How to Love Your Neighbor in 2021

How to Love Your Neighbor in 2021

How to love your neighbor well in 2021 can be tricky. I mean, we are still in a pandemic and the country is so divided over so many things. February is a great time to focus on others. There’s Valentine’s Day on the 14th, and a few days later is World Kindness Day on February 17th. I know I can speak for all of us when I say we can all appreciate a little extra love in this crazy world. Here are some simple and easy ways to love your neighbor this month.

Send Some Happy Mail

Don’t you just love getting something in the mail besides bills? We ALL do! Send a letter (vintage style, ha) or a postcard to a friend or loved one. Let it be a surprise. This past week, my kids made postcards (we used this kit) to mail to their friends. They had so much fun and talked about sweet memories they have with those whom they were creating for. I plan to mail my own little notes of encouragement too. Parenting is hard. Parenting during a pandemic is hard. Parenting during the winter during a pandemic is ridiculous. Send some unexpected love. It will fill your heart as well!

Everyone Loves Coffee

You know coffee is basically life for moms. Show a friend or even a stranger some love by paying for their Starbucks. The Starbucks app makes it really easy to send someone a gift card. Also, paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru line has the potential to make someone’s day or even week! When you pay for someone’s coffee order in the drive-thru, it will often set off basically a coffee love chain where people continue to pay for the person behind them for quite some time. That’s pretty cool!

Your Actual Neighbor

Loving those in our closest sphere of influence can be so powerful. That includes people who actually live next to us. I know I have been guilty of not knowing my neighbors before. Falling into that isolation really doesn’t benefit anyone. If that is you, it’s okay! Now is the perfect time to reach out. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway one morning, make them some banana bread (or the star of the pandemic – sourdough bread), bring their newspaper to their front door so they don’t have to walk to go get it, or offer to take their dog on a walk. There are so many little things we can do to make a difference in someone’s day.

I think so many of us had such high expectations for 2021. Like we thought the end of 2020 would just cause all the big things to just evaporate. Well maybe not quite so dramatic, but we hoped to at least to have turned a corner. For some people, things have gotten better. But for many, things are mostly the same. Pandemic fatigue is strong. Moms are all struggling. I know I definitely have hard days.

I know none of the things listed above are super revolutionary. But sometimes we just need to be reminded of the simple every day things that can make such a difference for others. I think the middle of winter during the month of love is perfect time to show friends and strangers alike a little extra love, kindness, and grace in a tangible way. How are you going to love your neighbor this Valentine’s Day? Let me know in the comments. And, as always, please like, share, and subscribe if you enjoyed this post.

Daniel Fast: My Thoughts and Experience

Daniel Fast: My Thoughts and Experience

Yep, I did thing this January. I did the Daniel fast. First, let’s back up. Every year, our church begins January with 21 days of prayer and fasting. We believe it is a way to put God first for the coming year and reset and focus our spiritual lives after the busyness of the holidays. We have prayer services each morning, and it really is a wonderful and holy time. Fasting is not a requirement during these 21 days, but it is encouraged.

So, what is fasting anyways? The dictionary defines fasting as abstaining from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance. There are lots of ways to do it as well. You can give up certain food groups (sugar and caffeine are popular choices) for a period of time, or one can decide to not eat meals during a certain times of the day. Disclaimer: please check with your health care provider before starting any type of food fast. In a broader sense, fasting can be expanded to other areas of our lives. Social media, the news cycle, etc. There are lot of things we can decide to cut out for an intentional purpose.

I’ve been participating in 21 days of prayer and fasting during the month of January for about eight years now. However, for the past seven years, I have either been pregnant or breastfeeding. Doing a strict food fast was out of the question. So, I fasted other things like coffee, Facebook, and sweets. However, I was neither pregnant nor breastfeeding this year, so I was excited to go all in and do a true fast.

Now that we know what a fast is and why I participated in one, let’s talk about the Daniel fast. Daniel is a prophet in Jewish and Christian culture. The Old Testament of the Christian Bible contains the book of Daniel, which gives the account of Daniel, who was a Jew exiled to Babylon. I am not a religious scholar, so I am not going to go into much detail about the entire book. But in the first chapter, Daniel is being held captive. He refuses to eat the Babylonian food, as it was not prepared according to the Jewish law. Daniel commits to only eating fruits and vegetables for a period of time while focusing on praying to God. This is the basis for the modern interpretation of the Daniel fast. No animal products, no sugar, no caffeine, no leavened bread, and no processed food for (typically) 21 days.

