Motherhood Matters

Lily and I are rocking back and forth, back and forth in the worn chair in her room.  She is stroking my neck as I pray words of affirmation and encouragement over her.  I stop and ask quietly, 'would you like to pray, Lily?'  She says yes, folds her hands and starts mumbling softly under her breath, talking to Jesus 'in her heart'.  She then prays aloud and thanks God for her 'beautiful Mommy' and her 'princess Mommy' and her Mommy that has 'beautiful hair'.  My mouth slowly turns upwards into a wide smile and I feel my eyes wet with tears. This girl of mine is saying the most wonderful things about me.  And she doesn't even know that I haven't washed my 'beautiful hair' in five days.

How in the world does my almost three year old know to pray these things?  How does she know her words bring power and meaning?  By the end of her prayer, it clicks.  She is saying these wonderful things because night after night after night I have been thanking God for her.  I thank God for the way she is kind and sweet to her brothers, how she makes us laugh, the way she is friendly to the people around her.  (I leave out: 'please help Lily to keep her hands to herself when her brother does something irritating and please, God, help her to obey when I tell her to please put on her underwear'.  Yes, I leave those out.) I have been doing this for months and my Lily has caught on and is experimenting with this thing called prayer.

Five minutes of prayer time with my Lily taught me so much.  It taught me what I do matters.  It taught me she is always watching and listening.  It taught me I absolutely have an incredible influence on each and every one of my children.

Not every day or moment is as sweet and momentous as that five minutes before bed with Lily, but everyday and every moment matters.  It matters how I respond and react and communicate with my babes.  It matters how much I tell them I love them.  It matters if my face is in front of my phone all day or my eyes are gazing their way.  These things all matter because Kevin and I are the single most influential people in their lives.  I would do well to remember that.

The simple prayer from my baby girl reminded me I am vital in Luke, Lily, and Jude's lives.  I'm not just feeding, clothing, and bathing children.  I'm not just keeping them alive from day to day.  (Although those things alone equate to a full time job.)  I am building character.  I am (hopefully) modeling Christ-like love to them and our friends and neighbors.  I am teaching them about laughter and family and making a meal and relationships and Jesus and nature and prayer.

This motherhood gig is not a runner-up career.  It's not second-best and it's not just a supporting role. It's the whole shebang.  It's important.  It's vital.  It's necessary if we want our earth populated with loving, caring, kind human beings.  Whether you are a stay-at-home momma or a momma working 9-5, your motherhood role is imperative and influential for your babes.

I know I'm preaching to the choir, but sometimes we all need a reminder that being a mom is more than wiping bottoms and putting our littles in time-out. Moms matter.  Deeply and immensely.

So, if no one tells you today...

Momma, you are important.  You are loved.  Your work day in and day out for your family matters to them and to God.  You are shaping the minds and character of tomorrows mothers and fathers and teachers and scientists and aunts and cousins and neighbors and politicians and pastors and caregivers. 

Those five minutes with Lily will forever be embedded in my memory and my heart.  And if I didn't know before, I know now.  My sweet girl doesn't know the difference between five day old hair and newly washed hair. #blessherheart 

And Motherhood matters. 


Sunny Saturday

Fall might be just around the corner, but it still feels a bit like summer here on the Trail.  It hit 90 degrees a couple days this week and as badly as I wanted to pull on my sweat pants, mother nature had me reaching for my shorts for a little while longer.

Our homeschool routine is getting a little bit better each week and I feel like we maybe, could be, in a bit of a groove.  I have had to say 'no' a few times to friends getting together and playdates, but I know it's all part of this season.  We try and say 'yes' as much as we can, but know we need to be home a certain number of days during the week to complete preschool activities.

This week I'm sharing some things that made this week a bit sunnier.

Youtube.  As a new homeschooler, I have been using Youtube for mini lessons and songs and a reward for completed school work.  They are almost always short and under ten minutes, but they provide value to our learning and give Luke an extra incentive to get his work done.  

Our preschool theme this month is apples.  We have been painting with apples, performing apple experiments, counting with apples, and reading loads of books about apples.  Even though we have a plethora of apples right outside our door, a friend asked us to go to the apple orchard and it was a perfect way to tie everything together.  Tress, Shrubs, and More is a sweet orchard.  It is small and quiet and my littles loved running down the rows and pulling their wagons while apples bobbed inside.  After we tasted all the apples we could, we went to the nursery and I picked up this ornamental kale and purple aster.  The kids helped me plant them this week and they look so fall-y on the back deck.

