Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Brooks at 2 1/2

This morning, we had Brooks's 2 1/2 year check-up, and it dawned on me that this was probably a good time to blog a few things about him at this age that I want to remember. So, for no other reason that my own memory preservation, here are ten things about this incredible little boy that I want to remember about him at 2 1/2 years old. Let's go!

1. Pronouns are hard.
One of my favorite things about two-year-olds is their Caveman-speak. I hear a lot of "Me do it" or "Me have one" or "Me want that." As much as the grammar snob in me wants to correct it, I've been around this block enough times to know that it's fleeting, so I'm HIGHLY encouraging the "me" to stick around. ;) He will occasionally get the "I" part correct...but more often than not, he talks as "me." 

2. Kidz Bop is his JAM.
Specifically, Kidz Bop 37 is his jam. Current obsessions include "How Long," "Havana" (which he affectionately calls Havana Na Na), and "Mi Gente." We made the catastrophic mistake of buying the CD at Target a few weeks ago in an attempt to save our data in the car, and the minute we buckle him in that car seat, he demands, "Play How Long!" It was cute at first...not so much four weeks in...sigh.

3. He has some mean dance moves.
Building on number two, he throws down some wicked moves when we turn those songs on the TV upstairs. He can jump, spin, and bounce with the best of 'em. My favorite is the head bob.

4. He is an engineer. Or doctor. Okay, or ice cream man.
His favorite toys currently are the doctor kit, the magna-tiles, or his ice cream truck. You can find this boy either building a house, giving someone a check-up, or asking "What do you want?" from his ice cream truck at nearly every hour of the day. I'm praying that we further pursue one of his first two options... 

5. He loves his people.
The first thing this sweet boy does when he comes downstairs in the morning or after a nap is assess the room. He wants to know who is here, who is missing, and where his people are. He is NOT a fan of anyone in the group being missing. Ever. His ideal world includes all five of us...all the time. It's the sweetest thing.

6. He has some wicked gymnastics ability.
So, I noticed out the window earlier this week that he has figured out a little front handspring-type move, 100% on his own. He bounces on his knees first and then flips over forward. We absolutely did not teach him this, nor can his big brother or sister do it. I'm going to go ahead and call this one a gymnast - what do you think?

7. He still naps like a pro.
Fun fact: Brooks is legitimately the ONLY child in his preschool class that takes a nap every single day. There is one other that occasionally naps, too, but Brooks naps every single day for at least an hour. With my older two, this was an age where naps were either dropped entirely or became a battle. Not with this one. He is the best little sleeper!

8. He's a peanut.
We had a well-check earlier this week, and despite my 100% confidence that he would've jumped up past the fifth percentile for weight...we did not. We stayed exactly the same. He is in the fifth percentile for weight and 15th for height. We are still in 12-18 month pants and 18-24 month tops, occasionally a 2T shirt if it's cute enough to wear a little big. He seems a little bit stockier and filled out to me, but percentiles don't lie, so apparently we're still a peanut. (I secretly love it!) 

9. He is not a fan of any meat other than pepperoni.
Don't even bother offering this kid chicken or turkey or beef - he'll have none of it. Pepperoni or nothin' for this kid. It's so very healthy. Except not.

10. His favorite place is on the kitchen counter.
I pray that he still feels at home enough to hop up on our counter when he's 25. It's my favorite spot to chat with him. :)

This little boy is just so special, and I cannot wait to see what BIG and beautiful things God has planned for his life. Love you, sweet boy!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Why You Need Margin, Mama

I was recently reading a poll of sorts in a Facebook group that asked the ladies there how often they have time away from their kids. And by that, she didn't mean the hour after they've gone to bed where you sprawl out on the couch with Netflix or Instagram. (Although all the praise hands for that hour in the day, am I right?) And she didn't mean the 15 minutes (if you're lucky) before they wake up where you chug your coffee and spend five minutes speed-reading Beth Moore so you can check "quiet time" off your list for the day.

What this question was getting at the heart of was margin. This friend of mine was asking a group of trusted, wise women how often they create margin in their lives in order to get things done or relax or pursue passions outside of the family. 

