Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Meal planning made easy

7 Ways to make meal planning easier, faster and more practical for your family

Every single day my family needs to eat. And they insist on three meals a day plus sometimes snacks as well. It can be a lot. The biggest challenge for me is figuring out what to make. By the end of the day, I’m tired and usually my brain is on overload. That’s where meal planning comes to the rescue.

Through the years, I’ve tried different strategies for meal planning. Unfortunately some of them made me feel like a failure. Others just didn’t work. And still others took too much time that I didn’t have. For the last few years, my simple meal planning strategy has worked well for my family.

During these last few months of being at home and only picking up groceries once a week, I’ve had to be even more intentional with meal planning. It keeps my family fed and me sane!

Decide how often you’re going to the grocery store

The first step for meal planning is deciding how often you’re going to the grocery store. Whether you go once a week, three times a week or once every other week is going to make a difference in what you buy.

In general, I go once a week. Sometimes I end up with a trip in between there, but my goal is once a week. That’s been even more true during this year of social isolation when I’m only doing grocery pick-up. I’ve found that knowing I can’t just pop into the grocery store and pick up a forgotten ingredient or a fresh ingredient makes a difference in my planning.

While I know not everyone is staying out of the grocery store in person like I am, keeping trips to a minimum and not having to go back over and over for forgotten ingredients just makes life easier!

Keep a running grocery list

Being able to pick up everything you need during your grocery shopping trip is also key for effective meal planning. While my grocery list includes items for specific meals I have planned, it also includes everyday items that we go through like milk, bread, yogurt, eggs, cheese, fresh fruit, etc.

My favorite way to keep a grocery list is through using an app called Our Groceries. It is connected to our Alexa, so as I’m working in the kitchen, I can tell Alexa to add items to my grocery list. The list is also shared on both my phone and my husband’s. Pre-pandemic there were times one of us added items to the grocery list while the other was in the store shopping!

My mom uses a different strategy for her grocery list by adding items to her grocery cart for pick-up. That also works as does pen and paper, which is what I did before we started using the Our Groceries app.

Think practically about what you will make

When I first started meal planning, I’d come up with all sorts of ideas. I listed recipes new to us. I planned on cooking every night of the week even though I wasn’t doing that before I began meal planning. I had high hopes, I guess.

The reality is I don’t cook every night. Some nights I need something easy to make like frozen pizza, canned soup or grilled cheese. It may be a busy day or a crummy health day. So I learned to plan a few meals to cook each week and also to plan a few meals that don’t take as much effort. You just have to be practical about what your family actually does.

Make a list

Write down what you are planning to make over the next week (or two or however long you go in between grocery store trips). Add the ingredients to your running grocery list so you are prepared.

Be sure to go through the ingredients you have already for inspiration of what to make and use. Try also to plan items using similar fresh ingredients in the same week. For example, I often do tacos for dinner one night and salads within a day or two since both use fresh lettuce. Or I utilize the ground beef with chili one night and sloppy joes within a day or two.

Also add meal ideas that you always have on hand to your list. For my family this includes things like frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, frozen or homemade waffles and homemade pancakes.

Decide what list format works for you

Perhaps my biggest meal planning secret is that I don’t plan meals for specific days. I tried doing that and it never worked well. So now I make a list and have found three ways that work well.

This is how simple my list looks.

Prior to the pandemic, I made a list that was divided in two with meals that I had ingredients for and those that required ingredients to be bought fresh. For example, if I planned tacos, I might need to buy lettuce. Or if I had my daughter’s favorite slow cooker potato soup on the list, I might need to buy a loaf of fresh french bread.

Now that I can’t stop by the store for just a few fresh ingredients, I make one big list of meals I have ingredients for. In my head, I know which of those meals have ingredients that need to be used sooner than later, but I don’t break up the list any more.

You can also add a section for meal ideas that you always have on hand. Again, nowadays, I just put it all on one big list. So part of my meal planning list doesn’t usually change. But seeing those ideas of other things we have helps me when I’m deciding what to make for dinner.

Add details if you want

You can get more detailed with your list if that helps you. You can add side dish items along beside your main dish or even in a separate section. I don’t usually do that simply because the main dish is the hardest one to pick! Once I know what it is, the sides fall into place.

You can also include recipe notes like a URL to a recipe or where you saw it. I have even printed out new recipes and kept with my list in the past. Now I have a drawer in my kitchen where I put the recipes instead.

