How I'm Preparing for our Fourth Baby

Well at 8 months pregnant and with the holidays rushing upon us, I'm feeling like we're in the final stretch of baby cookin'.

With each pregnancy, I cannot wait to be full-term and hold that baby in my arms. I struggle with anxiety about the baby's health and feel out of control having him in the womb versus out in the world where I can hold him and see him breathe. I have no idea what's going on inside that belly of mine aside from the crazy gymnastic moves this little man likes to perform! I am trying to soak up these next weeks as I sense this is our last pregnancy, and am praying I will feel content in this season and not wish it away hoping for the next.

Since we're having our third boy, (that is still a shock to say) there is little prep involved (I think? My brain is fried!) Emmy and Mack are 14 months apart, this baby and Archie will be 15 months apart, so we always have had two cribs. So fun! He doesn't need any clothes or baby gear so there is no need to shop or gather items. I tweaked a few things in his nursery, moved furniture around yesterday, and got a set of blackout curtains instead of the 3 level system I currently have blocking out the light (brown pillow cases thumb tacked to the windows, with a shower curtain on top, and then a set of white curtains finishing it off! Room darkness is a HIGH priority around here lest my children realize it is actually DAYTIME while they nap).

Picking a name is the hardest thing on the docket-- being the foolish gal that I am, I was so CONVINCED this baby was a girl I promised my husband he could name it anything he wanted if it was a boy. Since I got sick only with Emmy during the 1st trimester, never with either Mack nor Archie, I felt sure during those first 15 weeks of intense nausea (I couldn't even eat which is a BIG deal for this hungry lady) we were expecting a girl. I was super surprised when the ultrasound tech told us otherwise, and may or may not have cried when Michal went through his roster of hockey player names when our appointment ended. We disagree on 99.9% of name options so it will be interesting to see what we decide on. I feel like I will forever hold the ultimate trump card because this sweet babe is actually coming out of my body-- and that is a legit deal!

I wrote a diddy last year when we were getting ready to have Archer-- looking back, my main priorities were having comfy clothes and meals lined up for when he arrived! But this time, there is just one thing I am really doing to prepare my heart and home to love and nurture this little baby -- and that is spending more intentional time with my people.

Emmy meeting Archer, last year. Mack, showing us that he could care less
I know there is a torrential downpour of "not right nows," "mommy needs to feed the baby," and "I'll do that for you laters" that are about to rain down on these kids. I know how snappy I can be with my husband when I am sleep deprived and worried about nursing. I know that my own sweet soul can struggle with the loneliness and isolation having a newborn can bring.

So I am hunkering down and focusing on what matters most right now. For me, that means closing the computer, walking away from my phone, cooking things from scratch (by this I mean following the steps on a box instead of microwaving something from the freezer!), reading my kids lots of books, and ignoring my inner "hustle." Even to sit and write this post (my version of soul-care!) I am ignoring a messy kitchen and two baskets of clean laundry but I know that it brings me joy to put my thoughts to print, so here I sit. I am trying to look my kids in the eye for as long and often as possible, and think for ways to love my husband well-- which during this season mostly looks just like cooking dinner and making sure he has clean socks! Such a romantic!

Some more "sibling love" photos to follow :)

Last night Archie slept like a newborn, it was wild. He has been sleeping 12-13 hour stretches since he was 10 months old (don't be jealous mamas, he barely naps!) but for some reason last night he was up for an hour three different times! Sidenote-- I try to not engage with my children after 7pm. This sounds harsh but since I solo parent most of the day, I feel like it's good for them and me to have some separation and boundaries. I totally get the co-sleeping and long bedtime routine, a lot of that is due to temperament and cannot be helped, it also blesses kids by giving them that extra security and bonding with mom and dad.

My kids might need counseling later, but I tell them all the time mommy is not coming into their room at night unless it's an emergency. A month ago Mack started coming into our room throughout the night to tell us various things like he was "too hot" or that his "sound machine wasn't loud enough." I reviewed our rules with him saying, "Mack you can only come in our room if you see fire, you throw up or wet the bed" and he quickly added: "Or if a big dog comes into my room!" Yes Mack, seeing as we do not have any pets, you should definitely come get us if that happens!