As most of you know, I am an avid reader of anything in the genre of simple living.  I recently subscribed to a quarterly online magazine called Simplify Magazine.  I signed up for a lifetime subscription for a mere twenty bucks and have loved every single article that has come across my screen.  Two of my favorite simple living gurus, Joshua Becker and Tsh Oxenreider, created this magazine, among others.  You can still snag a lifetime subscription for $20 if it's something that peaks your interest.

As I mentioned in my last post, Kevin's parents are raking in the homegrown goodies.  They have been so generous with their zucchini and I have been baking bread like it's 1950.  This zucchini bread is so tasty, my kids will stuff it into their tiny mouths any chance they get.  In college I would make zucchini bread with a hand held shredder like those mommas doing their thing in the 50s and this time around I am using my food processor and it. is. life. changing. I can whip this bread up and have it in the oven in twenty minutes.  It's perfect for a mid morning snack break.

I am spending today celebrating a friend's birthday and then it's football, football, football all weekend long.  Hope you have a Sunny Saturday wherever you may be today! 


Sunny Saturday

I know fall is officially a few weeks away, but everyone knows after Labor Day it's okay to pick apples, order a pumpkin spice latte, and cozy up in leggings and sweaters (weather permitting).  I'm not in full fledged fall mode, yet, but this week we did sleep with our windows open a few nights and pick some pumpkins because the kids were begging to...so I guess I'm easing into it.  

Today I'm sharing some in-progress fall things that made my week a bit sunnier.

My in-laws are pros at growing things on the farm.  Bless them, we get to benefit from the apples, zucchini, squash, grapes, and green beans they have carefully grown from seed to plant this time of year.  We have been eating all we can of the fresh produce and have enjoyed picking apples every chance we get. On Monday we even borrowed their juicer and made fresh apple juice.  The kids love this time of year almost as much as I do.  Luke has been begging to make a pie, so we are going to try this recipe sometime soon, with a Pillsbury crust of course because momma doesn't have time for that.

It was a Cooking Club week.  Horray for extra time with girlfriends!  My cup was filled in the midst of our first days of homeschooling.  I needed some adult conversation, friends.  My friend, Nicole, picked the theme of Mexican night and it was simply delightful.  The food was over the top and the conversation just what I needed this week.  My friend, Lydia, literally threw together this incredible dessert and we all were speechless as we ate it.  She did something similar to this ice cream cake, except substituted roasted pumpkin seeds for cornflakes and put a layer of salted chocolate sauce in the middle.  There isn't much I wouldn't do for another piece of that deliciousness.

Football.  Kevin and I always look forward to the last weekend in August because: football.  My Hawkeyes are playing his Cyclones today and you can better believe our house will be divided for a few hours this weekend...all in good fun.  This is the one time we will fight over who gets to dress all the children.

Many of you know our family took a two week road trip a few weeks back.  It was absolutely wonderful, but I did lose a few house plants during our time away. I feel it's my duty to tell you about one of the few that made it.  This jade plant looks exactly the same since the first day I planted it.  After two weeks without water or sun rotation, it is still kicking.  This is a public service announcement for all you black thumbed girls like me.  It seems this plant can't be killed.

This last one was a gift from a dear friend.  This Be You print from lovewell handlettered means a lot to me because I have found myself in a season of rediscovering who I am not just as a mom, but as a woman.  Motherhood is my dream come true and part of my identity.  However, God created me with other gifts to use on this journey.  I am working on honing in on those gifts and using them for good.  

I hope you have a great weekend.  I could be hiding all the Cyclone gear before the game starts this morning in hopes all three of my littles will be adorned in Hawkeye attire.  If I can pull it off, you can catch it on Instagram.  Have a Sunny Saturday all!


7 months

'You're such a cuuuuute baby.  Yessss youuuu are.'

Those are the words that escape Lily's mouth almost every time she lays eyes on her baby brother.  There is no doubt, he is loved.

