Thursday, June 28, 2012

10 Survival Tips for Parents of Newborns

Bringing home a new baby is a joyful and exciting time. Inhaling that sweet baby smell, counting those itty-bitty toes, and rocking your precious bundle of joy is an indescribably amazing experience. However, it is also a time of adjustment and acclimation, especially if you have other children to take care of. 

We recently added a new baby girl to our family of four, so I can speak from experience that for the first few weeks I was in survival mode. Now, nearly two months after her arrival, we are beginning to find a different kind of normal. These 10 survival tips have helped me, and I hope they will help you, too!

1. Make your to-do list. Then cross everything off but 3 things.
When you have a new baby who eats around the clock and keeps you up at night plus other children to clothe and feed, you have to recognize that you can't do it all. Not right now at least. Something has to give. There will be a time when you actually can have clean floors and a sparkling bathroom and kitchen, but that time has not yet arrived.

I try to have one cleaning chore per week day: Laundry on Mondays {of course I do laundry throughout the week too, but Monday is the primary laundry day}, Floors on Tuesday, Bathrooms on Wednesday, Bedrooms on Thursday, and Kitchen on Friday.

2. If you have multiple children, try to establish simultaneous nap or quiet times for all children. 
You're exhausted. Give yourself a break and have everyone in their rooms at the same time either sleeping, reading, or playing quietly so you can rest. If you are pregnant, start preparing now by instituting a daily rest time so that when baby arrives, the other children will know that from say, 1-3, we rest. This one tip has been a lifesaver for me these past seven weeks.

3. Devise a meal plan with simple dishes.
There's nothing more stressful for a new mom than to wonder what's for supper every night. Instead, take some time over the weekend to prepare a menu for the week so that when dinner time rolls around, you aren't searching for ideas. Check out these detailed posts on the whys and hows of meal planning. Also, utilize your crock pot whenever possible. It's such a time saver!

4. Prepare supper throughout the day.
Most babies have a fussy period that starts just when Mama begins fixing dinner. It's aggravating {and dangerous} to try to fry bacon and hold a squalling baby. Instead, cook the meat, cut up the veggies, and prepare your sides during down times in the day so that when the witching hour begins, you can rock your fussy baby while dinner heats up in the oven.

5. Plan activities for the kids when you need to feed or rock the baby.
My kids need structure, so before it's feeding time or nap time for baby Annabeth, I prepare little projects for them to work on. Sometimes I will give each child a stack of books to "read" in their room: one in her crib, the other on her bed. Other times I will set out crayons, stickers, and drawing paper at the kitchen table for them to get artsy with or put in a short video to watch. Or I might give them some safe chores to do like cleaning their room, sweeping the floor, dusting, and putting away plastic dishes and silverware. Think of activities and chores your children can do safely without you. Trust me: When the cat's away, the mice will play.

6. Play with your kids while the baby sleeps.
It doesn't matter what you do, but do something together. The key is to spend good quality time with your older children while the baby is asleep. They may start to resent the baby if you are always preoccupied with feeding her, changing her, holding her, and putting her to bed, so be sure to play together. {FYI, I'll be starting our "31 Days of Play!" challenge next week, so check back for some fun ideas to use with your own kids.}

7. Get out!
It's easy to coop yourself up in the house with a newborn because they're always sleeping. But take advantage of that fact and get out of the house. The girls and I take a weekly trip to the library, farmer's market, and grocery store, and some weeks we visit the park. I try to stay home 1-2 days a week, but we all look forward to our days out. Everyone needs a change of scenery, especially Mama.

8. Never pass on an offer of food or help if you need it.
In the first month after Annabeth's birth, we were showered with delicious meals, which really helped me to focus on my family and not worry about buying groceries and preparing supper. I have had several people offer to take the older children so I can rest. I admit I haven't taken them up on their offers just yet because my sweet Mom still comes once a week to watch all three girls so I can run errands or simply sit alone in peace and quiet. But the point is: don't be too proud to accept help. Taking care of a newborn plus other children, a husband, a house, the bills, laundry, pets, etc. is tough. Let people help you, and when this season passes for you, return the favor.