So, how did it go?

Overall, I am so glad I did the Daniel fast! I learned so much about myself. My relationship with the Lord grew deeper. I gained confidence and clarity in what He is calling me to do during this season of my life. Physically, the fast was not nearly as difficult as I anticipated. Well, minus that intense caffeine withdrawal, but that only lasted about three days. I kicked the sugar cravings that had a hold on me (ahem….nightly bowl of ice cream). I also lost a little bit of weight (SOOOO not the goal with this fast, please hear me on that), which was nice because my pants were a little tight after the holidays.

Was I hungry? Yes, sometimes I was. I think it’s a given that you will have periods of hunger after cutting out major food groups you are used to eating. But the hunger was not all consuming or difficult to deal with. I ate plenty of yummy foods and learned that bean burgers can be pretty tasty. I utilized this wonderful cookbook all throughout the fast.

Did I do the fast perfectly? No, I didn’t. But that isn’t the point when fasting for a spiritual purpose. The point is a person’s heart. Their motivation. Their reverence for the process. These are all areas of growth and maturity that can blossom when stretched. I want to know. Have you ever fasted before? How did it go?

Word of the Year

Word of the Year

New Year’s resolutions have been fading out of fashion over the last several years. It’s no wonder. They’re often daunting, overwhelming, and by mid-February only a distant memory. My biggest gripe with resolutions is that usually they’re made without much thought. What’s taken its place, though, is the all mighty Word of the Year. And it is mighty in my opinion. Having a word or short phase to continually refer back to for the entire year is a great way to bring focus and intention to the mundane of every day life.

Looking Back

NURTURE was my word for 2020. I had several areas of my life that needing tending to grow and further mature. Things I nurtured were my spiritual life, my marriage, relationships with my children, my love for the outdoors, and so on. It was a wonderful word. I had it posted on my bathroom mirror for the entire year. On the hard days, because we all have hard days, I would see it right there in front of me. It quickly reminded me of the things that matter most, and it made it easy to let go of all the excess. Having a word of the year grounded me amongst all the chaos that was 2020.

How to Choose Your Own Word of the Year

When picking a word of the year, I want you to consider a few things. Firstly, don’t rush it. Pray and meditate on the things that went well and the things that didn’t in 2020. How does it make you feel? What things do you want to change? Secondly, choose a verb. A verb will inspire action. It will make you focus on forward grace-filled progress. Lastly, when ideas start coming to mind, take time to look up definitions and synonyms. It’s likely that google will help you find an even more purposeful word or phrase for your hopes of 2021. Sit with your word for a few days before you commit. How does it make you feel? Hopefully not overwhelmed! The goal is to feel refreshed, motivated, and inspired.

On that note, I am so excited to share my word of the year for 2021:

EXPAND

I know that I nurtured good things in 2020. When working on my goals for 2021, one thing kept coming up. I want to expand on things that have already been planted. I want to expand my theological knowledge. I want to expand my physical fitness. I want to expand this blog. And so many other things. It’s perfect for where I’m at in my life, and I am so excited.

Need Some More Help?

If you’re having trouble coming up with a word, I wanted to share this resource from Cultivate What Matters. (If you have followed me for at least 5 minutes, you know I love this company.) You will find suggestions on their site, and they also provide wallpaper for your phone with your word. I screen shot (shotted???) the blank floral pattern, then edited in my word, expand. I will have this be my wallpaper on my phone for the year. I cannot wait for you to share your word of the year! Drop it down in the comments below. And as always, if you enjoyed this post, please like and share, as it’s a simple way to support this little space of mine. Much love, and Happy New Year!!!

It’s Time to Edit Our To Do List

It’s Time to Edit Our To Do List

We all need to edit our to do list this year. 2020 has been weird and hard and heartbreaking and all the things. There’s no way to beat around the bush or sugar coat it. The holidays are supposed to be filled with joy and glad tidings, but this year many of us are grieving, struggling financially, feeling burned out, or all of the above. I see you. I hear you. And I am here to encourage you.

