How to Survive Your Independent Toddler

This post was sponsored by WaterWipes as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review.

My Emma is EXTREMELY independent. She reminds me of it several times per day. She’ll push my hand away and go, “I can do it to myself.”

Fine. Whatever, kid. I’ll be waiting in the other room when you come to the realization that you are too short to reach pretty much anything. Just give me a call when you determine that you actually have no idea how to put your fitted sheet back on your bed (because I barely do). I want you to grow up to stand up for yourself and blaze your own trail, but today is not that day. Today, I just need you to chill out and let me buckle you in to your car seat.

She starts first thing in the morning and never lets up. She wants to open all the doors herself, change her own diaper, get her own clothes out of the top drawer, make her own breakfast, and the list goes on. If I get just a little too busy with the other two kids, she takes matters into her own hands. I’ll turn around and find she’s brought the step stool from the bathroom into the kitchen and is attempting to pull the jug of milk off the top shelf of the fridge. Geez, girl.

The level of tears and tantrums I deal with on the daily, because she wants to “do it to herself,” borders on the ridiculous. When you’re two, and you have two siblings, there is only so much you are able to do and only so much your mom can allow you to do and only so much independence your mom can deal with before losing her ever-loving mind. Lately, the battles have been escalating beyond my threshold of sanity, so I’ve adopted a few tactics to help me get through these independent toddler days.

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How to Move Without Breaking a Sweat

This is a sponsored post written in partnership with HireAHelper. Though I was provided with discounted services in exchange for my review, all opinions remain my own.

I have a superpower.

Every single time we move, I barely break a sweat. In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I’d share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness expertise.

In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I'd share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness/expertise.

Tip #1 – Have a major scheduling conflict

2004: First apartment

When we got married, I moved into our first apartment a month before the wedding. It just so happened that our move-in date conflicted with my bridal shower. OOPS! My soon-to-be husband did all the moving for me with one of his buddies because I was simply unavailable.

Sorry, babe. I’m too busy eating finger sandwiches and ripping through gift wrap to move furniture.

2007: Move in with the in-laws

Before we moved to L.A. for Nathan’s business school program, we moved in with my in-laws for a couple months. I was still working full-time, while my hubby was not, so… OOPS!.. he had to do most of the grunt work while I made all the Benjamins. 

2007: Move to Los Angeles

Nathan and I had committed to lead a short-term mission trip to South Africa late that summer which overlapped with moving into our L.A. apartment. Enter Nathan’s amazing L.A. cousins. They jumped in and coordinated with some friends in San Diego to drive our moving truck to L.A. and move-in for us while we were ministering on another continent. Serving the Lord overseas is a very handy way of getting others to organize your kitchen for you.

Tip #2 – Have a pathetically ill or injured spouse

2009: Move in with in-laws

We moved in with my in-laws again after Nathan finished school. This time, I benefited from two tactics: 1) I had a major scheduling conflict due to the fact that I was working full-time far from our apartment while he was not, and 2) Nathan threw out his back which required outside assistance. Our friends felt so bad hearing about our pathetic circumstances, that they jumped into action, coming to take orders from Nathan as he lay on the floor in pain.

2009: Move to Illinois

I planned a surprise birthday/going away party for Nathan a couple days before all our stuff was being shipped to Illinois. The problem was, he got SUPER sick. He was so sick that the going away party turned into a “load up the shipping crate” party since he was likely out of commission for the next couple days. He laid in his parent’s guest room while our friends loaded furniture at his command. Bless.

In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I'd share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness/expertise.

Tip #3 – Get Pregnant or Have a Newborn

2011 & 2013

Nothing makes people insist upon helping you like seeing you struggle with new parenthood OR hearing you are pregnant with twins. Believe me. When we had a 5-week-old baby and were preparing to move across the country, we couldn’t get our friends to stop showing up with dinner, ready to pack some boxes. When I was entering my second trimester with twins and chasing around a toddler, you better believe our family and friends came to the rescue. In general, no one feels good about a brand new mom or super pregnant friend sweating over a move without offering, or insisting upon, assistance.