9. Go to bed early. 
Our children are usually in bed asleep before 8:00, so after cleaning the kitchen, I usually write or surf the internet until 8:30 and read until 9:00 when my husband and I go to bed. Of course I am up feeding the baby once in the night and again around 5:30 in the morning, so my days start pretty early. I try to make up for lost sleep by going to bed at a decent hour instead of staying up late to catch up on work that I didn't get to during the day. Housework and filth will be there tomorrow. The opportunity to sleep, however, will not.

10. Enjoy this season; it's very brief.
Time has seemed to fly by since our Annabeth's arrival. She is almost two months old, which is hard to believe. There have been many days early on when she wasn't sleeping well that I had a bad attitude. I was easily annoyed by my kids and upset about the state of our house. But the truth is, things are already improving. Sure, there are tough days when I want to lock myself in the bathroom, but  trying to dwell on the positive. In a flash, our girls will be grown up and gone. Enjoy this time while you can!

What are your tips for Mamas of newborns with or without older children?


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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"What If She Doesn't Like Me?"


Ever since middle school when my best friend ditched me for the cool kids, I have feared being rejected. 

It's not a nice feeling. 

     Being ignored, overlooked, cast aside, left out.

     Being discarded like a moth-eaten sweater. 

Over the years I have worked very hard to avoid that feeling.


By playing it safe. 
By never really opening myself up. 
By keeping my distance.
By hiding behind the mask of "I'm fine. My life is perfect. I have no problems." 

That way no one will think less of me or see my insecurities, my neediness, my not-good-enough-ness.

My reasoning has always been that if I don't share who I am--the good, the bad, and the ugly--then no one can reject me. 

By not taking the risk of sharing myself with others, 
Yes, I have protected my heart.
Yes, I have kept myself from rejection.
Yes, I have painted a pretty picture of myself.

But, I have also:
Isolated myself. 
Missed out on many opportunities for lasting friendships. 
Lied to myself and others.
Stayed in my comfort zone so long that I am getting uncomfortable in it.

Can you relate?
It's easy for us as women to create and hide behind masks. We avoid vulnerability, even with other women, because we don't want to be hurt again. It's often safer to feign "fineness" rather than open ourselves up to others and risk rejection. 

The Solution

In Grace for the Good Girl, Emily Freeman hits the nail on the head when she shares the solution to conquering her own fears of rejection and vulnerability:

"Honesty before God is the only safe place, and I believe he is wise enough and loving enough and intuitive enough to usher us into honesty with people... A lot of my own heartache and struggles with the fake fine mask could be overcome if I simply allowed myself to be honest with God and trust him to lead me in being vulnerable with people" (55-56).

Being honest with God and trusting in Him to help us be vulnerable with people requires believing that He wants what is best for us and knowing that He promises to protect us:

"For in the day of trouble
     he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
     and set me high upon a rock."

Psalm 27:5

It means believing God will emancipate us from our fears if we earnestly seek Him:

"I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
     he delivered me from all my fears."

Psalm 34:4

God loves us.  

Any fears we have, whether fears of rejection, being alone, or not-good-enough-ness, are not from our loving Father but from Satan, the father of lies.

In 2 Timothy 1:17, Paul tells Timothy:

"For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline."

We need to stop trying to control our lives and give our King the opportunity to reign fully and completely within us. 

That means...
     Turning our fears over to Him.
     Trusting Him to take those unnecessary worries away.
     Being honest with ourselves and others.
     Allowing God to give us the relationships we desire.
     Removing the mask so others can see us for who we really are.

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter how many people reject us as long as we know to whom we will always belong.

Do you grapple with the fear of rejection? Can you turn it over to God today?

Praying God's richest blessings for you,

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Why You Really Should Boast in Your Weaknesses

"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I must admit that I have always struggled with Paul's words here. 

Boasting about my weaknesses? Is that a typo? Shouldn't we rather boast about our strengths? 

Do people really want to hear about how I struggle with perfectionism?  

Wouldn't they rather know that I once wrote a 100+ page thesis or that I graduated from college magna cum laude? 

Do people really want to know how much I fear being "found out"?  

Do I really want them to see that I am not as "with it," as responsible, or as smart as I pretend to be?

No, but...