Exhale

Take a couple of deep breaths, mama. When you exhale, let it go. Let go of your expectations of what this holiday season will be like. Let’s agree to leave some wiggle room in our schedules. Let’s agree to take it day by day. There. Does that take some of the pressure off? I hope it does. Speaking of plans, let’s take a look at our holiday to do lists. I’m not talking about the practical things that are non-negotiable. I’m talking about that holiday baking that you do every single year, the 17 Christmas movies are a must watch, and the five course dinner that you typically serve on Christmas day. Those things. The things that you might really enjoy but maybe won’t or shouldn’t happen this year.

Let Go

It is okay to not do all the things. It is ok to cross things off your holiday to do list because you don’t have the capacity to get every thing done. This isn’t a lesson just for 2020. I actually learned this truth last year. There wasn’t one specific thing that was going on in my 2019 life, but I was feeling SO spread thin by the beginning of December. A lot of little things added up, and I was just DONE before it even started. The holiday season felt like some gigantic mountain I was going to be forced to climb. I realized that’s not how I wanted to spend my time. I am worthy of enjoying the Christmas season just as much as my kids and the rest of my family. Therefore, I made the decision, and I crossed some big things off my list. IT WAS FREEING! I was able to enjoy the holiday season with my family without feeling like I was in servitude to them.

Focus on What Really Matters

This year has been really interesting. It has really made us focus on what really matters. What really matters to you? What fills your cup during this time? What brings your family joy? By crossing off the things that don’t really matter, we can make room for this things that do. I am excited to make room for is decorating gingerbread houses as a new family tradition. But here’s the kicker, because I’ve crossed some things off, I am planning on baking the gingerbread myself. This is something that I have wanted to do for years but haven’t been able to because of being distracted by other things. This year, what matters most to us is that our family feels peaceful and bonded. Every activity is put through that filter. If it doesn’t meet that basic criteria, then it’s crossed off the list. So, let’s all edit our to do list together this year, and enjoy the things that really matter. For more practical tips on having a stress free holiday season, you can read my post here.

What are you crossing off your list this year? Are you adding anything to it? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to like and share if you enjoyed this post. Happy Holidays!!

Self Care is Basic

Self Care is Basic

It is time that we stop apologizing for being actual humans. We are not machines, people! We need rest. We need a break. When I say self care is basic, I mean self care is a basic human need. It is not indulgent. It is not spoiling yourself. It is taking time for your mental, physical, and spiritual health intentionally. Of course, anything can be twisted and warped into something its not supposed to be, and self care isn’t any different. But I am not talking about that here. I am talking about intentionally taking time for yourself, so you can be the best you.

Perspective

I remember when I first became a stay at home mom. I had visions of a 1950’s housewife, who spent her days cooking three meals a day for her family in her always immaculate house. You know what those moms did? They put their babies either in a play pin, propped in front of the TV, or being watched by hired help. When I realized my vision was a fallacy, I realized what undue pressure I was putting on myself. I drove myself mad trying to live up to these lofty expectations that were completely self imposed. Hear me, sweet friend. It is not a thing to have a perfect house and perfect peaceful children all the time. It’s just not. And that is okay! It’s time that we look at our selves and our lives through a realistic lens.

Healthy Expectations

What am I reasonably capable of in a given day? What would be nice to accomplish but isn’t a necessity? What do I need to do to take care of myself today, so I am starting with a full cup tomorrow. There is nothing worse than feeling like we are running on empty. I see this all the time, especially with new moms. We have visions of what we will be like as mothers, and sometimes reality doesn’t match. For example, I did not know that I get overstimulated by noise until I had my own children. When I am overstimulated, I get short tempered and shouty (I may have just made up that word). I know that is something I need to mitigate. If my kids are being loud, I might need to take a few minutes and go upstairs where it’s quiet. I might (*gasp*) even need to scroll on my phone for a few minutes to feel like I’ve separated a little. Then, I am better able to come back to reality and not be frustrated and shouty with my kids.