Another quick 'mom fail' to share with you-- a few weeks ago Mack came into my room. I was sleeping soundly as he told me he soaked through his pull-up and wet the bed. In my dreamlike state, I asked him if he could "just take care of it himself" and fell back asleep! As I woke the next morning, I remembered what happened and felt so bad that I didn't go check on him. I asked him if he was okay and what happened-- he told him he got himself changed, put a blanket down over the pee, threw out the pull-up, turned off his light, and went back to sleep! At least I am encouraging independence, right? Honestly, I really did feel guilty-- he's only three!

But back to my party last night with Archie, each time I went into his room to rescue him from his tears, I would pick him up and he'd quickly fall asleep on me. This rarely happens anymore, and just feeling the weight of his little body on my arms and shoulders was so good for my soul. As I rocked him through the night, I realized he wasn't teething or sick, he just wanted to be held (I also think he was scared of the new dresser I put in his room because he kept pointing to it and crying! I guess he isn't as into the midcentury furniture vibe as his mama). I shed many tears through the night thinking that this little boy is still a baby. He needs his mama and requires a lot of love through this stage. It is my daily prayer that he feels secure in our home, with his parents and siblings, and that our attachment can help him through this transition ahead. I sang him my favorite hymns and fought to hold on to the truth that God is arranging our family the best timing possible and that His goodness will provide everyone with what they need-- all in ways that my own parenting never can.

I have several dear friends expecting babies in the next few months and hope that this can encourage them too. Transitions are hard on kids, but watching each of mine welcome a sibling has canceled out all the stress, sleeplessness, and distractions new babies can bring. It amazes me the way they are so resilient and their love for their new brother or sister carries them through seasons where they might otherwise feel "second tier." I am definitely asking God and my friends for perspective on this as well, as we need all the advice we can get!

When ever I feel worried about my capacity as a young and clueless mama, I cling to this verse-- "When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I" -Psalm 61:2 Nothing else brings me more freedom or relief, and I need to remember that as I try to distract myself with giving our kids a knock-out Christmas to compensate for how hard it is for me to get off the couch!

Spending Fast Recap: What it was like to do a year long fast!

It feels so funny to be writing about this now, but as new readers have found my blog I get lots of questions about it! Also I wasn't super great about documenting things along the way because Mack was teething that whole year, we moved, and Mike worked out of town at the time. So it is fun to reminisce and reflect on this significant season of life.

I am honestly so grateful that I did this fast. I had no clue but it was preparing me to live a different way, that now, two years later, I am called to live every day. I no longer have access to the stores and restaurants I did when we lived in the suburbs. I think I would've struggled with a lot more frustration and bitterness adjusting to more rural life but because of the fast, it helped me give up "hobby shopping" and learn to go without things I thought I needed. (Also, thank God for Amazon Prime!)

I started my fast on a whim, in January 2014. I decided to do it as we were opening Christmas gifts and announced it to my family, who all laughed at me. A few days later, friend looked at me and said, "Well, how exactly are you going to accomplish this?" To which I just shrugged and replied, "Not sure! Just one day at a time."

The first few months were the hardest as I learned to reorient my thoughts and time. For instance, I didn't realize that while my kids napped, I often browsed social media, Pinterest, and online shopped. All three of these things fed my desire to accumulate more stuff. So pulling them out of my life was kind of like getting gum out of carpet.

Also I began to experience an edgy anxiety when I had a break from being at home with the kids and was given some alone time. I would head out of the house and instantly felt frustrated-- how was I supposed to feel refreshed and enjoy my "break" without getting a latte, wandering through stores, and treating myself to a little something to carry me through to my next "break?" I began using those hours to sit at a book shop in town, bringing my own hot tea or coffee in a travel mug (which had become my new sidekick in life) and getting my refreshment from books or being more in tuned with others. I also regenerated my love for being outside by taking more walks and driving to a park for an hour instead of the mall.