Tip #4 – Get Desperate

2009: Unpacking in Illinois

When we moved to Illinois, we didn’t know a soul. Remember how I mentioned in tip#2 that my husband had both thrown out his back AND gotten ridiculously ill during TWO moves in the SAME year? Yup. So now we found ourselves preparing to unload a giant shipping crate full of furniture with just the two of us. In winter. In Illinois. I got desperate. I e-mailed a local church that we were checking out and asked if they had any young married small groups willing to help us unload. They did. Fourteen of the very best, kindest, most hilarious and wonderful people I have ever met showed up at my new home on a Sunday after church and completely set up our home for us. And became our best friends for two years. Actually, forever.

Tip #5 – Hire Help

Present Day

You guys. We’ve done this enough times to know we aren’t spring chickens. Nathan keeps getting sick and throwing his back out. I have THREE children under the age of 5 to wrangle while packing boxes. We are in our 30’s and so are our friends, with their own brood to look after. No amount of beer or pizza is going to bribe a 30-something dad to throw his back out with his buddy who will also throw his back out when at this point in life they need their backs to not be out because of the diaper changing and LEGO building responsibilities at home. And we moms have enough messes and nonsense to deal with without lugging boxes and furniture. We are, after all, responsible for keep our children from crushing themselves under the weight of the china you got 12 years ago but have never used.

Since I’m not getting pregnant anytime soon, and hopefully Nathan isn’t throwing his back out or getting sick, and I had no scheduling conflicts to speak of, we decided to make the reasonable choice and hire help. HireAHelper to be exact.

In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I'd share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness/expertise.

Praise Jesus and His Holy Name for HireAHelper.

Can I tell you how glorious this was? Wait. First, let me clarify. We are not like Scrooge McDuck, swimming in our vault full of gold coins. We have three money-sucking young children. We do not have Benjamins just lying around begging to be spent, so we needed to make a wise FINANCIAL choice when we moved.

HireAHelper is so worth every penny, and actually, didn’t cost that many pennies. Here’s how it goes down. You rent a truck, then use HireAHelper to book local movers to load and unload for you. WAY cheaper than traditional full-service moving companies, and still seriously amazing.

Three very respectful and responsible young men (geez, I sound old) showed up in matching shirts and CARRIED ALL OF THE THINGS. They quickly and efficiently loaded up our moving truck, carefully protecting our obviously precious furniture, what with the juice box stains and Mac N’ Cheese fingerprints. (We are very fancy.)

They DISASSEMBLED OUR DINING ROOM TABLE for us, you guys! AND. AND!!! Brought all the heavy bedroom furniture downstairs over baby gates and everything without crashing to their death.

In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I'd share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness/expertise.

When we showed up at our new place, they hustled like nobody’s business to unload that truck, REASSEMBLE a bunch of furniture, put everything where we wanted (and even move a few things when we changed our minds), all the while with politeness and professionalism. They called me “Ma’am” and Nathan “Sir.” Seriously.

The best part. The very very best part was that when they left, we still had the energy to put stuff away and set up our home. We were legitimately moved in the very first day while barely breaking a sweat. MY STREAK IS ALIVE, FRIENDS! No need for pregnancy or untimely illness! Just HireAHelper!

I have to say I highly recommend using HireAHelper for your next move. Definitely check them out, especially if Tips #1-4 ain’t workin’ for ya.

In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I'd share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness/expertise. (Photo credit: Nicolas Huk/Flickr)

In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I'd share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness/expertise. (Photo Credit: Guy Kilroy/Flickr)

Our Father

Did you ever watch Mad Men?

There’s a scene where Betty Draper is watching TV. President Kennedy had just been shot. The country and the characters on the show are still reeling from his assassination. Everyone is glued to their televisions, watching follow-up stories and trying to make sense of it all, including Betty.