Our Jude is 7 months young today.  He is acting like a nine month old and I just can't handle all he is doing these days.  He is making his baby days fly by.  Here is what Jude has been up to this past month:

  • Jude is crawling and standing and this makes him happy.  He is on the move, all the time.
  • Apples, pears, peas, strawberries, peaches...Jude loves food.  He is eating with us these days and gets giddy when he sees a baby pouch appear.
  • Bottles are another one of Jude's favorite things.  He nurses three times a day and gets three bottles a day.  He is most definitely our chunkiest baby.
  • Jude loves to be kissed and snuggled and loves it when raspberries are blown on his belly or arm or neck. 
  • As much as Jude loves standing or crawling, he wants to be held often.  We don't mind, most of the time.
  • Jude takes two significant naps a day and sleeps from 7-7 at night.  We started sleep training when we returned from vacation and he is catching on.
  • Bathtime is officially done in the bathtub these days and is needed everyday.  He is a mess from eating food and needs to be dunked and scrubbed every night.  
  • Winter is going to be brutal for Jude because he loves being outside in the sun.  He has also discovered the swing this past month and can't get enough.

We just love this kid to pieces.  Slow down big guy.


Sunny Saturday:

A glorious three day weekend is ahead of us.  And we have zero plans in permanent marker on the calendar.  There could be some farmer's market strolling.  There could be naps for the whole family.  There could be a Quarry visit.  There could be a few pancake-making slow mornings.  I pray there is a lot of slowness to the next three days.

This week I'm sharing some things that made the last seven days a bit sunnier.

First up, routine people.  We slowly, but surely are back into a routine.  We did some 'practice' days of school this week and I tried a few different formats and ideas to see what would work and not work.  Also, my children are back on their nap schedules.  #allthepraisehands  I love the back to school season for a lot of reasons (like the pretty school supplies and football), but the number one reason my heart flutters when September rolls around is routine.  

Next up is MOPS.  I am a big believer in the power of a great community of women and MOPS is it.  If you are a momma with toddlers, I urge you to check them out.  I am starting to get emails about upcoming meetings in the next few weeks and I am absolutely giddy with excitement.

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider.  I read Tsh's new book At Home in the World and I decided I need to read more of her words.  She resonates with me and I pretty much devour any simple living book I can get my hands on.  

Sunflowers are beautifying the farm.  They are the blooms that close out summertime and make these last few 80 degree weeks absolutely stunning.  I can see them popping over my fence from anywhere in my kitchen.  They make the landscape outside our back door a teensy bit whimsical.

Table grapes.  Have you ever picked grapes?  My mother-in-law and father-in-law have a vineyard and we had the luxury of picking grapes this week.  The kids had so much fun and I'm not sure I have ever tasted better grapes than grapes right off the vine.  I highly suggest finding a pick-your-own-berry farm in your area and taking your kids to pick apples, peaches, grapes, or any other fruit that is in season right now.  (If you live in my area, shoot me a text and you can come over and I'm sure we can find something for you to pick.) It is so worth it.

Cheers for a slow three day weekend!  Hope you all have a Sunny Saturday!


Sharing the Love: Road Trippin' with Littles

We just returned from a twelve day journey around the state of Iowa and Wisconsin.  We experienced a lot of incredible places right here in the Midwest.  We tried new restaurants and slept in different beds.  We traveled to the middle of Tourist Trap USA and roasted hot dogs in the middle of nowhere Iowa while staying in a log cabin.  And we endured lots and lots and lots of tears and sibling disputes.  #keepingitreal

Yes, our road trip was equal parts magical and hard.  It was amazing to be together nonstop for twelve days and also a teensy bit crazy.  It stretched us and challenged us and made us a more united family.  It was probably one of my most favorite trips of all time, some because of the slowness of it and mostly because I was with my people.  And we stayed within a seven hour drive of our house.  Proof that you don't have to travel far to have a good time.

Our trip started off seeing family.  Our home base for four days was at my brother-in-law and sister-in-law's home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  We saw great-grandparents and the kids were able to play with their cousins for three nights in a row.  It was a full four days, but so worth it to see our babes make memories with extended family members.

Next, we headed to New Glarus, Wisconsin to an old farm house.  The kids played for hours upon hours on the tire swings outside and we enjoyed visiting some coffee houses and breweries in the area.  I'll be honest, this wasn't my favorite stop, mainly because of the VRBO we were staying in, but it was good for me to be out of my comfort zone.  My mom came for a night (she was in the area) so Kevin and I could go out for a day date.  Bacon and eggs every morning made us feel like we were living on a working farm.  We also were able to visit a dairy farm and milk a cow and feed a calf.  Who knew that the most exciting thing would not be bottle feeding a calf, but playing with baby kittens?

After New Glarus we went to the Wisconsin Dells where we stayed at Great Wolf Lodge for two nights.  Guys, the kids couldn't get enough of it.  It was our first time and they loved it.  It is sensory overload, for sure, but getting a cabana helped and so did a set of grandparents.  Kevin's parents came to the Dells to help and it made our time there so much more enjoyable.