What was the hardest part? One of my biggest personal struggles during the spending fast sounds so silly now-- but it was joining a fancy gym! A Lifetime fitness went up in Des Moines and we joined as a family. The first few weeks I felt ridiculous-- during my last pregnancy, I had gotten frustrated by all my ill-fitting workout clothes and donated them all aside from a few things I wore to do household projects. Well once we joined the gym, I found myself wearing old sorority t-shirts and Soffe shorts with paint splattered across the bum while all the other moms looked super hot in their Lululemon spandex and neon colored Nikes! My sneakers were the same ones I had been wearing to mow the lawn. It was humbling and a great reminder that we don't need to buy the right items to fit in. I never really "fit in" at that gym but I sure did enjoy myself-- using the nursery so I could layout alone by the pool all summer long!

Did I ever cheat? Yes! One time. Mike and I were attending a wedding and I had that same old feeling of "gosh, I have nothing to wear!" So without skipping a beat, I got in the car, drove around the corner to T.J. Maxx, and bought myself the first cute black dress I saw. I wore it that night and did not feel guilty for one second. But the next day I really did start to feel like a cheater so I called my friend Katie to confess- she is so great she offered to buy the dress from me so it wasn't really breaking my fast!

Aside from that, I really did stick to my plan. One time I even drove backwards out of a Caribou drive-thru lane after remembering I was on a no-latte fast! It definitely helped to have accountability by announcing it on FB and keeping a little blog.

Did we save money? Not the first few months because I began buying more kids clothes and spending more on groceries to fill that void I felt. I also started buying more extravagant gifts for people getting married or having babies. When I realized what I was doing, I reeled that in and went back to the old budget. We did end up saving quite a bit of money by me doing the fast. Also during the fall, I started a direct sales business where I made a decent income and instead of blowing that on miscellaneous things we didn't need, I saved it to buy all our Christmas gifts that year as well as pay our mortgage!

After about 6 months, being on a spending fast felt like a way of life. I stopped talking about it to my girlfriends all the time and would often forget it had once seemed like the biggest deal. I made the most of holidays and my birthday by asking for things I had felt like I "needed" like jeans that fit and new tennis shoes. By the time Christmas rolled around and the year was over I felt like I could go even longer.  If you are considering doing one I highly encourage it and would love to answer any other questions you have!

Spending Fast Recap: Why I didn't spend money on myself for a year

Does anyone else struggle with greed this time of year? I sure do. For me it comes in sneakily. A few people start asking what my kids and I would want for Christmas. At first, nothing comes to mind. That's silly- I'm a grown up! I have everything I need! Then I find myself a few hours later with 8 tabs open on my computer googling things like "modern women's sweatpants" and "athletic style ponchos" and know that I'm starting to spiral.

Add in my anticipation to have relatives come visit us this holiday season. Honey, please can we re-do the kitchen in the next four weeks? Where is everyone going to sleep? We should buy an extra bed for each room-- outfitted with holiday sheets and decorative pillows, of course! Our Christmas tree looks sad, I found a new on in the Target Christmas Catalog, maybe we'll try a new ornament theme this year!

It definitely applies to my kiddos too as I think about what I'd like to get them for Christmas. My parents really gave us some memorable Christmas mornings as kids, and I get caught up wanting the holidays to be special. I completely forget the meaning of Christmas and all the wonderful free things we can do to create memories-- and instead fixate on monogrammed chairs from Pottery Barn and American Doll accessories.

A few years ago, I got tired of myself. I really did. I started to notice my life revolved around STUFF. I constantly thought about the things I wanted to buy. I spent time shopping for them online, researching items, then running the errands to buy things. Add in the time spent maintaining what I bought (laundering it, organizing it, updating it, replacing it) and really it felt like my life revolved around accumulating, storing, and hoarding possessions. I looked at magazines, Pinterest, and Instagram all of which fueled my desires to update my home, update my wardrobe, update my "image."

That can all sound extreme-- but if you take away this whole system from your life like I did in 2014, you too might notice how much of your heart is tied up in things.