Put the list where you’ll use it

I like having my list visible where I need it most: my kitchen. So I post my list on my fridge with a magnet. I usually have mine typed up (which is just easier for me and I can keep the recurring meals on there). I trim the paper down to the size of the list so it’s not a full sheet of paper and stick it on the fridge. As we have dinners, I mark off what I no longer have ingredients for.

The list works well because my family can also see it and put in their thoughts for dinner sometimes.

If it works better for you, keep the list on your phone. Or put it in a drawer. You could stick it in your pantry. I’ve even kept my list on Google Drive and shared it with my husband before. Find the spot that works best for you and your family and go with it!

Just you wait and see

Encouragement for moms who are struggling

We all have different pet peeves in general. One of the biggest pet peeves I have as a mom is the moms who are quick to jump into a conversation with a mom in a stage behind them who is struggling and say, “Just you wait and see…” She then proceeds to assure the struggling mom how much more difficult parenthood gets. She regales her with tales of phases yet to come and how difficult they are.

Having been a mom myself for almost 11 years, I get it. All phases of parenting have their struggles. The things I stress or worry about now with a 7-year-old and 10-year-old are different than when I had a 7-month-old and 3-year-old. Some stuff is easier and some stuff is harder. Certainly their problems get more complex as they get older, and I know that will continue as they grow.

However, the last thing a mom needs when she is struggling is to basically be told whatever she is struggling with isn’t that big of a deal and will only get harder. Whether it’s true or not, it’s far from helpful.

Instead, I do my best to do a different version of “Just you wait and see” to offer encouragement for the moms who are behind me in phases. Because while each stage of motherhood has its challenges and difficulties, each stage also has some really awesome blessings and good parts, too.

To the baby mamas

If your baby isn’t sleeping well, hang in there. Eventually he or she will get better at sleeping and you’ll start to feel less like a Mombie. No matter what you’re doing to survive this phase, it’s OK. Maybe your preschooler is watching more shows right now so you can rest when the baby does. Or maybe you have dishes piled in your sink and no energy to do them. It’s OK. Give yourself grace and know that it will get better. One day, you will actually be able to look back with fondness on the middle of the night snuggles and feedings. But it’s OK if right now all they make you want to do is cry in exhaustion and desperation. Just you wait and see. It will get better.

If your baby is struggling to eat well, hang in there. He or she will figure it out. My first baby couldn’t figure out how to suck to get milk and had some big struggles for her first few weeks. But, she’s now a healthy 10-year-old who can not only eat and drink on her own but even prepares her own food. Just you wait and see. It will get better.

If your baby has started crawling and getting into everything, hang in there. While it’s fun for babies to be on the move, it is also stressful to keep them safe! I’d guess when they learned your baby can now crawl, some people smirked and told you how your real fun of parenthood is about to start. While they meant it sarcastically, having a baby who can explore and start really learning about the world is pretty cool. You get to see their personalities start emerging even more and that’s fun! Just you wait and see. It will get better. They will learn to avoid hazards.

To the toddler mamas

If your kiddo has started walking and is into everything everywhere, hang in there. My oldest took her time to walk and did so cautiously. I’m trying to remember if my youngest walked very long. He seemed to go from walking to running quick quickly! It is difficult to keep them out of the trash or corralled when you want to go places. You’ll have battles of will when you want or need to carry them, but they’ll eventually get more steady on their feet. And they’ll eventually start to understand their boundaries and what they can and can’t do. He won’t always try to pull things out of the trash and will instead walk to you with a big grin and his favorite book so you can snuggle and read. Just you wait and see. It will get better.

If your toddler is all about wanting to do things for herself to the point of your frustration, hold tight. One day she will legitimately be able to pick out her own clothes and tie her own shoes with ease. These days are frustrating and it’s OK to want to just take over so you aren’t always late thanks to this stage of independence. Just you wait and see. It will get better.

If your toddler is in the midst of potty training and you’re in the midst of frustration, I understand. Potty training has been one of my least favorite parenting tasks. I even once said in frustration, “This child can go to college in diapers. I am done!” Of course, that wasn’t true. Now both of my children are able to manage their own bathroom needs solo and we haven’t had anyone in diapers in years. Just you wait and see. It will get better.

To the preschool moms

If your preschooler is learning how to count or say the ABCs and is counting over and over and over, hang in there. One day that same kid will stop counting and maybe even help her younger siblings learn to count. Maybe you’ve got a mathematician in the making. Just you wait and see. It will get better.