The answers astounded me.

The majority of the women who responded had NONE. Other than those 15 minutes before the kids get up and the hour after they go to bed, about 80% of the women who responded had no more than their time in the bathroom or their time taking a shower away from their kids. And let's be real - those kids are either prying their grubby fingers under the bathroom door or standing just outside the shower glass during either of those tasks, so in my book, neither of those count.

My answer was a little bit different than most because this year, I gave myself a gift: Wednesdays from 9-2.

The truth is that I need to work at least a little bit at my kids' preschool because two in preschool on a single income is HARD. (It's stinkin' expensive, y'all!) So, for the first time in three years, there is one day a week where the kids are all in school for 5 blessed hours, and I am free as a bird. Some Wednesdays, I am super productive: in those five hours, I run every errand known to mankind, hit the gym, get my nails done, grab an oil change, and use all 300 minutes I'm given to their utmost potential. One Wednesday, I sat in a coffee shop, brainstormed blog post ideas, and wrote my little heart out. Other Wednesdays, I crawl under a big ole blanket on my couch with a hot cup of coffee and binge Grey's Anatomy. 

And you know what?

I am a better mom to my three kiddos for it.

On the surface, the idea that leaving my children for five hours in childcare makes me a better mom can sound hypocritical, so let's dissect this a bit.

When Carter was six months old, my husband and I started marriage counseling. We had only been married about a year and a half, but the stress of working (at that point) full-time, being still somewhat newlyweds, struggling with managing our finances, and oh yeah, having a baby less than a year into marriage was just too much for us both. We were fighting like crazy, both feeling angry and resentful and like the other partner wasn't doing their part to balance this whole charade. 

The burnout I was feeling was all over my face, and I remember our therapist asking me what I was doing in my life that made me happy. I'm fairly certain I must've looked at her as if she had just grown a unicorn horn. I was completely and utterly confused by this question. I thought, "Who has time for that right now, lady? I'm swimming upstream everyday managing what I can I possibly ADD IN time for me?!" 

But she said something to me that day that has stuck with me for years - something I absolutely believe at the core of my being to be true. Yes, she said, you are a wife and a mother and a teacher, BUT you are also a woman and a friend and a daughter, and just because you entered motherhood doesn't mean those roles went away.

I heard it described another way at church one Sunday when our pastor was preaching on margin. That's the first time I was really able to define this important piece of our lives that so many women seem to me completely ignoring. Our pastor was speaking of financial margin - in other words, understanding your financial boundaries and living within those limitations with room to spare.

Women, we have got to live our lives WITH ROOM TO SPARE.

We pour out and pour out and pour out and serve and serve and serve some more, but the sad reality is that so many of us are serving up empty glasses. We simply have nothing left to pour out anymore because we are not pouring IN to ourselves by living our lives with margin. We are filling every single square inch of our lives with our children and our obligations and we're forgetting ourselves in the mix.

 Here's the hard thing: the truth is that the math of margin sometimes doesn't add up. We can't afford to send our children to preschool an extra day or we have no extra funds that would allow us to bring in a babysitter for a few hours or we have circumstances in our lives that don't allow us to be away from our children due to special needs. I get it, I really do. I spent ten straight months with Brooks when he first came home from China because we needed to bond and attach to each other. In that particular season, I had to get very creative about finding margin. I had to go meet girlfriends for dinner after he had gone to bed and didn't even know I was gone. Or I had to get up super early to hit the 6am yoga class while he still couldn't handle the gym childcare. Or I had to stay up into the wee hours of the morning to get that blog post written. 

Sometimes, it's not always as clear-cut as a Wednesday from 9-2. 

But whatever margin looks like for you, I would encourage you to find it. Nope, let's rephrase that.  I would encourage you to create it.  

Finding margin isn't easy and it can take work. I remember talking to a sweet mama at a MOPS meeting a few weeks ago about margin, and she looked at me like I was crazy when I shared about my Wednesdays and how healthy they've been for me. I could tell she didn't quite understand my need for this mental health break, so I turned the question back on her and asked what she would do with five hours to herself every week. She shook her head, her eyes welled up, and she said, "I don't know. I think I'd spend the whole time crying and missing my kids." 