In this particular scene, she’s mesmerized by the screen, shell-shocked from days of grieving over the earth-shattering loss of the president. She’s searching the face of the man on TV, Lee Harvey Oswald, as he’s being transferred to another prison. Her face is fierce yet fragile, obviously shaken by the recent tragedy but also teaming with anger. Then shouts ring out. And she shouts.

“What is going ON?!”

My sentiments exactly. In the shadow of recent events, with my own eyes glued to various screens, the questions I can’t help but repeat is: What is going on?


Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us of our trespasses,
as we forgive those that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

I grew up Catholic. These words are familiar in my mouth, nostalgic and comfortable.

When I accepted Christ in 1998, these words took on new meaning. The were no longer meaningless ritual. They became powerful and precious. They are the words of Christ pulling the veil, providing an open pathway to the Creator of the universe. They represent our ability to approach our Lord through our Savior, to speak directly to our Maker in conversation, worship, gratitude and communion.

Our Father, who art in heaven

I don’t know about you, but I’m overwhelmed with our world. With the tragedies of late and political climate of our country and world. I’m weighed down on all sides by the life directly in front of me (like getting my kids to PUT THEIR FREAKING PANTS ON ALREADY!) and the big, bad world beyond. I find myself moment by moment in need of a Father, a loving Parent, listening, caring, comforting me from on high. I find myself crying out to Him and desiring Him more than ever when everything I can see is nothing short of terrifying.

Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.

In the wake of bathroom controversies, presidential debates, parental criticism, horrendous massacres, we all cry out. The news, social media, conversations overflow with a call for God to come, to bring His kingdom, to step in, here and now. Save us, help us, show UP, Jesus. Rain down on the injustice, atrocities, ignorance, bigotry, just plain sin. Rain down, bring Your kingdom, bring Your peace, bring Your justice, we plead. Bring it here, bring it now.

Give us this day our daily bread,
And deliver us from evil.

We edit this precious prayer of His. I know I do. Unknowingly, unintentionally, or maybe more intentionally than I’d like to admit. Keep me safe, keep me comfortable, make life easy and carefree. Remove the evil that I see around me. In other people, other lifestyles, other choices, other cultures, other beliefs. Remove the judgement and the hate and the stupidity and the opposition to my way of life that surrounds me. But not IN me. In me? For me? Just provide, please. Keep me comfortable and safe and easy breezy. Keep my fridge full, my gas tank full, my weather good, my children good, my home large and clean and cute and cool in the summer months. That’s all, amen.

As mothers are losing their babies to alligators and gunmen. As men and women and children seek refuge from Syria and suburbia alike. As my countrymen gather ’round at hate-filled rallies and form sanctimonious sisterhoods online. As we, all of us, myself included, prove daily our need for forgiveness and regeneration and God’s patience in waiting before He brings the final judgement. In this place, I edit my prayer.

My precious prayer to my gracious Lord.

I forget the Hallowedness of His Name. I forget my need to receive forgiveness. I forget my role as an intercessor on the part of my so-called enemies. We ask for justice and peace and comfort and judgement on this earth, forgetting to whom we speak.

I have no answers for the news. The events of our time seem more gruesome and heartbreaking by the day. The only answer that seems to make any sense ever is the Sunday School one.

Jesus.

And in His instruction to prayer.

A prayer that starts with recognizing our hallowed Lord, giving Him glory and honor and praise. A prayer that includes confession of our sins and intercession on behalf of other sinners, as well.

Sisters. This world is making me sad. The way things are, these last few weeks especially, and this year to come. It’s so easy for me to cry out,

“What in GOING ON?!”

“Where are you? Do something! Go get the bad guys, and don’t forget to keep me safe. I’m worried, Lord, and scared. Bring heaven here. Make this life easy and peaceful. Give me a leader that makes sense. Give me sane neighbors who won’t shoot me. Give me protection from people and predators by land and by sea. I want ease and peace and comfort, oh please. Amen.”

That’s not a BAD prayer, but I know I’m missing out. I know I’m missing real comfort and peace by not praising His name. I’m missing real ease of spirit by not interceding on behalf of crazed gunman and politicians who could use the same forgiveness I receive.