If you feel frustrated with your preschooler seeming not to play with other kids his or her age, don’t fret. Of course you worry and want only the best for your kids. It’s understandable. However, learning to play well with others really does take time and isn’t all that easy for little ones to do. Later on they’ll have a grand time playing with friends and, hopefully, siblings. Just you wait and see. It will get better.

If your preschooler loves playing pretend and you think you might scream if you have to eat one more bite of pretend food, voice one more action figure or burp one more doll, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that kids with good imaginations are smart. Breathe in and out and know that pretend play is how they figure out this week. Eventually you’ll get to have real conversations with them or play games and have lots of laughs. Just you wait and see. It will get better.

To the moms of early elementary kiddos

If you are sending your kiddo off for his or her first day of kindergarten and cry for an hour afterward, hang in there. You’re normal. Letting them go and grow is so difficult and so bittersweet. There are so many feelings involved and you’ve got so many worries. And even if that kiddo is not sure he wants you to leave him at school without you, take a deep breathe and eat some chocolate. By the second week of school (at most) he’ll be so in love with his teachers and friends and new schedule. Before you know it, she’ll be a full-fledged school-aged child and you’ll actually enjoy the time without her. Just you wait and see. It will get better.

If you are not sure whether you will survive the days of learning to spell and read, hang in there. It can take forever for early readers to get through books. Hold tight to patience and know that one day your kiddo will be reading like a champ and you’ll burst with pride at seeing how far he or she has come. Just you wait and see. It will get better.

If your kiddo is working through learning his or her limits at school or home or both, hang in there. This happens in many stages, but it really won’t last forever. They will learn what is OK and what isn’t. They will learn their boundaries and how to make good decisions. Just you wait and see. It will get better.

To all the moms

No matter what phase or challenge are having right now, know that it won’t last forever. Children learn and grow. They change. We get a sideline view to see them growing into young men and young women. As parents, we get to be there to cheer them on and celebrate with them. We also can wrap them in our arms and comfort them on difficult days.

Motherhood is challenging to the very core of your being. You’ll have days that you’ll look back and not even be able to explain how you survived them. But you WILL survive. This challenge WILL pass. And it WILL get better. Just you wait and see!

Do you have any additional encouragement for moms to add? My oldest is in 5th grade, so I can’t go much farther, yet, than I have. Please share your comments, so we can encourage each other on this journey!

Because you’re mine: Understanding God’s love for us

God’s love for us is constant, just like our love for our children.

I wrote this 5-1/2 years ago when my son was 2 and my daughter was 5. They are older now, but these truths remain. My parenting looks a bit different nowadays and their needs have shifted a bit, but my love and dedication to them, of course, remains.

“Mommy, come!”

“Mommy, come here!”

This is the little voice I hear calling to me most mornings and after nap times. Sometimes my son switches it to call for daddy. And sometimes he gets desperate and just sobs without even calling our names. For a couple of months, I’d hear this sobbing and crying for me in the middle of the night again after him having slept through the night for almost a year.

When I hear this voice and hear his plea, I go to him. Because he is mine.

We snuggle together to calm his fears. My hair falls over the top of his head and the two intermingle in exactly the same shade of brown. Because he is mine.  

We have had our fair share of battles — stubborn ones — throughout his learning to sleep or just to listen when we tell him not to do something. Because he is mine (he comes by his stubbornness fair and square).  

At the end of any given day, though, the things I have done for my son and for my daughter are because I love them. They are mine. I see bits of myself in them. My daughter has my sensitive heart and the shape of my fingers. She has my smile. My son has my brown hair and eyes. He has my love for music and snuggles.

I would do anything for them, because they are mine. I don’t ignore their pleas for help when they are sick or scared, because they are mine.

How God feels about us

God must feel that way with us. Because we are His, He doesn’t ignore us when we cry out to Him. He is there even when we don’t realize it. Just like I am never far from my son when he is afraid that I have left for good. I haven’t left. And neither does God leave us, even when we can’t see Him. God’s love for us is constant.

He comes running to us in our time of need because we are His. I think of this especially in the night. Things can be scarier in the night, especially for children. My daughter is old enough to get out of bed and come running to me when she needs me. My son is still in his crib and his only course of action is to holler for me.