Ladies, there is so much more to this season of your life than those tiny people you raise. Yes, you're a mother, and that's an incredible thing, likely something you've dreamed about since you were a little girl. BUT! BUT! Don't lose who God made you to be in the chaos of it all. He created you with unique talents and gifts and planted dreams in you that you've likely forgotten in your sleep-deprived, yoga-pants, overly caffeinated state. But, I have a feeling, if you dig reallllly hard, you'll find them. They'll be dusty and may even be broken, but they're still there. You're still you. 

You still have purpose. 

  I don't know about you, but I really don't want to stand before God when I get to heaven and say, "Sorry, man. I know you gave me this incredible gift that I totally wasted, but I was just so tired from all the babies."

One of my favorite statements from Rachel Hollis is a simple one, but so powerful: 
You were made for more. 

I'd encourage you to dig up that dream you had when you were eight. Dust it off. Revisit what it could look like for you today. It'll likely look different, but I bet the fire is still there. 

And if nothing else, I'd encourage you to carve out some space this month for margin. Give yourself an hour. Put me to the test. See what it could do for your soul. My bet? You'll return refreshed, focused, and better able to pour into those little people you love so much because you took time to pour in to YOU.  

Thursday, March 1, 2018

NEDA Week: Body Image & Young Children

It's National Eating Disorders Week - a week to raise awareness and educate the public about these devastating and often fatal mental health issues. For those of you who are new to this blog space, I don't talk about it often, but I fought like hell for five years with an eating disorder that eventually landed me in heart failure. I'm not proud of it, and it's not something that's easy to talk about or wins me many fans, but that journey and that struggle is part of my testimony, so I own it. I worked hard to recover and move on, and by the grace of God (and thanks to an incredible team of therapists), I did.

I can finally say it no longer defines me, and I no longer feel shame in talking about it. I'm so thankful that anorexia was simply one chapter of many in my life. I was able to move on and turn a page to a new chapter, unlike so many women who fall victim to this terrible disease. Anorexia is the most fatal of all mental illnesses, and this week is a week to shed light on it.

It's time to talk about this.

If you haven't already read my full story, you can do so HERE

My battle may have been fought 15 years ago, but I daily have to make choices to ensure my family and I stay healthy. I've been reflecting a little bit lately on how I'm actively working to cultivate healthy body image, both in myself and in my children.

Being a mom, especially a young girl mom, the truth of the matter is that these issues start YOUNG. Like, REALLY young. So, I've been very strategic about the way I talk about food, exercise, and health since my children were born, and I thought it might be time to put it out there in the world. My prayer is that these action steps might help us re-frame the little things we do every day that can add up to big impact for our kids.  

Here's the scary truth: studies tell us that by the time a girl has turned 6, she will say that her ideal body size is smaller than her current frame. 


That's Kindergarten, y'all. My Kindergartener still sleeps with a monkey blanket every night, has Goofy on a shelf, and spills his milk at least three nights a week. These kids are straight babies, you guys.

I don't know about you, but I'm not about to go down this road without a fight. 

Another scary truth: I don't really think eating disorders can be prevented. At least, not FULLY prevented.

Recently, scientists have discovered that there is a genetic link to eating disorders, which can be a really scary fact for someone like me. BUT, here's what I know: just because my children may be more LIKELY to develop eating disorders than children whose mothers didn't have one, that doesn't mean I can't try to set them up for success. I can educate them and nurture them to develop a healthy relationship with food and their bodies in order to possibly prevent them from walking the road I walked. 

So, let's get practical...I am by no means a medical professional, but I do think there are some action steps we can take NOW, while our kiddos are still mold-able, that will shape their futures.

ACTION STEP: Drop the black and white talk.