This little habit of mine also began to affect my marriage (here is a whole post I wrote on that) and that's when I knew things had to change. We went from a two income family to one and my spending hadn't changed much. Our monthly conversations about our finances and budget were getting more and more intense and I was running out of excuses as to why I couldn't stick to the parameters we set up. It dawned on me that nothing was worth adding stress to my hubby or taking away time from my kids. God began to expose me to how rich we truly were in comparison to the rest of the world and I no longer felt like the millions of people marginalized and suffering was something I could keep on ignoring while I begged my husband to make room in our budget for that sectional from West Elm.

Knowing myself and how undisciplined I can be, I knew the solution lay in making major changes.

I have been this way my WHOLE life and things weren't going to go away by a little redirection here and there. I needed a heart reorientation and inspiration came through a friend who did a year-long spending fast from clothing, decor, self-care (hair cuts/color, manicures, massages, etc), beauty products (buying something once EVERYTHING ELSE ran out and choosing only the cheapest option). I added into my fast refraining from drive-thru's because I'm addicted to a "quick-fix" if I'm having a bad day via the Starbucks or some Chick-fil-a french fries. I wanted to learn to stop using special snack to self-medicate when I had a crummy day or needing a pick-me-up. This totally isn't bad on occasion but thanks to two kids under two, I was wanting a little boost EVERY DAY!

So I did it! I am writing a little post each day this week to share more with you on how it went and how it reshaped my habits. I am hoping to challenge myself as I start to struggle AGAIN with spending. Recently my husband asked me what I thought we might need to get with his year-end-bonus and my list was LONG and SUPER CRAZY, thus revealing all these little desires I've been storing up in my heart!

Thank you to those who followed with me on my journey back in 2014, encouraging me and holding me accountable and thank you to my new friends and readers who help me destress from life through this little writing outlet, love to all!

You Can Go & Love Your Self: finding time for self-care

Okay that reference in the title to a Justin Bieber song may be really inappropriate-- but to be honest I don't know what that song is really about or means so I am just going with it and playing the innocent/naive card.

I started writing a blog post about all my election feels, but I really don't know how to process through it without offending EVERYONE.

For me the hardest part about yesterday was not being able to hear what other people were thinking and going through themselves-- in their joy or despair. That can sound super dramatic but I truly think this is one of the biggest, most dramatic bachelor finales elections in our lifetime (I hope) and I hurt for my friends and family who are beyond disappointed and now feel fearful of the future because of the promises made during the campaign by the president elect-- and on the other side, I hurt for those who are called names for exercising their right to vote and choosing the candidate they felt aligned best with their beliefs, policies, and values.

I felt myself longing to work in an office and be able to chat with my coworkers as I take a coffee break and head back to my desk. I wanted to sit over a long lunch and hear what a girlfriend thought.

Instead I checked social media 1,000 times and chatted my husband's ear off when he got home at 8pm until the conversation ended with me crying and heading to bed early-- not because he said anything wrong or hurtful but because I felt fragile and the whole day reminded me of one of my the hardest parts of being a stay-at-home mom-- loneliness and isolation.

These are a few of the things I love to do throughout the day to help me get through hard times. This week that looks like getting less sleep, (because with Daylight Savings I still stay up late but my littles get up earlier!) having three sick kiddos-- two of whom I had to collect STOOL SAMPLES from for the doctor, awesome, and also I have struggled through this pregnancy with a little postpartum depression (love you, Archie) as well as pregnancy depression (love you too, mystery boy babe that will probably be named after some famous hockey player).

Anyways, I think sometimes people think when you have little kids and stay-at-home you are automatically struggling, overwhelmed, and miserable.

That is totally true.

No I am just kidding! I really hope that in my blog it is evident I love my kids and am SUPER grateful to be a mom. Sometimes when I look at our current "mommy culture" it makes me sad when the venting and blogged frustrations make kids seem like an inconvenience. Mine drive me b-a-n-a-n-a-s every other minute and then on the flip side, I spend the other half of the day oogling over them, kissing their necks, worrying about them, and thanking God for every moment we spend together.