Prevent the Burn Out

Here me, mama. Taking time for yourself is not detracting something from you family. It is investing in them. A better you is a better wife and a better mother. If you’re looking for permission to take that break, I am giving it to you. If you are needing someone to tell you to let the laundry sit there this time, so you can take a much needed nap, I’m telling you. There will ALWAYS be something that needs to be done. Our lists are never completely checked off. There will always be something else to do. But that doesn’t mean you have to give in to this pressure of getting it all done perfectly. Take a beat. Take a breath. Take a nap. And if you are looking for some extra pampering, check out these products. Also, here are my best tips and tricks on incorporating a self care routine into your day.

Six Months Post Covid: My Story

Six Months Post Covid: My Story

This post was first published September 2020. It has been updated with current CDC guidelines where noted. Please call your doctor if you suspect you have Covid

I am now six moths post covid. March 19, 2020 was the first day of symptoms, and here we are mid-September. It’s been a surreal and crazy experience, and I thought I would give an update on how things are going. For a little background context, you can read about my initial experience here. The post is real and raw, and details my frustrations with having difficulty getting answers.

Let’s Start with a Little Follow-Up

I didn’t know when I wrote my original post that I would become what is now dubbed “long hauler”. This term, which wasn’t really a term when I was in the thick of it, means that my life and my health have suffered long term effects from having the virus. The virus caused severe inflammation in my lungs. I never needed supplemental oxygen, but I had to spend weeks and weeks in bed. I could only be around my family for short periods of time because talking required so much effort. When you have three young children, you can’t be around them and just not speak. They don’t understand that.

Breathing felt like a brick was sitting on my chest, or that I was trying to inhale through a tiny coffee straw. When I needed to take a deep breath, it would take me several tries to fill my lungs. Because my lungs were having to work so hard, my heart was also having to work hard. My pulse was often above 90bpm at rest. This is still within normal rage, but it is not my normal. Then there’s the extreme fatigue. Think first trimester pregnancy fatigue. You just can’t shake it.

The fatigue and the shortness of breath were not only physically challenging, but mentally challenging as well. I don’t think there has been a lot of talk about the mental challenges of dealing with Covid. You see, by this point, it had been well over a month since I had the active virus. I felt fine. I didn’t have a fever or cough or anything like that. However, the fact that I could not participate in my normal life was crushing. It has given me increased empathy for those who suffer from chronic illness.

The Saga Continued

At the beginning of May, I contacted my doctor again to talk about the difficulties I was still having. He prescribed me a long acting steroid asthma inhaler. I use this inhaler each morning, and it lasts all day. He also sent me for a chest x-ray, which came back clear. In theory, it was nice to have a clear x-ray, but my symptoms were so significant that I also wanted validation. This is also when the antibody testing first became available. And you know what? My antibody test was negative.

It was crushing – completely devastating. My doctor couldn’t explain it, other than to say his other covid patients were seeing the same results. We now know that people don’t retain antibodies for long. I was really frustrated by this point, and I wanted more tests. I also craved simple things, like for the doctor to listen to my chest with a stethoscope (all of my appointments were tele-health).

About a month after starting the daily asthma inhaler, I started seeing some slight improvement. I began to have more good days, where I could do typical things like talk to my family without getting winded. Some days, I would regress back. It wasn’t a linear recovery process. Just because I had one good day didn’t mean that the next day would also be a good day. It was a surprise each morning. This back and forth nonsense was mentally challenging. I couldn’t make plans. I missed spending time with my family, cooking, and all the things my former healthy self enjoyed. But, ever so slowly, I began to have more good days than hard days. I started having three to four good days in a row. Also, I started trying to push myself a little. I would sing in the car or go for walks to strengthen my lungs.

Then Came a Set Back

It was a really good day at the beginning of June. Because I had a good amount of energy that day, I decided to go for a jog. I had done this once before, and I was excited to exercise again. I drove to a park that had a nice flat track, and I proceeded to do a mix of jogging and walking for about 30 minutes. When I returned to my car, I had some slight tightness in my chest. The tightness increased as I drove home (less than 10 minutes away). By the time I walked through my door, I couldn’t talk because breathing had become too difficult.

I immediately went upstairs, did my albuterol inhaler, put my pulse oximeter on my finger and laid down. After about 30 minutes, my oxygen was still below 94%. I was still having a lot of tightness in my chest, and my pulse was 130bpm. I decided to go to the emergency room. The doctors and nurses there were so wonderful. They ran all the tests. All of them. I even got a lung CT, which was a specific test I had been wanting. Everything was clear (again, nice in theory and I’m thankful, but I was still wanting some validation for my troubles). My heart rate and oxygen slowly returned to normal, and I was sent home. The whole experience was like an asthma attack, but I do not have asthma.