No, I'm not talking about race here. What I mean by drop the black and white talk is to drop the notion that certain foods are either all GOOD or all BAD. Drop the labels. I think many of our children grow up in homes where parents are living in extremes - they hear their parents talk of being "good" when they're dieting or being "bad" when they're cheating. When parents bemoan their unhealthy choices or make comments about how they have to punish themselves at the gym for eating so poorly the night before, children begin to feel that they are bad people for eating certain foods. We need our children to understand that what they eat and who they are are mutually exclusive

So, my encouragement here would be to re-frame the language. The truth is that unless you have food allergies or specific dietary restrictions, all foods can and should be enjoyed in moderation. Let's ditch this all or nothing mentality. Instead, I suggest we talk positively about what healthy food and exercise do for us. Rather than complain about our jeans feeling tight, let's emphasize how we feel so energetic after running that 5K or taking that yoga class. Rather than whining about how our "bad" lunch at Chick-fil-A makes us bloated, let's talk about how sweet that apple tasted or how that salad gave me vitamins to make me strong. Let's highlight our positive choices for the ways they make us feel and what they do for us, rather than focusing on the negative choices we've made. 

ACTION STEP: Focus on strength for adults and growth for kids.

One of my absolute favorite things to talk about with my kids is how strong they are. Nothing gets my boys more fired up than showing off their muscles. We talk a lot in our house about how healthy food, exercise, and sleep helps us grow big and strong. Brooks has even picked up on it already, and after eating a carrot yesterday, walked over to me and said, "Me go up up up, higher and higher, right Mama?" He beamed with pride when I assured my tiniest boy that yes, his carrots did make him grow bigger and taller. (Just nobody tell him he's still in the second percentile for height, mmmm-kay?) When my kids step on the scale in the bathroom or at the doctor's office, never have I not cheered for them. No matter what that thing says, we celebrate it because it shows us how much we've grown. And when they want me to step on that scale for them? You'd better believe I join in their cheering, no matter what number I'm looking at or what the insecurities are telling me.

Two or three times a week, we head up to our neighborhood gym to work out (okay, okay, and to use the free childcare...), and I'm often asked by the little two why we have to come to the gym. And every single week, my answer is the same: because exercise keeps Mommy healthy and strong. Never once have I said anything about weight or my jeans or how much queso I ate the night before. I may have had those reasons in my head, but you'd better believe I wasn't planting those seeds for my kids.

All they need to know at this young age is that exercise is healthy and makes us strong. Period. Don't make it complicated. Because truthfully? It's not.

ACTION STEP: Eat meals and exercise as a family. 

You saw this one coming a mile away, didn't you? But, y'all, it's SO true! Going on family walks or bike rides is not only great for bonding, but it's so good for cultivating a healthy view of exercise! When you're going on a walk as a family to the park or exploring a new hiking path together, there's a sense of adventure and fun there. We WANT our kiddos to find exercise fun! It shouldn't be seen as punishment! I can tell you right now, having a child with limited mobility due to a broken leg, that the chance to walk or ride around the neighborhood is a gift! Carter would give you the boot off his broken leg (literally) if you told him he could go on a long bike ride tomorrow. We need our children to see exercise as a pleasurable experience and something to look forward to, and there's no better way to cement that than family outings.

Before I go into family meals, let me just preface by saying I GET IT. With 832 different schedules and practices and homework and jobs, I know this one's hard. And it certainly doesn't have to happen every night...but at least a few nights a week, enjoying a meal together is critical to developing a healthy relationship with food. There is so much more that happens at a dinner table than dinner. There is eye contact, conversation, taking turns, laughter, and, okay, a little bit of chaos if yours are little like mine. BUT! BUT! It's worth fighting through the chaos to share a healthy meal when you can. And bonus points if your kids help you with the cooking!

Last, but not least...

ACTION STEP: Just stop talking.  

Yes, I know, this sounds harsh, but it's true. For the love, people...STOP TALKING ABOUT APPEARANCES ALL THE TIME. And by this I mean your body AND other people's bodies. We have SUCH a fixation in our society with our physical appearances. We fixate on our hair, we gossip when someone has put on weight, we constantly whine about our wrinkles and stretch marks.

And I'm calling it out today: STOP.

Our bodies were created to DO. When God created us thousands of years ago, His primary focus was not on how we looked, but what we could DO with our bodies. We were created to work, to learn, to carry children, to feed children, to travel with our families. We were supposed to feed and nurture that body to keep it strong so we could continue to work. We were never meant to focus so much on how that body looked...but that's part of our fall as human beings.