I really do love to find solidarity with other women and have always found the best friendships and connections form when we're vulnerable with one other. And when your life is no longer your own, and instead your time, thoughts, money, conversation, etc, etc, etc, belongs to the tiny dictators in your home, you need to find some ways to take care of yourself, because unless you have figured out something that I haven't, ain't nobody gonna do that for you.

I don't have pictures to accompany this post but know you love them so I'm scattering some of our family photos from this fall throughout the post to break up the word-vomit!

1. Send your kids to clean up, set a timer and rest

My kids are not great at cleaning up their stuff, my mom who was a preschool teacher for many years, tells me that I need to sit beside them, model it before them, and then encourage them as they put things away. Because this sounds time consuming and awful, I mostly just yell, tell them what to do, then leave the room and yell again when I return 15 minutes later to an even bigger mess. But, those 15 minutes! They are so quiet! So honestly I don't really care. Once a week I sit with them in their rooms and playroom and do what mama suggested but mostly, I send them on "fake clean-ups" where they and I both know nothing is getting done but they are too afraid of me holding them accountable to bother me for a snack/butt wipe/sibling scuffle so I get a little piece and quiet.

This is when I take a shower or bath (when I'm pregnant scented epson salts are my BFF), sit and do my quiet time or Bible Study, stare off into space, watch the opening monologue of the Tonight Show on the DVR, or scroll through FB-- only to kick myself when I'm done for wasting precious alone time!

2. Get outside

We are ALL so much happier when we get out into sunshine and this is why I so openly hate Winter. I feel so loved by God to have this long, warm, beautiful fall. We get outside every day just to wander around and get fresh air.

3. Listen to music

Sometimes I go for days forgetting this, I'll be cooking and feeling so edgy and overwhelmed by the mess that's in the kitchen and the little ones pulling on my legs until I suddenly remember Pandora.

Lately I've been loving The Wailing Jenny's station, they are bluegrass/folksy and sound a lot like Alison Krause. I am a sucker for depressing music for some weird reason-- but as soon as I turn it on I soften, and feel more like myself again. My besties and I saw Parachute, Mat Kearney, and NeedtoBreathe when I was in Dallas a few weeks ago and I picked up some new fav songs from that and burned myself a good old-fashioned cd to jam out to in the car! (2 favorites if you were wondering are "Runaway" by Mat Kearney and "Lonely with You" by Parachute, even my kids love 'em!)

Another way to sneak in music or a podcast is by brewing a fresh pot of coffee, filling my to-go mug, and driving around with my kids to look at fall decorations in town. They love seeing all the pumpkins and the changing leaves-- it gives us a chance to get out of the house without spending money.

4. Cook or get carry-out

Some nights it seems like it would be relaxing to stand at the stove-top, cook a healthy meal, drink a glass of wine, and listen to music. Then I start and a few minutes in I want to throw it all out and microwave some nuggets -- as a one-year-old pulls on my pant leg, kombucha tastes like a sorry substitute for wine, I can't hear my music over the kids' whining, and the meal that I started out picturing my husband declare as "amazing" turns into "well, it's edible." A few nights ago I made my favorite baked salmon, risotto from scratch-- keep stirring, never stop stirring!--, and roasted broccoli-- afterwards I was so tired I left the kitchen a disaster and fell asleep on the couch!

But some nights the stars really do align and you can enjoy cooking if that's your thing, other nights give yourself a break and order in pizza-- which is our family tradition every Friday night!

5. Hire a babysitter

There is a chicka in our neighborhood who is a little young to wrangle all three kiddo's but is a lifesaver if I set out a project or send her outside with the big kids so I can run to the store with Archie or get some work done sequestered in my room. It can be refreshing for EVERYONE to have a boss around aside from Big Mama (as my husband affectionately taught Emmy and Mack to call me) and I love having someone else handle the creative experiments like finger-painting and play-dough.