Either way, I’m there, which is just how God is with us. Whether we can come running and meet Him or whether we need Him to find us in the darkest nights. God is there. He is waiting. He is loving us. Because we are His.

I’ve had many figurative dark nights in my lifetime. I have had times where I had no idea how I was going to make it through. There have been innumerable moments of frustration and pain. I have cried out to God about the unfairness of it all. I have pleaded with Him to take away difficult circumstances or painful ailments.  

Some prayers have been answered with a yes and a resolution. Others have been answered with a gentle no. No matter what I have faced, though, God has always shown up when I needed Him and cried out to Him. Because I am His.  

And no greater love can be found. I work to wrap my head around God’s love and how it can be even greater than my love for my children. It’s beyond comprehension, but the glimpses I get make me feel humbled and thankful.

What does God see in me?

I wonder what God sees when He looks at me. Does He see pieces of Himself as I see pieces of myself in my children? I know we are made in His image, but I also know it goes much deeper than appearance. I’m not sure God has a hair color or eye color. Maybe He does. I really don’t know.

But what I want my Father to see most is His character attributes being displayed through my life because I am His. And that is where it gets tricky. I have to battle my own self, my own desires and my own fallibility so that He may shine through. Above all, I want God to see Himself in me. I want to get out of the way so that He can work in my life. Because I am His and He is mine.

I don’t know where you are today, my friend. Maybe you’re in the deepest darkest night and scared to pieces, unsure of how you will make it through or how you can face another day.  

Perhaps you’re on a mountaintop experiencing the joy of life and of God. Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle. Maybe you’re wondering how God shines through in your life.  

No matter where you are, no matter what you’re facing, wondering or thinking, just call out to God. He will come running to meet you, because you are His.

Why our children need validation

Kids need to feel understood

Recently, I wrote an article for a publication about Social Security disability benefits for people who have the same bladder condition I do, interstitial cystitis. IC has no diagnostic test for it and is instead a diagnosis of elimination. While we have made much progress through the years, some patients are still told their symptoms are all in their heads.

Each patient I interviewed who had received disability benefits — whether it took one year or eight years — said their approval for disability brought them great relief and great validation. In fact, feeling validated was almost as thrilling for them as finding out their financial concerns were going to be improving.

Why validation matters

Validation is so incredibly important. I think it’s something that we often overlook both for ourselves and for our kids. Sometimes we don’t need someone to come along and fix our problems. We just need someone to listen, understand and say, “I see you are suffering, and I’m sorry.”

I have felt that way so many times. I even tell my husband sometimes when I don’t need him to fix a problem and just need him to listen.

I’ve not thought about validation as much when it comes to my children. I suppose that’s because validation doesn’t matter so much when they are babies and toddlers. It’s a bit complex. As they get older, though, it comes up.

Validating kids’ emotions

Over the weekend, my daughter had something she wanted to do that didn’t work out through no fault of hers or anyone else. She felt frustrated, disappointed and tearful. What she was upset about seemed a bit trivial to me, because I have three decades of life on her that give me more perspective.

But, it was a big deal to her. And I realized how thankful I am that at 9 years old, my daughter hasn’t had experiences to give her a different perspective. She hasn’t dealt with great adversity or struggle. I am thankful for that blessing.

As I heard her crying, I debated about how to react. Should I comfort her? Should I leave her be? What did my mom do? What would help her most? I decided to trust my mama instinct, which said to go to her and comfort her. So that’s what I did.

It didn’t take much. I gave her a hug and commiserated with her about how disappointing the situation was. I validated her struggle and feelings. That’s what she most needed. Then I gently guided her through looking for a solution to the problem.

Moving from validation to proactivity

I don’t want her to get so caught up in her emotions that she can’t move forward to fix problems. Obviously that wouldn’t serve her well in life. But, I knew without validation for her feelings that she wouldn’t be able to move forward and find a solution.

She was able to continue with her day. My daughter shed a few more tears and then moved on. She felt understood, which mattered most to her. It matters to all of us. When we are going through a difficult time, we just want to be seen and acknowledged for our struggle.

Adults need validation, too

A couple of years ago, I dealt with an ongoing situation that greatly affected me, yet I wasn’t able to tell anyone about. I remember a good friend whose response in finding out about it later was, “You must have felt so alone.” Her response still touches my heart, because I was validated. I felt seen and heard in the midst of my struggle.