A Turning Point – Hopefully

As June and July passed, I had great days. Things finally felt like they were returning to normal. I was even back to regular exercise. Then, my seven year old came to me one day at the end of July complaining of her stomach hurting. She had no other symptoms, but complained off and on for about two weeks.

Furthermore, during this time, my two year old was a little extra fussy, and his diapers were slightly off. If you read my previous Covid post, you’ll know that my kids also were presumed positive for the virus in March. So, these symptoms were confusing. Covid testing labs were very backed up. We decided to not put them through the test, when others in our community were needing those resources more us. After about two weeks of stomach pains, my oldest then started complaining of being out of breath. It didn’t effect her activity level, and she would just randomly mention it. Then, I had a few days of feeling very run down and extra tired. My legs were cramping at night, and I developed a cough…again.

I know, as of right now, there hasn’t been concrete documented research on being reinfected with the virus (UPDATE: We now know that people can contract the virus more than once, but this is rare), but I really think we got Covid again. However this time, it was about 10% as far as severity as to what I went through in March. Thankfully, I listened to doctors who had been educating about how the immune system is so much more complex than just antibodies. I was confident that my body would be able to handle the virus more effectively this time. And it did. After about a week, I was back to my altered new normal. My kids improved as well, with no other hiccups.

Final Thoughts

This pandemic has been quite the rollercoaster for me and my family. I can’t go any further without giving my husband the BIGGEST shout out. He has taken such good care of me over the past six (!) months, never once making me feel guilty about needing so much rest. As of right now, I am still using my daily inhaler. Sometimes, I need the extra help of the albuterol inhaler (a short term steroid), but only about once a week.

Most days, I feel like my normal self, but it’s been a long road to get here. This is really my main purposes for sharing my story. Yes, most people handle the virus just fine and only feel sick for a week or two. But some people will be effected like me. People, like me, with no pre-existing conditions will have long term health consequences. I didn’t die. I didn’t need to be admitted to the hospital, but my life and the life of my family has been changed. That matters. That is significant. There’s more to this virus than just the death rates (which matter greatly). Take it seriously. Love each other and be kind.

Read about how to prepare for the the possibility of catching the virus and how to talk to your kids about it here. And if you want to continue to read about my journey, check out my one year update.

Intentional Days

Intentional Days

Hey there mama, are you experiencing intentional days? The seasons are changing. Fall and pumpkin spice are in the air. Crunching leaves are beneath your feet. I love fall so much, but any change of seasons is a special time. It’s a time to reflect on the months previous and be grateful for lessons learned. Now, I realize those lessons might have been taught through hard and stressful days, but lessons they were none the less. For example, I learned that I need to include things that I want for lunches during the week into my grocery shopping. I mean, I can only eat a PB&J so many times, unlike my children who are content to relish it daily.

A Time for Change

Fall not only brings about a change in the weather, it almost always brings a change to schedules and routines. Kids are returning to school (however new and odd that looks this year #2020). Even if you homeschool, days are able to be filled with more time outside and seasonal experiences. Last week, I shared about how to plan and live intentionally with the big things in life, whatever that is for you. But today, I want to talk about how to plan for and have intentional days with the little mundane things.

Now, I’m not saying I am perfect by any means, but when I intentionally plan for my week, my day to day life is much less stressful. I’m not talking about big abstract things, I am talking about things like menu planning, lesson planning, and schedule planning. Yep, it seems simple, right? It is. But this is something I have found takes a real discipline to stay committed to. It’s easy to fall into the cycle of waking up Monday morning and thinking, “Oh, shoot! What do I have going on this week?”. Then having to quickly spend rushed mental energy trying to remember all.the.things. It is much easier to take some time on Friday afternoon and peacefully make a game plan (plan of attack) for the following week. Warm up that left over cup of coffee you never finished and stick the kids in front of the tv (no shame!) and let’s make a plan!

