimo kisses.  She responded in a way that totally melted my mama-heart. She began sniffing my lips and cheeks, and stared into my eyes, like she was exploring my face for the first time. Rubbing her little nose against mine, she’d crack a smile and giggle. It was so unbelievably peaceful. Looking back on it now, it too probably only lasted 10 minutes, but it changed the entire course of a bad situation and served as a beautiful time of bonding between the two of us. Mamas of multiples, you know those moments can be rare. We’re so busy, busy, busy that it’s hard to remember to slow down and make those pockets of preciousness happen. Just 10 minutes.

I listened to Ava read her school books…10 minutes. 

I helped Ava sort toys in the playroom…10 minutes. 

I played with and cooed at Miri on our bed…10 minutes. 

I sat and held Isla after her nap…10 minutes…

Thinking about those things and what a positive impact they made on me, my children, our day…it hit me. 10 minutes to “better”. That’s all it takes. So, today I am putting it to the test. Even if I have to set a timer, I am going to take 10 minutes of every hour today to make something better…

10 minutes to:

  • tidy up a room
  • snuggle a baby
  • play with a little one
  • read a few stories
  • stretch out on the floor and just breathe
  • walk around outside
  • dance to a few songs
  • worship to a few songs
  • read the Bible
  • enjoy my coffee or a cup of tea
  • call a friend
  • work on a task/chore
  • declutter

I’m already looking forward to what this day can bring if I make 10 minutes intentional.

Try it and share!  What did you accomplish in just 10 minutes?

xo,
Kristi

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