That’s all our kiddos need sometimes, too. It’s human nature. And it’s something I’m going to strive to remind myself the next time one of my kiddos has a breakdown over something that seems small to me.

My children don’t need my irritation, frustration or list of solutions. They just need me to come alongside them, hug them, remind them they aren’t alone and then we can work through it together. I pray also that doing this with small issues in their childhood will lead them to coming to me with bigger, more serious issues as they grow.

Moms on a Mission: Kathleen Brooker

Profiles of moms making a difference

Back in 2009, I was pregnant with my daughter and joined a message board on Baby Center’s site for women expecting babies in October 2009.

Through the years, I’ve gotten to know a few of the moms from that group very well and consider them good friends. One of these mamas is Kathleen Brooker. When we first “met,” she lived in California. Since then she’s followed her husband’s calling as an Anglican priest to New York and now to Anchorage, Alaska.

As a pastor’s wife of a growing church, Kathleen often jumps in teaching Sunday School, serving in the nursery, co-leading the teen group and more.

Kathleen, who is a former mental health counselor, has chosen to be at home with her five children (ages 2 to 10). She homeschools her oldest three and does her best to keep the younger two entertained at the same time. She’s got such a heart for God and has blessed and encouraged me many times throughout the years.

Just reading Kathleen’s responses to my questions encouraged me, and I know they will you, too!

Families with Grace: What is your God-given mission or passion?

Kathleen Brooker: This is such a hard question for me to answer! It’s hard to zero in on the one thing I feel called to. I think that might mean that I haven’t figured that out yet. So many things draw me. I love to serve alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever we happen to be needed.

Right now, my service is mostly with the youth in our church: I homeschool our kids, teach Sunday school, and help lead our teen group. I have a heart for young moms and women experiencing crisis pregnancies. I long to be a kind and loving voice speaking the truth of the gospel into the hearts of those needing to hear it.

FWG: How do you work to live out that mission right now?

KB: I always thought the counseling profession was where I was supposed to really minister, but after over a decade I’ve come to the conclusion that a counseling office just isn’t where God wants me to serve.

So I serve at home by teaching our kids, by guiding their hearts to love Jesus. I serve by helping our teens at church learn to talk about their faith and share it with others. I serve by being a pastor’s wife.

As the wife of an Anglican priest and mom of five kids, Kathleen Brooker is busy. But she has a heart for God that shines through to encourage others. #MomsOnAMission #Ministry #PastorsWife #Faith #Church #Moms #MomLife

I love watching my husband share Jesus with people, whether it’s through a worship service, a sermon, a conversation or a prayer with a stranger who calls at 3 a.m. God has blessed him with a personality and heart to love His people, but that’s not always an easy job. That’s where I come in: I get to be his support as he lives out his mission.

God has set our family on a very interesting course — one I never would have imagined when I started dating my husband! We’ve been married for 13 years and have made three major moves (and two minor ones) in that time.

We crossed the country to serve in California, crossed back to serve in New York, then packed up our family again four years ago to serve a small church in Alaska. We’ve had some painful experiences and some times of beautiful peace and healing. Through all of it, we’ve been a team and God has grown us through our ministry together.

FWG: What are some of your biggest challenges in living out your mission?

KB: I think my biggest struggle is that my calling doesn’t feel like a calling sometimes. It just feels like tagging along where God calls my husband! So often, I feel like whatever I can offer is so small that it just has to be insignificant.

There are so many outreach ministries I would love to be involved in, but I’m just so busy with home stuff that it seems like I don’t have time to actually minister to anyone. That’s when I have to remind myself that this is where God has put me now, right here in this house, right in the middle of all this chaos. And He knows I’m here and what’s going on.

He’s blessed my husband and me with five little hearts that are so open to Jesus and long to know and love Him. That’s my mission right now: my kids. It doesn’t mean I can’t do other things outside the home or that I don’t want to, but my focus these days is on guiding them.

FWG: What have been some of your biggest blessings in living out your mission?

KB: It’s got to be learning to trust that God really does know what He’s doing. It’s easy to say that God is in control when things are going well, but it becomes so much harder when we run into complications in life. It feels strange to say that the times we’ve struggled most have also blessed us the most, but they have.

We had one particularly rough situation where my husband had lost his job. We were living thousands of miles away from family and friends. We were suddenly cut off from the little support and friendship we’d had, and we just didn’t know what we were going to do. I was eight months pregnant with no health insurance and things just seemed awful.