I believe people want to see us for who we really are, the good and the bad. It's what makes us real. However, we are generally reluctant to admit our weaknesses. I would much rather people believe that "I'm fine" than share with them my struggles. To do so seems burdensome. Not to me but to them.

But to really share our struggles, to admit that we need help sometimes, would actually strengthen us.  

Paul tells us that being weak is really a source of strength. Not that his weaknesses in themselves made him strong, but they provided more opportunities for Christ's power to rest on him. That ubiquitous thorn in his flesh was not only a source of torment for Paul, but also a wellspring of delight.  

In his weaknesses, Paul became strong because his "thorns" made him less self-reliant and more dependent on the Almighty

In his weaknesses--not his strengths--Paul's character developed, and he was better able to minister to others because he shared with them in their struggles.

Likewise, when we accept our "thorns" and actually boast in them, we, too, lean more on God and less on ourselves, becoming a more effective witness for Him.

Do you find it easy to share your struggles with others, or is it easier to hide behind a mask of "I'm fine"? What "thorns" can you delight in today?

Blessings to you,


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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Let's Play!

"Play with them!" 

That's what my mom told me when I complained to her yesterday morning about not knowing if I could possibly home school our kids. My mom wisely reminded me though that right now what young children need most is time and space to play; real structured learning will come later.

My immediate response: "Play? How do I do that?"

I am not sure that I ever "played" as a child. My poor brother had to beg me to come outside and play with him because I was usually holed up in my room with a book. My idea of fun was learning something: I liked to memorize trivia and pretend to be a teacher and do workbooks. Yes, I was {and still am} a nerd.

My desire to play school has not ended; I simply have new pupils. However, like my little brother, these students prefer to run and draw and splash. And why shouldn't they? They are only kids. However, there is this ever-present voice inside my head that asks me: "Why isn't she reading yet?" And I start to get down on myself for not teaching her, for not knowing where to even start except that we read dozens of books every day.

My "31 Days of Play!" Challenge

So when my mom said, "Play with them!" The wheels started turning in my head, I pushed out {at least temporarily} my fears about my children being forever illiterate and started brainstorming ways we could play more together this summer. 

Notice I said "together" because I intend to play too! No reading, no surfing the blogosphere, no cleaning {ha!}. I need to learn how to relax and enjoy playing with my children, so that is what I intend to do.

Every day, beginning July 1st, I hope you will join us for "31 Days of Play!" We will have a new frugal activity each day from inside activities like arts and crafts and pretend play to adventures in the great outdoors like.  

Note: These activities will cost nothing or very little and most will require very little preparation because I am cheap and have only so much time in my day :)

I hope you will play with us in July!

Do you enjoy playing with your children? What are your favorite activities?

Blessings to you!


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Thursday, June 14, 2012

5 Steps to a Better Attitude

I have really been struggling lately. What with a new baby and two little ones with iron wills, I have experienced some parent burnout that has taken a toll. My husband suggested that I work on thinking more positively instead of always expecting the worst. 

My attitude has certainly needed some serious adjusting. 

Yes, my husband was right. Smart man.

After reading John C. Maxwell's chapter on attitude in Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow's Success, I came up with these five ways to a more positive attitude.

5 Steps to a Better Attitude

1. Look for the positive in every situation. See the good in every circumstance, no matter how difficult it may seem. For example, when your toddler wakes up before 6:00 a.m. with a dirty diaper, don’t expect that the day is ruined. Instead, view it as an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with her before her siblings wake up. 

2. Identify areas in which you are prone to frustration. Everyone has some area or areas in which you are easily irritated. These are what John Maxwell calls “bad attitude areas.” You can’t change your parents or your gender or race, but you can choose to change your attitude. Pinpoint your bad attitude areas and decide to change them. By identifying those areas, you can plan in advance how you will respond to them so that you will not automatically give in to negativity. 

For example, I hate to be late. However, with three small children including a newborn, we rarely arrive anywhere on time. Tardiness is one of my bad attitude areas. I have to make a real concerted effort to keep a positive attitude when we are late somewhere. Knowing that we are in a challenging season right now helps me to have a better attitude about being late.