Gathering the Right Tools

Here’s a random fact about me. I love office supplies. Put me in an Office Depot, and I will be content for hours. However, as much as I love paper planners and stickers and pretty pens, don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you have to have the perfect tools to plan your week well. You don’t. Also, don’t think the way you plan for your family has to look like the way I plan for my family. We all have different needs and focuses. This year, I have been using a daily planner. It has been okay, but I really miss having a weekly set up. So, I’ll be switching back to the Erin Condren Life Planner next year. You might prefer to use a monthly calendar. Or just recycle the back of that mile long CVS receipt. What ever works for you!

Forming an Intentional Habit

So, what does the process look like for me? Well, when I am really on top of my game, hubby and I have a “calendar meeting,” where we take fifteen minutes to discuss any appointments we having coming up and who is taking who to various sports activities. Then, I write out any other commitments I have with the kids. Do we have a play date this week? Are we going to have a movie night? Write it down. All of it. Next comes menu planning. This is best done at home, before you are actually at the the grocery store, ha.

Typically, I will look over our nights and decide which nights I need to prepare dinner early (sports’ practice night), which nights need to be a quick and easy dinner (nights when I’m working), and which nights I can cook a full meal. Next, I will go to the pantry and freezer and see what we already have on hand, and I will try to form my weekly dinner menu around that. This helps our grocery budget as well. I do all of this on Fridays. That is what is working for us now in this season.

At this point, I have schedules, activities, and meals planned. The only thing left for me to do is do our homeschool lesson plans. If I am being transparent, this is something I am still trying to hone in on. This is our first full semester homeschooling, and I feel like our lessons are a lot of trial and error. And that is ok! It took time for me to develop a weekly planning method that worked well for schedules, activities, and meals. It takes practice, and it’s okay if it takes you time as well. But the reward is so great. Six days a week, I don’t have to spend mental energy deciding what we are going to have for dinner. It’s not a surprise when I get a reminder text about an upcoming appointment, and my kids feel valued because I didn’t forget that I told them they could stay up late one night and watch a movie. Totally worth it.

What about you? Do you have a method for planning your days? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Living Intentionally Well

Living Intentionally Well

What does it mean to be living intentionally well? I’ve spent the last two weeks thinking some deep thoughts. Thoughts about expectations I’ve placed on myself and making adjustments. You see, about three week ago, I found myself stretched to the max. We were still trying to find our rhythm with homeschooling, my husband’s work schedule shifted (again), my two oldest children started [separate] sports, and apparently there is a lot to growing a blog from the ground up. My brain was fried.

Clarity in the Overwhelm

I felt like I was juggling 15,000 balls in the air. It was all too much. I had to take a beat and remind myself on what was important. Now granted, when looking at that list, these things are ALL important. But, I needed to take some time to plan, focus, and reevaluate where I was spending my mental energy. You see, my little corner of the internet here is called Intentionally Well because I believe it is of the upmost importance that we live our days on purpose with a purpose. Our days are numbered. They are limited. I want to spend mine well.

On this quest of intentionality, I’ve learned something. You have to be intentional about being intentional. It seems redundant, doesn’t it? I know, I know, but go with me here. Our lives are not static. Things change (hello 2020!). Schedules, routines, seasons, etc., it’s always shifting. I find that my brain can handle some minor shifting and take it in stride. But after a while, I feel like I’m swimming in a deep sea while just trying to stay afloat. And that, sweet friend, is not a place that I like to be. Do you? Therefore, it makes sense that we need to be consistently evaluating our circumstances to know where we need to put our time and energy. Notice I said constantly, not continually. When you do this well, it won’t need need to be something that you have to dwell on daily. You’ll already know what’s important and where you need to spend your time. You’ll be able to focus on what really matters, and let everything else fade to the background.

How Can I Achieve Intentional Living?

So, how exactly do we do this? At the end of each month, I take myself on a little date with my planner and calendar. I head to lunch or a coffee shop alone and spend time taking inventory of what is happening with my family. Also, I consider what we have coming up. I take inventory of how things are going and what needs tweaking. If my schedule doesn’t have room for my little date, then I’ll spend some time planning after the kids are in bed. But, friend, there is something so relaxing about getting out of your every day environment. It is SO much easier to focus when that pile of laundry isn’t staring at you in your peripheral vision. I find that monthly and weekly planning is what works best for me. However, you might find daily or quarterly is better for you. The frequency isn’t as important as the consistency, which then develops into a habit. Now, I am not talking about a daily to do list or things like my homeschooling lesson plans. I am talking about planning things like family time, how I am going to grow in my relationship with the Lord, what needs focus in my marriage, what needs changing so I am living my life from a place of rest. Big things. Important things that if we aren’t intentional about will slowly disintegrate if left unattended.