It wasn’t an easy time, but even in the middle of it, we could see God moving. It was amazing to see how He worked things out and provided for us. I love looking back at a situation and realizing, “Oh, THAT’S what you were doing, God!” It’s amazing to see.

I think my favorite example of this is always going to be the birth of our fifth child. I was so done at four children. I even told God that. Apparently He didn’t agree because shortly after we’d moved to Alaska and settled into our new life here, I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant.

I had such a hard time accepting that I was really going to have another baby and I struggled with it right up until the moment she was born and I saw her little face. The moment I held her and looked in her eyes, I heard God whispering in my heart, telling me to just trust Him. He was telling me that He knows my heart so much better than I ever could. He knows what I need and what is best, even when I think I’ve got a better plan.

During that whole pregnancy, I fought against trusting that God’s plan was better than mine. But the second I saw my daughter’s beautiful little face, all my resistance melted away and I was just in awe of Him. He was teaching me a mighty lesson, but He was doing it in such a gentle, loving way. At that moment I had just a glimpse of His amazing patience, love and grace.

I’d love to say that I’ve changed every aspect of my life and that I never worry and always trust wholly in Him…but that just wouldn’t be honest. Every single time I look at my daughter, though, He reminds me that His plans are best. I still struggle to trust Him completely, but I hope that I’m at least taking some tiny steps in the right direction, following where He’s so lovingly and patiently leading me.

FWG: What’s the best advice you have for other moms who are following their passions?

KB: I think my advice would be to remember that God has you where you are for a reason. It doesn’t always seem like we’re making any kind of difference or actually doing anything to serve Him, but we are.

I know I always catch myself comparing myself with other women who seem to be more accomplished than I am, feeling that if they are doing something I’m not, then I must be failing. But that’s not the way this works.

We are all here to serve Him in different ways. For some of us, that may never be a spotlight-type of ministry, and that’s OK. It’s more than OK; it’s what He has planned for us. I think we’re just supposed to follow Him faithfully, serving wherever we are with our whole heart and sharing the love of Jesus where we are.

Read more from the series

Moms on a Mission: Dr. Karen Dowling

Moms on a Mission: Erin Mayes

Moms on a Mission: Mari Hernandez-Tuten

Moms on a Mission: Sarah R. Moore

Moms on a Mission: Stacey Pardoe

Moms on a Mission: Kristin Billerbeck

Moms on a Mission: Crystal (aka InnieMom)

Moms on a Mission: Pastor Stefanie Hendrickson

Moms on a Mission: Amy Cutler

10 No and low-cost Mother’s Day gift ideas

Moms don’t need an expensive gift to be happy!

I first put this list together back in 2013 when I had a newborn and a preschooler. Now my kids are 7 and 10, but the list STILL holds true. I’d love every single thing on this list for Mother’s Day any year.

This year as we are heading into Mother’s Day weekend either still in or maybe barely out of quarantine, we must remember moms don’t need expensive Mother’s Day gifts to feel loved and appreciated!

Mother’s Day is Sunday. I saw a cartoon recently where a woman was interviewing for a job as a mom. She said to the interviewer, “So, I only get one day off for Mother’s Day?” The interviewer responded, “Yes, and technically we still work then.” 

I laughed. It was funny in the way that something is when it has a nugget of truth in it. Motherhood has no days off.

Ideally, all moms would be able to relax on Mother’s Day and do what they want to do. But, that’s just not reality. However, moms don’t require much to be happy. If you know a mom (or a married to a mom!) who has young kids at home, I guarantee she’d like anything from this list and most of them don’t even need you to leave your house or spend a penny.

1. Give her the gift of a nap. 

Yep. This is my number one. I love naps. At any given moment, I would happily fall asleep if I could. This includes a nap sitting straight up in a chair (been there, done that). A nap where someone else is in charge of my youngsters for a couple of hours and I actually get to lie down in bed? Now THAT’S a wonderful gift!

2. Give her a compliment on her appearance. 

I’m constantly hunched over doing things like changing diapers, nursing, playing games, wiping faces, etc. Between my hunching, my post-babies’ body (which wasn’t a stellar one to begin with) and the fact that I’m beyond overdue for a hair cut, nothing about me feels attractive 99.9% of the time. 

Sometimes I literally look in the mirror and do a double-take when I find I don’t look nearly like the exhausted, hunchbacked zombie I feel like.  A sincere compliment from my husband might make me roll my eyes on the outside, but it also makes me feel good on the inside.