6. Do a kid-swap

This was the best thing I ever did when I was pregnant with Archie and we lived in Des Moines. My friend Sarah and I scheduled two times a week where we would swap kids. She had four and I had two at the time and it was a life-saver for both of us. Since the days were consistent, I used that time-frame to schedule all my ob appointments and with the kids being at her house, I could clean, run errands, whatever! Then she dropped her brood off at my house for 4-5 hours and I loved it because it kept my kids entertained, and I used those afternoons to get my laundry folded and move around the house organizing things as it is hard to sit down with 6 kids running amuck!

We weren't super close friends when we started the swap (we decided to do it because we lived near each other) and I didn't know her kids very well, but I grew to love her and them and their family's friendship is one of the things we miss most about living in that area.

7. Squeeze in time for hobbies

I love to read and read a lot during different seasons of the year-- it mostly depends on whether or not I'm on a streak and have good suggestions (I am "off" right now so if you have any suggestions please share!) I get a lot of "how do you have time to read when your kids are little?" But we can all attest that we make time for things that are important to us. Cleaning and keeping up with laundry are low on my list! I don't watch any tv during the day I would rather read and I will sit in the corner with a book while the kids do lego's or send them off to a 45 minute shower while I squeeze in a few chapters.

Maybe you love to exercise or paint, you really can do these things but just be prepared to share in them with little ones pulling at your feet. Lots of time it's still worth it! As I write this post Archie keeps banging on the computer keys and screaming but I know finding time to write brings me happiness so even if it takes twice as long, whatever!

I wish I had other hobbies but I just don't. I exercised for one month and can honestly say I had so much more energy and it was awesome but I forget why I stopped going to the gym. Once a month we do yoga thanks to You-Tube and Archie has a killer downward dog.

I do love decorating so every now and then I'll pick an area of the house and re-do it or spruce it up a bit but all the errands that go with that, not to mention the $, get annoying so I spread those out every few months!


Okay nothing in life is fun if it is fit between a dozen different commitments. Even dinner with girlfriends can turn into a "task" if you are running around like crazy all week and longing instead for a night at home. I spent years doing ministry and literally NEVER had alone time or a day without meetings or intentional coffee dates. Even after Mike and I got married, I said "yes" to every thing that came my way and knew something was off when I repeatedly got asked to be apart of our church's "drama team" acting in plays-- it was not my strength at all! This season is a breath of fresh air in that I'm home every night, blissfully on the couch drinking tea wearing my comfies. It helps to live in a small town and have no friends so if you are super busy and don't know how to get out of it, go ahead and move!

If you are overcommitted, for real, QUIT SOMETHING, and read this great book! It is so not worth your joy or your family's peace of mind to spend your time doing things you don't love. I know the reality of having older kids is that you are MUCH busier running to sports and activities and know those days are in my future but for now, I am enjoying our 6:30 pm bed times!

9. Plan date nights

I waited for years for my husband to become the leading role in a romantic comedy and start whisking me off for surprise candle light dinners before I woke up and realized this is not the man I ACTUALLY married! If we are going to go on a date, I am going to set up a baby-sitter, make a restaurant reservation, and let him know our plans. At least this way we are getting some alone time together out of the house and maybe some day when he's working less I'll start to ask more of him in this department but right now he has a lot on his plate. We both come home connected and refreshed after date nights or date afternoons-- for instance this weekend our sitter is only free at 1 pm on Sunday so we're going shopping and out to an early dinner! We also don't mind being bold and asking our family to baby-sit when they come in town to visit us, we are just rude and assuming like that but it is a nice way to get some free childcare!

10. Find ways to "be you" 

Gosh what makes you feel like you? It's not a luxury! For me several of the things listed above help, as well as going on a little getaway out of the house for a few days (another post on this to come!)

It takes time to find yourself again in the midst of the piles of laundry and our identities can get lost in the needs of our families. Every once and a while I'll realize how disconnected I am from living a life I love and reevaluate. Um surprise I don't love being a domestic goddess and changing diapers but these years are legit flying by and some day I'll make more space to find my calling or whatever.