3. Modify your vocabulary. Some of my most frequently used phrases are I can’t, I’m not sure, Maybe, and I don’t think. Watch out for negative words in your word hoard, and make every effort to eliminate them.

Here are some alternatives:

Instead of… 
I can’t
I can
I’m not sure
I will
I don’t think
I’m sure

The words you speak directly affect the way you think. Use positive words, and you will begin to think more positively!

4. Practice gratitude. Count your blessings. What has God blessed you with? Healthy children? A stable job? A committed spouse? A refrigerator full of food?  By focusing on the good things in your life instead of the bad or the not-good-enough, you will cultivate a positive outlook. 

When I become Eeyore-ish and have a pity party, I get out my “thank you” cards and write a note to someone who has blessed me recently. It helps me take the focus off of myself and to show gratitude to someone who may need a little encouragement herself.

5. Surround yourself with positive people. Nothing exacerbates a bad attitude like being in the presence of negative people. They seem to band together and feed off each other, don’t they?  Instead, find upward thinking people and gravitate toward them. When you are down, call on a “positive” friend; her company will lift you up. 

Developing a positive attitude is a CONSTANT struggle. It requires lots of prayer and periodic attitude checks throughout the day. However, just within the last few days, I have been able to tell that I am happier, more attentive and patient with our children, and more at peace than I have been in a long time. That’s because I’m not worrying as much but seeing the positive in even the worst situations.

What is your secret to a good attitude?


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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why a Father Matters

Fathers aren't celebrated today like mothers are. Rarely will you turn on the TV and see a strong, loving father. Instead, the media and Hollywood often depict fathers as absent, or if they are around, as stupid, wimpy deadbeats whose children are better off without them. While a truly present father who loves his wife and children, provides for them, and spends quality time with them is a rarity, he does exist. 

My own grandfathers, father, and husband are all examples of strong, loving fathers who have blessed their wives and children beyond measure. They have taken seriously their God-given roles and led their children to the Lord, maintained order by being the head, worked hard to feed their families, and provided discipline when necessary and love even more often.
In celebration of of these men and the countless other Godly fathers in the world, here are some reasons why I think a father truly matters.

A father matters because...

there's no one else who twirls his little girl like Daddy. 

only a Daddy knows how to let go of the little things like unruly hair and mismatched clothes.

 there's no one goofier and more fun than Daddy. 

  only a Daddy will wrestle with his children, giving them the physical touch and attention they crave.
only a Daddy will slip his child an extra dollar or two just because.

  it's Daddy's voice cheering from the sidelines that gives his child the courage and strength to endure.

there's just something special about going on a date with your Daddy. 
only a Daddy will take the time to teach his children how to do"manly" things like fix a flat tire, shoot a gun, or bait a hook.

a Daddy always has time to play, tickle, toss, and love on his children.
only a Daddy will encourage his children to climb higher and run farther and faster. 
sometimes only a Daddy's arms will do.
only a Daddy will push his children to be bold and take risks. 

who else will teach his sons how to respect women and his daughters how they should expect to be treated?
he teaches, trains, and disciplines his children out of love.

his example leads his sons and daughters to Christ.
he is the closest earthly example we have to our heavenly Father.

"Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you..."

Deuteronomy 5:16

I have been blessed with a generous and loving father who has always pushed me to be the very best at all I do. The Lord has also blessed me with a gentle and fun-loving husband who adores his girls and who teaches me daily how to relax and enjoy life in this very moment. I continually thank God for my Daddy and my children's Daddy.

If you have been blessed with a Christian father or a husband who is a Godly father, let him know today why he matters to you.

Blessings to you and your families this Father's Day,


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Friday, June 8, 2012

The Beauty of Boundaries: God's Design for His Children

Recently, I was talking to a friend who has a young child. She was expressing to me the challenges she has found in raising her son. As I listened, she described how she allows him "the freedom" to roam all over the house unrestricted, how she doesn't like disciplining him even though she knows he probably needs it, and how he doesn't have a set bedtime. I thought about the beauty of boundaries

Sure, raising children to be "free range" may be the latest trend, but is it really good for the child? As parents, we want to do what's best for our children. Usually, though, that means laying down some basic rules and disciplining our children when they break those rules. Most children would never institute rules for themselves and certainly far fewer would actually discipline themselves. Rather, rules and discipline are the responsibility of parents who love their children and desire their safety, both physical and spiritual.