That stretched out tummy that now resembles a frowning face? It grew a human. Or two. Or twelve if you're a Duggar.
Those saggy boobs? It kept a few tiny people alive for a year.
That thigh gap you constantly covet? Screw it! Your thighs ran a half marathon.

Enough complaining, you guys. Enough fixating. Enough battling something that was never meant to be fought in the first place. Let's get over it already.

And here's why this is so critical when you have little ears around...they hear everything. And repeat everything.

The other night, my husband was telling me a story about something scary (or maybe exciting...I can't be sure as I was only half-listening...) that happened at work, and without thinking, I replied, "Oh, damn!" Can you guess what the next two words out of our sweet baby boy's mouth were? Yep. You know it. He looked right in my eyes and said, "Oh, damn."

   I'll leave my "Mother of the Year" trophy on the door step for collection.

When you look in the mirror and verbally criticize those laugh lines on your face with your little girl standing at your feet, do you really think she's not paying attention? She's looking at you, who in her eyes is the most beautiful woman in the world, and you're feeding her negativity. Whether she's aware of it in the moment or not, you're teaching her how to be a woman, and what she just learned is this: women criticize themselves.

Is that really the message we want her to learn?

I want to see my little girl looking in the mirror admiring how strong she is, how much she's grown, or, better yet, moving her focus away from the mirror and into the eyes of people. I want to teach her that it's more important to look out than to look in. I want her to learn that we focus on others, not fixate on ourselves.

  So, those are my thoughts for this NEDA week. We can plant seeds now that can create change later, and I hope you'll join me as we fight for our kids.

If you or someone you know is struggling in this area, I'd highly encourage you to check out or find a local therapist who can help you. If you'd like to contact me directly to help you find resources in your area, you may always do so at

Monday, February 26, 2018

Fearless Surrender


Let go.

Be open.

These are words that I've been grappling with in my heart the last few weeks. Words that I know all too well can make or break the big decisions in my life. 

If you've been around this little space very long, you know I'm a self-professed control freak. I've made no secret of the fact that I'm a big fan of making my own plans and just praying that God will approve of them. In my own head, I am the expert on me and know what's best for me. I know what feels safe and comfortable, and I do not let go of my comfort zone or security easily. After all, I am the one who has to deal with the consequences of my choices, right? Why would I want to let that go?

But lately? Every time I sit down to write or listen to a podcast or read, I seem to be hit from all sides with the word surrender.

Truth: I'm a planner by nature. But not the type of planner who gets caught up in the details. I used to be, back in the days where I wrote out my plan for the day to the minute, including snack breaks and travel time to and from events. (No, I'm not joking. I actually did that for many years in college.) 

Nowadays, I'm more of a vision girl. I like the big picture. I tend to live in a constant state of "What's next?" and have been told on more than one occasion that I can get tunnel-vision when I'm knee-deep in a project. If you need to get something accomplished, I'm your girl. I won't eat, won't sleep, won't stop until I've moved from point A to point B. The problem with that in my life right now, above and beyond the incessant needs of all my little people, is that I have no idea what my life is going to look like in a year. 

And truthfully? 

That's scaring me out of my mind.

In high school, I was dreaming about college.
In college, I was dreaming about starting my career.
In my first year job, I was dreaming about getting married.
On our honeymoon, I was dreaming having a family.
On my son's first birthday, I was dreaming about giving him a sibling.
Once his sister was over her 12 MONTH episode of colic (yes, it actually did last a full year), we began praying about adoption.
Once Brooks came home, we began the process to build a house.

Do you see the pattern?

I've spent the last 20 years dreaming of what's next.

And now, we're blissfully moving through our life as a family of five with no planned changes on the horizon, and I find myself literally paralyzed with fear at times because I don't know what's ahead.        
I know for many people, this would be a state of bliss. It would feel like a moment to breathe and soak in the present and slow down for a lot of you. Some days, I see it that way; others, I fight to feel like I have purpose.

So I find myself in a season of surrender. 