Give Yourself Grace

I have been doing intentional planning like this for about two years. I know it works and is beneficial. But I’ll be honest, it’s been harder this year. 2020….there really aren’t enough or adequate words to brush the surface of what this year has been like for all of us. Putting it lightly, it’s been hard. Some months, I have been on it. Like planning and intentionality to the tee. Then other months, like last month, I’ve rushed it. I always pay for it. But that’s ok. Remember, it’s the consistency that matters. We don’t have to do life perfectly to do life well. So, I’m pausing and evaluating what and where to spend my time. And so can you! I want to be remembered for living intentionally well. Living each day on purpose with purpose.

Do you plan out the big things in life? How do you live intentionally in the season you’re in? Let me know in the comments below.

Nurturing Sibling Relationships

Nurturing Sibling Relationships

Nurturing sibling relationships is an aspect to parenting I want to thrive in. I want to preface this post with love. I know we, as mothers, are doing the very best we can. Mothering and parenthood is legit hard. It’s a high and holy calling on us. My heart is to share a few things that have helped our family. And my hope is that maybe something shared can bring a little more peace to your home where there might be chaos. My heart is not boastful. I do not get it right every time, and I definitely do not know all the things. We struggle and have hard days and weeks just like every one. Also, my children are young. I know that things will change as they get older, and we will have to mold and adjust our strategies as our children grow. My husband and I are continually having conversations about what each of our children need and how we can best meet those needs. I am not an expert, and I believe a lot of sibling dynamics come from individual personalities. However, there have been a few things that we have purposely implemented in our family culture to nurture the relationships among our children.

Valuing Sibling Relationships

First and most importantly, we view siblings as a gift in our family. My husband and I don’t take for granted the value of this special bond among our 3 kids. I grew up as an only child, and my husband has one younger brother. We are not experts by our own account, but we have a deep desire for our kids to have a special, close, and unbreakable bond. For much of my childhood, I longed for that “best” friend who would be present in my life for years and years. That deep connection when you can read each other’s thoughts without saying a word. Childhood friendships can graze the surface of this, but those relationships tend to be fluid and temporary. They depend on where you live, what school you go to, etc, and those things can change often for kids. But siblings are with you forever. They’re stuck with you, ha! So, I think for us, that is the biggest motivator for for how our kids view each other. They are a gift. It all starts with your heart and how you as the parent view sibling relationships.

Teaching Conflict Resolution

Secondly, I have basically been a helicopter parent when it comes to conflict resolution among our children. In the toddler years, this meant me having them repeat what I say when resolving a conflict. I intentionally taught them the words and tone of voice to use with the goal of nurturing their sibling relationship. I took the time to explain to one child why the other child was feeling a certain way. If one child did something hurtful, I would tell them to look at their sibling, and I would say calmly, “Look at their face. They are sad. It made them sad when you did xyz. You need to say sorry and make it right.” I start this around age two. I believe it helps them to develop an awareness and empathy for others. I have only just recently started letting my 5 and 7 year old work out conflict on their own. And it has, honestly, been a joy to hear them both state their opinions on a situation and come to their own compromises. It really makes all that hard work I did when they were younger worth it. I also really take the time to explain to the older kids that those younger than them are still learning. That we have to be patient and teach them. This is especially poignant, as I call my now 2 year old the toddleriest toddler I ever had. He is in his learning stage, and my older two often have to give him grace when they don’t initially feel like it. That is also a good life lesson.

Nurturing the Heart

Thirdly, to the best of our ability, we parent the hearts of our children and not just their behavior. If one child is going through a phase where they’re repeatedly getting frustrated and yelling at another child, we not only address the behavior but also get to the reason as to why said child is frustrated and yelling. We actually dealt with this recently. The frustrated child was yelling because they felt like their sibling wasn’t listening. After talking about appropriate ways to express frustration (yelling at people not being one of them), we followed through and talked to the sibling about the importance of active listening and how it hurts people’s feelings when they don’t feel heard. This is only the most recent example. It takes a lot more work on the front end. It would be so much less effort for me to just separate the two kids and have a blanket “no yelling” statement and then move on. But if we had only responded to the behavior of the first child, we would have missed a teaching moment for the second child. We always try to keep the goal of nurturing sibling relationships in mind during conflict resolution.