This afternoon, in the still and quiet of the house, I was reading Psalm 119 when I came to these two verses: 

"I will walk about in freedom,
for I have sought out your precepts."

Psalm 119:45

"I remember your ancient laws, O Lord,
and I find comfort in them."

Psalm 119:52

We don't typically think of "precepts" as providing "freedom" or "laws" as a source of "comfort." Rather, most people today perceive rules as restricting and confining, something made to be broken. Yet, true freedom can only be found in obedience to God's commands. When we follow God's way and seek forgiveness when we stray, we are freed to be who God wants us to be and we are saved from the powerful grip of sin.

Children without rules and discipline will suffer. 


"Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.
Punish him with the rod
and save his soul from death."

Proverbs 23:13-14

What are your feelings about boundaries when it comes to raising your children?  Do you see them as restricting or freeing?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Feeling Cheated? Why We Need to Change Our Attitude Toward the Challenging Child

Have you ever wondered why God gave you this child? 


That question has weighed heavily on my mind lately as I reevaluate my expectations as a Mom and try to figure out the best ways to train our strong-willed children.

When you go out to dinner as a family, do you notice that the families around you have young children who sit in their seats with their hands folded, politely eat their meals making minimal mess, and talk at a normal volume while their parents are enjoying a real conversation?

Are you one of those families? {If so, what is your secret? I will pay big bucks for this information.}

Or are you the family whose kids are climbing out of their chairs, spilling full glasses of juice, and pitching a fit because they want to get down and run around the restaurant? Do you laugh at the thought of carrying on an adult conversation because you're too busy trying to keep everyone in line?

My husband jokes that we usually order our food and ask for the check in the same breath, but it's true. We leave the restaurant frustrated, upset that we couldn't enjoy the meal we paid hard-earned money for, and suffering heartburn because we shoveled our food down so fast.

Change the venue to church on Sunday, the grocery store, or even the park, and a similar scene will unfold. It doesn't matter if our kids have napped and eaten first; they will still generally make our experience less than pleasant because of their need to resist authority and pursue their own course. The strength of their will absolutely refuses to comply with their parents' wishes. They have a desperate need to assert themselves even in the most minute things. 

As I work through these challenges and prayerfully consider the Lord's will for me as a parent, I can't help but feel cheated, even a little resentful. It seems like everyone I know has quiet, well-behaved children but us. Of course I know that isn't the case, but often it sure seems to be true.

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward."

Psalm 127:3 

Still, in spite of my disappointment at times, I honestly believe that God gives us our children for a reason. We may not understand why some parents have compliant, easy-going children while others have terrors who continually wage war with them. But there is a reason.

God gives each of our children to us, not to punish us for some past sin, but to accomplish something in us--His children--to grow us in ways that only having and raising a child will do. 

For me, that means learning patience and gentleness with my strong-willed girls. I don't understand their need for power and control, but God has shaped and formed them in this way. They are made in His own image. It also means teaching my girls how to control their will: to reign it in when it becomes unruly but also how to wield it for God's glory in useful, productive ways.

Instead of viewing our children as a source of frustration, consider them an assignment given to us by our Great Teacher. An opportunity for our own growth and development as Christians. A method for testing and refining our patience, gentleness, and other Christian virtues.

Instead of dwelling on the difficulties our children present, consider the blessings that they have on us, transforming us into the Christian women God wants us to be.

Despite the difficulties of raising strong-willed children, we are promised by our heavenly Father that He will be with us and help us fulfill the tasks He sets before us, no matter how cumbersome. He will never give us more than we can bear.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, those who are called according to His purpose."

Romans 8:28

Do you ever feel a little resentful at times about the children God has placed in your care? If so, does it help to see them as opportunities for personal Christian growth?

I would love to hear from you!

Praying God's richest blessings on you as we grow in His glory,


Other related posts:
Parenting Isn't for Cowards: Training Strong-Willed Children
Are You Suffering From Parent Burnout?

For comments or questions, contact me at:

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