Through my fear for our future as a nation and a culture. Through my fear for my future as a stay-at-home, soon-to-be homeschooling mom, with chronic depression. Through my fear of so many things locally and globally.

Because there will always be sin and injustice in this terrifyingly worrisome world. Because I will always be ill-equipped and unable to control my children or my country.

Through all this, because of all this and more, I need to pray this prayer. This WHOLE prayer. Unedited and unfettered.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are His, not mine. Now and forever. Amen.

Preparing Your Heart for Motherhood

Motherhood.

I remember that very final moment, just before the birth of my son. The climax of anticipation for this very second. The pureness of fear and fullness of heart. If ever there were truly a time in my life when I thought my heart would actually burst, the split second before I crossed the threshold into motherhood.

Then I held him in my arms and wave after wave of new emotion crashed. The relief and joy and shock and awe. And tears. Of course, the tears.

I had everything I needed in my hospital bag, a nursery at home fully stocked, friends and family eager to assist with meals and visits, but in no way was I prepared for motherhood. Not even close.


I’m honored to be a contributor over at Beauty in the Mess. You can read the rest of this post over there!

The Comfort of Home

This is a sponsored post in partnership with Downy Fabric Conditioner for SheSpeaks/P&G.

We moved to a new home recently. It’s been a little rough on the kids.

I’ve noticed their sensitivity, rivalry, bad attitudes, and unexpected fears. My son doesn’t like the noise the house makes after the toilets get flushed. My daughter doesn’t like the darkness of her room. Everyone is just a little tender at all this newness.

Mostly, we all love it here. Really, we couldn’t be happier. The neighborhood is beautiful. The house is light and airy. Lots of space, a great layout, plenty of storage. The kids really do love it, too. It’s just plain nice here.

But.

They are all still tender. It’s all still new. It’s all still a little bit hard to adjust to.

I’m trying to make things as comfortable and familiar as possible, even in this drastically new space. The same beds and books and toys and schedule. The same foods and tv shows and life in general. Just a new house.

My son was so funny the first few days. He would recount all the things that were the same.

“Hey! Same family!”

“Mom! Same toys!”

“Look! Same Time Out Chair!”

Yup, buddy. The Time Out Chair made the move, too. It’s just a new house.

I can tell how incredibly thankful they are for the sameness, how much they cling to the familiar. Their dolls and books and clothes and blankets. I don’t know where we would be without their blankets.

I’ve carried their trusty, old blankets up and down these new stairs more times than I can count. In our old house, overflowing with the familiar, my kids would gladly leave their blankets in their rooms to remain until nap or bedtime. (Well, accept Katie, but she’s our little hoarder.) But here, with the overwhelming newness, the blankets travel hither and thither, never too far out of sight.

I could barely squeeze in a wash using Downy Fabric Conditioner, because you’ve gotta #ProtectClothesYouLove. (Which, P.S. MOMS: You can get at your local Walmart! You’re welcome.) I need to protect the familiar. Keep safe the comfortable. Carefully guard my children’s security when surrounded with so much change.

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I need these blankets to last. I need them to serve my children (and maintain my sanity) when changes occur. I’m thankful that Downy Fabric Conditioner protects these precious treasures for me and my children, keeping safe their most prized possessions.

It may be a new house, but the things that matter stay the same. Their family, this love, this comfort, THIS is home. And the softness of their beloved blankets, the color and shape and texture, all remain the same as well (with Downy’s help, of course). These things mean so much to my little ones, the security of an unchanging security blanket reinforcing the never-ending love and support of the parents who wrap them in it.

We sat on the floor today, eating apples and reading books, each one wrapped up in a soft blanket of love and comfort and safety.

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Even after they’ve outgrown these blankets, THIS will be with them forever. This family, this steadfast comfort, this unconditional love. It is unshakeable and unchanging, and it’s my gift to them. May the care I take of these special blankets be a reminder to them of the unshakeable comfort and love of this little family of ours. Because no matter the building, with one another, we are home.