Family Culture

Lastly, we do our best to instill a team spirit into our family culture. I really credit my husband with this one. He loves being part of a team. Therefore, we don’t allow our kids to compete against each other. We tell our kids to use team work to complete a task, whether it’s chores or just playing a game. When calling my kids collectively, I will say “team Sewell, it’s time to go (or what ever).” This, I hope, just gives them the little reminder that we are all on the same team. Always. We don’t pit them against each other – ever. Even when playing games.

I think the big take away in nurturing sibling relationships is that we have decided that this is a priority in our family. We put a lot of our parenting energy into this. We tell our kids that they are “forever best friends,” and we mean that with our whole heart.

I would love LOVE to hear how you nurture sibling relationships with you kids. Share what has worked in your family, so we can learn from each other.

Is Survival Mode the New Normal?

Is Survival Mode the New Normal?

Will we be living in survival mode forever? I really hope not, but it sure does feel that way sometimes doesn’t it? I don’t know about you, but just when we seem to get into some semblance of a routine that feels comfortable, a curve ball comes our way. Recovering from the virus has taken a lot longer than I wanted, which is SUPER annoying and frustrating. I have dreams of living my best quarantine life, but I’m not physically able to at this point. I was going to clean and declutter all the things. Additionally, I wanted to spend my afternoons getting lost in a great book, and I planned to cook new recipes, including perfecting French macarons. I was going to blog three times a week and post content to Instagram every day. I was going to tackle my kid’s picky eating, and we were going to be loving vegetables in no time. Oh, the plans I had!!

We are Going Through a Collective Trauma

But here’s the thing, friend. None of us have been through a pandemic before. None of us have been in a situation where we’ve had extensive shelter in place orders to follow. We are going through a collective traumatic experience. There is no play book for this. So, I think it’s vital we give ourselves grace for being in survival mode. It’s also vital that we extend that grace to others. It seems to be so common for people to experience good days and hard days. Happy days and sad days. Productive days and lazy days. And that’s okay!

What Can We Do about Survival Mode?

Living in “survival mode” mentality is, quite frankly, exhausting. So, what are we to do? I think the first thing we can do is actively acknowledge that this is hard. Take some deep breaths and just sit with that for a moment. The second thing I think we can do is establish some self care routines, not only for ourselves, but also our partners and children. For example, last week I decided Friday mornings would be my husband’s time for himself. He goes for a long drive, catches up with friends over the phone, or finishes up work from the week. The key is that he is off duty as husband and dad for those few hours, and it fills him up so well! He comes back refreshed and revived.

Self Care for Everyone

Self care for our kids has been interesting. They are young (7, 5, and 2). Basically, my entire life is caring for them, ha. But, I have bought them more of their favorite snacks since quarantine started. Who doesn’t love comfort food? I also check in with my older 2 kids and really ask them how they are feeling about having to stay home and not see their friends. We have been able to have some really good talks about our feelings, and they feel supported and heard when I tell them that sometimes I am sad too. Additionally, we make sure they spend time outside at every opportunity when the weather allows it.

For me, self care looks different depending on how I am feeling. because I am still healing from covid19. When I was spending a lot of time in bed, I shopped online for a few spring wardrobe additions. It helped me remember that brighter days will indeed come. Now that I am up and about more, I like to go for a quick 20 minute drives a few times a week and really blast the music (…in my minivan, haha!).

Whatever self care looks like for you, do it. Because you know what self care really is? It’s a way for us to take care of our mental health, and that is valid and important. You have permission to do what you need to do to recharge and take care of your mental health, mama. Commit to climbing out of survival mode. It’s true that you might have to get creative with self care, especially if you’re more extroverted. Maybe it’s a zoom coffee date or cocktail hour with your friends. Or, maybe it’s going on a walk or trying out a new exercise video. Maybe it’s crafting or reading or painting. Whatever it is, you do you mama, because you are worth it!