I know that these years require a lot of sacrifice and I am thankful for the ways in which laying down my life and desires for my family has shaped my character. This article/blog post is my favorite OF ALL TIME and helps me a lot when I struggle because it reminds me of my "why" and all the ways God is seriously bringing all my crap to the surface as I learn to parent!

Yesterday was super hard. I woke up and had a chocolate muffin for breakfast and curled my hair. I put on a big comfy sweater that I was saving for the holidays and sat at my computer going through some old music while my kids watched a movie. Then I decluttered a few areas to make room for the Christmas decorations I am forcing Mike to get out this weekend. For dinner we had major comfort food-- chicken alfredo-- and I let myself eat as much Halloween candy as I felt like I needed to. I put lots of my favorite essential oils on my feet and wore the softest socks I could find. My kids and I read all our favorite books and snuggled. I called my best friend and didn't make myself do any chores. These are some practical examples of what self-care looks like in my privileged life but don't go and being jealous of my easy life-- remember, I did have to collect two poop samples yesterday. This afternoon while prepping dinner I spilled half a jar of ground pepper on a hot burning, it started smoking, and we have spent the last hour sneezing non-stop-- I think it's in my lungs! #notsupermom #reallife

I hope you are getting lots of love this week and giving out even more!

Fall Life Savers

Here are a few things that are keeping me afloat these days, I just wanted to share in case you were needing a little pick-me-up yourself! You are probably too busy prepping for Halloween to notice. I LOVE celebrating holidays with my kiddo's until they actually happen, then I feel like it's a slow death. For instance, today we are marching in a Halloween Parade and I'm pretty sure people are throwing candy and hot dogs at us? I die.

So if you are needing some encouragement because nobody will wear their designated Halloween mask, and you're currently hiding in a closet eating Reeses pumpkins, I can relate-- check out these for some refreshment.

Instagram Accounts--

Lately I've had two favorites that help me find joy.

@thegraygang beautifully documents her family along with notes detailing her experience as a mama. This gal has taught me so much about embracing the season of life I’m in. It has constantly been on my heart lately that I don’t want to just survive these years but instead find ways to thrive. That is impossible to do in every moment but Tiffany shares little reminders like how our personal happiness and mood do more for our kids than things like big outings or special gifts. That it is truly an honor to be our child’s “first love” and she has shared ways to connect with your kids on a one-on-one level even when you have a bigger family. I love her!

@shannanwrites had a book come out in September, I am making myself wrap up two others before I start it but I love what she has to say about finding purpose and beauty in the mundane. She lives in a small, Midwestern town similar to mine (except she has a coffee shop --so, jealous) and documents her daily life with posts like these:

Connected Families Ministry-- 

I left the kids and hubby at home a few weeks ago and attended a Parenting Seminar by a couple I've heard about for years-- Jim and Lynne Jackson. This was my first parenting seminar, I don't attend those on the reg. I also am not a big fan of reading a lot of parenting books because it is so boring to read about my life when I am busy LIVING it all day long. I would way rather read about things that are totally irrelevant to me like rich, dramatic housewives in Australia (Liane Moriety!)

BUT-- a friend told me that the Connect Families parenting approach changed their lives, and my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-method is getting me nothing but dirty looks, sassy comments, and fruitless trips to the timeout chair. I can't even begin to tell you how reorienting this method is! It is super grace based but also teaches you how to illicit accountability and action from your littles without manipulating them. I literally tried to write down everything they said, only to find out at the end of the two hours that it was all on a DVD, hand-cramp was totally unnecessary. I also bought their DVD "Peaceful Mothering," um--is that an actual thing? Yes, please! It is gospel centered and both Jacksons have a background in psychology-- she as a behavioral therapist and him as a counselor to youth recovering from drug addiction.

Happy Hour Podcasts-- 

I Cant. Say. Enough. Good. Things. Never in my life have I subscribed to a podcast, walking around my house with my cell-phone talking at me seemed like extra needless noise. BUT, I have really been struggling with loneliness during this season of life and the Happy Hour makes me feel like I have these great (pretend) friends talking with me about the things that matter most in my life. Michal says he can tell the days he comes home from work and I've listened to it that afternoon. I am guessing this is one part that I'm happier afterwards and one part that I require less conversation from him!