3. Give her some flowers. 

Listen, I have a fear of plants (I admit way too much in this blog) and even I love getting flowers. A vase of fresh flowers is cheerful and uplifting. They don’t have to be anything fancy. A bouquet of fresh flowers from the grocery store are just fine. 

The best kind of flowers to a gal like me are those I can enjoy in a vase for a week or two then throw out. Other moms might like the kind they can plant and maintain. My own mom and mother-in-law can plant anything outside and not only keep alive, but have it thrive. Go for what the mom in your life likes!

4. Give her a night off from cooking.

Even better, give her the whole day off! Whether we’re the kind of mom who cooks everything from scratch or relies on convenience food or somewhere in between the two, moms are constantly doing food prep of some sort. 

We probably don’t mind most of the time, but getting a break from making three square meals plus snacks for a day is nice. Even better is a homemade meal that we didn’t have to lift a finger for, but takeout works, too.

5. Give her the gift of laundry. 

I still keep my laundry schedule as best I can with a newborn and 3-year-old, but I also pretty much always have a load of laundry hanging over my head. (This is still true now even with my kids being a bit older now!) Right now, I do really, really well if I get two loads of laundry finished in one day. More typical is one load of laundry and even that may sit in the dryer for a few hours (or overnight…). Doing laundry for any mother is a blessing.

6. Give her the gift of a clean house. 

I’ve come across sayings about how cleaning your house when you have young children is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos or shoveling while it’s still snowing. Yep. Sounds about right! Any home in which young children reside could use some cleaning whether it’s putting away some toys, scrubbing toilets or vacuuming — or all of the above!

7. Give her the gift of uninterrupted, fun time with her children. 

What moms really want (after more sleep) is more good memories with their children. Most of us have realized that their childhoods go flying by. Sometimes doing the tasks and chores involved with taking care of our families and everything else keep from being able to just hang out with and enjoy our children. 

Moms need that. Children need that. Take mom out of the house with the kiddos and have a picnic. Or just let her sit for the day and play with the kiddos without having to worry about cooking or cleaning.

8. Give her gifts made with love. 

A craft created by little hands just for mom that mom didn’t have anything to do with is special. Yes, we are that easy. We also love a heartfelt note of appreciation. Being seen for all we do in motherhood is priceless.

9. Give her the gift of alone time. 

We definitely want more memories with our kids, but we also could use some alone time to sleep, read, sleep, shop, sleep, watch television, sleep or whatever we want to do. I’ve been almost finished with the same book for the last three months since the birth of my son. I seriously could have the book finished at least within an hour, but finding an hour to just sit and read on any given day is impossible. 

Maybe make mom’s alone time outside of home so she’s not tempted to clean or catch up on other chores. We’re kind of crazy like that.

10. Give her the gift of appreciation. 

Moms do what they do out of love. We get up every morning and wipe noses, make lunches, play pretend, do laundry, kiss boo-boos, hug through tears and even discipline because we love our children more than anything else. But, we still need to hear thank-you sometimes. 

We need to hear it from our spouses and from our children. My husband has been good at this so our daughter is learning to as well. Just the other night she thanked me for dinner while she was eating. 

Everyone likes to be appreciated. We moms need to know that all our hard work and sacrifices are being noticed. While we don’t do them for glory or for thanks, being appreciated makes us feel good and helps strengthen us to keep going.

Moms really are pretty easy to do things for. We appreciate small acts of kindness. Most of the time we’re so busy taking care of everyone else that we don’t do much for ourselves, so when someone else does something to take care of us, we appreciate it. We accept it as a gift. And we sincerely enjoy it.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my fellow mamas! You are awesome, strong women who are doing the best for your children. May your day be filled with lots of love and laughter and — if you’re lucky — a nice, long nap!

Want more on Mother’s Day? Check out this post:

Learning to lean on God in darkness

A lesson I learned as a little girl has served me well

Growing up, we had a long (to my perception), dark hallway in our house. As a child with a good imagination, my imagination could get the best of me in that hallway and leave me frightened. I’d hurry down the hallway to get through it as fast as I could.

When I was in third grade, my Sunday School teacher taught us the first part of Isaiah 41:10, “So, do not fear for I am with you.” (She might have taught us the entire verse, but that is the part that stuck with me.)