Our last spot was Fort Atkinson, Iowa near Decorah.  We stayed in a real life log cabin.  It was comfy, tastefully decorated, and had every amenity for a family of five.  The home was surrounded by woods and corn fields and we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows and enjoyed it immensely.  I might have had to visit an optometrist at this stop because I had a small glass bead in my eye (so random), but it was still one of my favorite parts of the trip.  I'm already trying to talk Kevin into a weekend getaway to that very spot sometime in the future.

I think the #1 thing I learned from our time away from home as a family was it was worth it.  It was most definitely hard, but so worth the uncomfortable mattresses, endless sibling arguments in the back seat, and living out of a suitcase.  The uninterrupted time together as a family was priceless, so was seeing our kids stretch themselves in the water at Great Wolf Lodge and figuring out that in fact Luke can sleep in a big bed off the floor all by himself.  I also learned that it's okay to be uncomfortable and not let my OCD get the best of me.  Kevin and I both learned to bite our tongues when things got a little hairy.  (This is what saved us.)  Although I would not classify those twelve days as a vacation at all, it was most certainly a trip that I will look back on fondly for a long time.

And the second most important thing I learned on the trip: take lots of family pictures.  GUYS, I did not get a good family picture over our span of twelve days in the car together.  I got precisely one family picture, you can see at the top of this post where Luke is hiding and Lily's face is still scarred from her run in with a poisonous plant in our yard.  What the what?  I know.  How is that possible, you ask?  I think it's because I have three babes?  I think it's because my husband isn't into pictures?  I think it's because I was more worried about nap time than a cute family picture on Instagram?  I think it's absolutely because I just kept forgetting.  Ugh!  Next road trip I will be that woman asking strangers to take pictures of her family at a random rest stop because no child is crying at that very moment.  Lesson learned.  

We are already dreaming up our next trip together as a family and if it is anything like this one, it will be just what we need when we need it.

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. -Lin Yutang

How lovely it is to travel and how lovely it is to come home.


Sunny Saturday: Road Trip Edition

Road trip.  Two weeks on the road, away from our beds, exploring small town Iowa and Wisconsin.  That is exactly what we have been up to the past twelve days.  We have finally returned home and you have no idea how much you miss your bed until you're away from it.  We love being on the road, but coming home just feels right.  

On our trip no one had to go to the emergency room (just an optometrist appointment for me), no one lost their cool (mostly), and no one decided to leave the group.  A win-win-win. 

I will share more details of our trip in another post, but today I’m sharing some things that made life on the road a bit sunnier.

Jen has done it again.  I can’t put down her newest book, Of Mess and Moxie.  It is absolutely what I expected of Jen Hatmaker, except, as always, much much better.  I have nodded my head and laughed out loud and gotten that true, deep down feeling that someone else completely gets my life.  Thanks Jen for writing the words my brain is thinking and my soul is feeling. 

Queen Annes Lace has made our driving so sweet and beautiful.  The ivory blooms are sprouting along every highway and interstate and I’m absolutely not tired of seeing them.  I did the unthinkable and pulled over to pick some to place in a glass at the VRBO we stayed in last few week.  These blooms make me happy.

Small town bakeries.  My heart of hearts loves a good bakery.  The smell of fresh bread and sweet pies and cookies and brownies makes me feel like I’m exactly where I should be.  The past few weeks I was able to visit a few bakeries and enjoy cherry donut holes (my very favorite donut), a kitchen sink cookie, a turnover, a scone, chocolate cake, and other calories I am trying to forget.  I had to hold myself back from taking home a whole pie to feed my crew for dinner.

This trip included lots of family time with a sprinkle of seeing friends.  Although the time with family wasn’t long, it was much needed and filled my bucket.  Our kids playing with their cousins and seeing their great grandparents was super special.  We played in parks, went on boat rides, ate brownies in our pajamas, and learned how to fish and hunt for eggs that hens have layed.  My prayer is our babies will remember moments of this time with our family.

This is no secret, but my husband is a rock star.  As I write this, I am sitting at a bakery eating that kitchen sink cookie and having an hour to myself.  The kids are at the farmhouse napping and he shooed me out of the house to go enjoy some time away.  I wouldn’t want to do a two week road trip with three babes with anyone but him.  Bless his sweet little heart.

I hope you are having a Sunny Saturday wherever you may be today.  We are going to be enjoying home sweet home as much as we can.  Hope you have a Sunny Saturday, all!

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