Jamie Ivey is the host and she interviews a different "friend" each week, covering topics like parenting, adoption, marriage, friendships, finding your passion/calling, and at the end of each conversation she asks each person to share what they've been reading and loving so I am getting a ton of great ideas! It is faith centered but isn't too preachy. I feel like it is really relatable and the women that are on are so vulnerable and honest about hard things so there is never that glossy fake-ness that we can sometimes encounter in Christian circles!
If you're just starting out, a few of my favorites are:

Shay Shull- sharing about her journey of infertility and adoption
Bianca Juarez Olthoff- talking about her role in defending those caught up in human trafficking AND how she applies fake eyelashes while driving (my kind of woman)
Katherine Wolf- this amazing woman survived a stroke (that occurred while her two-year-old napped in the other room) and subsequent two-month-long coma and has amazing perspective on suffering that completely changed my outlook on many things I've been struggling with

You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll definitely thank me after listening to some of these women share their lives!

Vitamin D3-- 

The winter is coming, the winter is coming! Now that I'm all hippy dippy and have chosen to have a midwife this pregnancy, I am following her tips to be proactive against Postpartum Depression (which in my case seems to tag team my other best friend: Seasonal Affective Disorder) by loading up on the Vitamin D. I can already tell a big difference in my energy and mood-- especially since I have also given up my afternoon Diet Coke and can tell I don't really need the extra caffeine to get through the witching hour which is A SHOCKING turn of events.

Trader Joe's Chai Tea-- 

Buttttttt for all the days I DO need that extra boost around 3 pm, I am loving this treat.

Nature Boxes-- 

This was actually an assignment from my kids' preschool but it was a fun (and easy) project for us to do together. We walked around the neighborhood for a few weeks collecting leaves, sticks, dried flowers, walnuts, acorns, dead beetles, discarded trash, etc and filled a shopping bag.

Once Emmy announced she had enough, we got out old shoe boxes and decorated them (aka made a huge mess with glitter glue). It was a simple project and gave some more purpose to our daily walks!
Archie loves the fall leaves, too!

Halloween TV--

Does anyone else control their kids' holiday shows like a crazy cruise director? I WILL NOT let mine watch any Christmas shows until after Nov 1st! I have been pushing Curious George Spooky Halloween telling them they aren't allowed to watch it after Oct 31st and diligently search the tv guide for Halloween themed Disney shows to record. I actually spend my break time while my kids fake-nap looking for fun shows to record, it's a passion. Thank you Motherhood, for bringing me dumb crap to care about that I never thought twice on before!

Fall Festivals--

We of course, like every other flannel wearing pumpkin-spice drinking family in America, have made various trips to pumpkin patches this fall. I love clinging to these fleeting warm days, getting outside with my kiddos and spending $7 on a caramel apple.

Pumpkin Painting--

I am lame/lazy and have yet to carve a pumpkin in my adult life. Painting them is much easier and less dangerous! Last year I just got out our craft box and let the kids get crazy with the paint and glitter (our driveway is still stained) They loved it!
This is the extent of my fall decor-- mums that never get watered and a hay bale that will surely sit here through several snowfalls!

Neighborhood Party--

We are using this season as an excuse to invite our neighbors over. I'm making my favorite fall go to's mentioned in this blog post-- Sweet Corn Chili, Butternut Squash Soup, and "The Salad." We are doing a little scavenger hunt around the yard now the woods are less tick-invested and having the neighborhood kids assemble a candy haunted house I bought at Trader Joes-- because there will be a 9-year-old here to facilitate the operation. It is so easy to stay busy and just wave at these people in passing but we really want to be better at opening our home and getting to know the families God has surrounded us with.

What other fun fall things am I missing? Has anyone else started their Christmas shopping lists' yet? I casually gave Emmy a copy of the American Girl catalog to get her to stop asking me questions in the car-- HUGE mistake! Four just seems so young to me to start such an expensive hobby-- what say ye more experienced mamas?!

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