I don't know what's ahead for me. Is God calling me to a new job? Is He calling me to simply take a seat at the table I've spent the last 15 years building and soak it all in? Does He have something ahead that isn't even on my radar yet? 

As hard as this season is, I know that opening my hands to what He has in store for my future is all I can do. He's asking me to tap the breaks, to trust, and to believe that His plans are good...even if my control issues want me to take the helm now more than ever. 

So, for now, I'm letting go of that white-knuckle grip on my trajectory and opening my heart to this next chapter. It doesn't have a title yet, but I know it'll be one for the books.    
Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Sorta Post-Adoption Update

So, I really had no intention at all of writing many post-adoption posts after our first year home with Brooks, but everyone who knows our family in real life has been commenting lately on just how much he's changed and grown over the last few months that I just feel like this is a little bit necessary for documentation purposes! 

Before I dive in to where we are today, I want to take a look back at my last post-adoption update which was at one year home...actually, scratch was at 9 months home...because apparently I'm not good at the consistency thing. ;) 

At that point, Brooks was 22 pounds, stringing two, sometimes three, words together, had just been weaned off his steroids for asthma, and was about to start preschool for the first time.

Oh, how times have changed.

On January 6, we celebrated 397 days with Brooks in our family. He spent 396 days without one, so as of that day, we could say he had been a beloved son longer than he was in an orphanage. Praise God. 

Nowadays, not only has this boy FILLED OUT in a serious way (I'd bet he's upwards of 25 pounds), but we now have full conversations with him asking questions and speaking in almost sentences that consist of several (up to 8ish) words. He talks like a caveman but for not quite two-and-a-half, we're pretty dang impressed! 

Examples I heard today:
 "Me say night-night Carter Kate-Kate."  
"What you doing now Mommy?"
"Me go gym with Carter and Mommy." 
"What happened, Daddy?" 
"Me happy when we jump outside. With Carter. And Kate Kate. And Daddy. And Mommy. Everybody jump!" 

And my absolute favorite:
"How you doin?" 
Yes, he actually says that. I'm raising a future Joey Tribbiani. 

Hearing his little thoughts and having little conversations with this guy is such an absolute joy. 

Sweet story from today: my kids like to play "Magic Eight Ball," which basically means they roll an Eight Ball back and forth and sing this song Kate made up until someone ends up with it. That person makes a wish and asks the eight ball for an answer. No lie - every single time it ends up with Brooks making a wish, he wishes for someone in our family. "Me want Mommy. Me want Daddy. Me want Carter and Kate Kate." It literally makes me want to cry every time. And no matter what that dang eight ball actually says, I tell him he got it. Forever. And every time I tell him that, he says, "Hooray!" and asks for hugs. I mean...I die. 

So, let's chat school since that hasn't really been talked about in this space yet. I'm going to do another whole post on how we transitioned him into preschool, why we did it when we did, and our experience with that, but today, five months into preschool, this little guy is rockin' it. He knows his class, he loves his teachers, and he thrives on the routine of it. Tonight, he was listing all of the friends' names in his class (and some are really difficult to say!), and he was talking about how excited he was to see them tomorrow. 

And as backwards as this might sound, I actually think putting him in preschool has strengthened our attachment. Because here's the thing: a child's brain learns through repetition. If you've ever watched a young child play, they typically repeat patterns over and over and over again. Or they sing the same song over and over and over again. As annoying as that can be to parents, that's actually doing what they need to do: learning! So, although it might sound odd that dropping him off in a classroom three days a week would strengthen our attachment, he's finding security in the repetition of drop-off and pick-up. Mom leaves, Mom comes back. Mom leaves, Mom comes back. Mom leaves, Mom comes back. Over and over and over again. We are so proud of how well he's transitioned. 

The last thing that we've really seen develop lately is this boy's incredible sense of compassion. If anyone is laying down, upset, hurt, or crying, this little guy is the FIRST to go pat them on the back, ask them what happened, or tell them that "it's okay." He gives lots of hugs, hands out ice packs and bandaids, and loves the mess out of his people. I really don't know where that came from, but it is my very favorite thing about him right now. He's a special one.

Okay, that's it for today. Happy Tuesday, y'all! 
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