From then on, I’d repeat that verse over and over to myself when I walked down that hallway. I continued doing so for a year or two until I was older and no longer afraid.

For years, I didn’t tell anyone this story. I wasn’t ashamed of it, but it just didn’t come up. I first wrote about this story as a high school student for a church youth newsletter I started and edited.

After my mom read the story, she immediately told me she wished that I’d have told her and she could have put a light in that hallway. (In fact, later on she had put a light in that hallway.) I assured her it was fine.

In the years since then, though, this lesson has stayed with me. Isaiah 41:10 continues to be my favorite Bible verse. I’ve learned the entire verse and carried it with me through many situations much more frightening than that dark hallway in my childhood home.

Teaching my children to lean on God

Now that I’m a mom myself, I think about this lesson from a new perspective. Would I have learned to rely on God when I’m scared so early on without this experience? I’m not so sure. It was a small situation that was big to me and first taught me how when I’m scared I can turn to God.

I question whether I am instilling these lessons in my own children now. I am reminded that while I want to make their lives incredibly easy and without struggle, that isn’t always best for them because life doesn’t work that way.

Learning to lean on God when I’m afraid is a lesson I am so glad to have learned. Getting outside of our fear and clinging to the One Who holds us in His hand is sometimes quite difficult. I pray that my children will learn this lesson since our God can comfort and protect them in more ways than I can.

Feeling thankful for adversity

Paul tells us to be thankful for our adversities. That can be incredibly hard to do. I have had times in my life where looking back later, I completely understood and felt thankful for past adversities. This dark hallway fear is an adversity from childhood for which I am thankful. I learned how to lean on God in the darkness, and that’s served me incredibly well.

The darkness — both literal and figurative — can be such a scary place. We can feel alone and our anxiety can be intense. It’s easy to have our imaginations and thoughts spiral into a very dark place.

However, we do have One Who is with us in the darkness, even when we may not understand it or feel He is missing. He remains faithful and true in spite of our feelings. And God has given us His Word to encourage and remind us Who we most need to put our trust in, even in the darkest of times.

Moms on a Mission: Sarah R. Moore

Profiles of moms making a difference

I recently shared about the FWG Moms on a Mission series in a blogging group I belong to. Sarah R. Moore reached out to me to ask for more information. Within a minute of being on her page, Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting, I realized she and I have a lot in common!

Her mission and mine line up incredibly well. Sarah is passionate about encouraging positive parenting and building relationships. You’re going to be blessed and encouraged by her insights!

Families with Grace: What is your God-given mission or passion?

Sarah R. Moore: My mission is help families know Christ’s love within their own homes and to feel His grace and live out His goodness in how family members treat one another. Words alone won’t encourage the next generation to believe. I want children to trust in God’s kindness because they’ve experienced that feeling of physical and emotional safety in their own homes.

Further, I hope to gently bring non-believers to Christ by helping them feel His love as they experience it within the context of gentle and positive parenting. I’m a peacemaker by nature, and I want to help people make peace with Christ, above all.  

FWG: How do you work to live out that mission right now?

SRM: I’m an internationally published positive parenting writer and educator. Still, I’m far from perfect, so I share my struggles as well as my “wins.” I want parents to know that I “get” both sides. I’ve never been one to write about why MY way is best or why someone HAS to believe in Christ; those things are off-putting at best.

Instead, I take a really honest and transparent approach. Sometimes, it feels like my blog posts should start, “Dear Diary…” But seriously, parenting can be HARD sometimes, and I want parents to have solid, research-backed, evidence-based information at their fingertips. Moreover, as a mom, I work to practice what I preach in my own home. My child is going to hold me accountable for this stuff!

FWG: What are some of your biggest challenges in living out your mission?

SRM: There’s so much misinformation out there – along with so many stereotypes. For one, many non-believers assume that Christian parenting is, by definition, authoritarian parenting and that’s simply not the case. Christ welcomed (and sought out!) those with the worst behavior and taught them through grace through parables and role modeling in His own life. He forgave them even when they did positively awful things. He was patience and peace embodied.

If anything, Christians should be modeling Christ-like behavior to their children and to others; we’re the examples that others see in the world. Of course, by definition, we humans are all imperfect, so it’s all the more important that we live humbly and treat others (including children) how we’d like to be treated – the Golden Rule from Matthew 7:12. It’s an uphill spiritual battle trying to show non-believers that Christ was kind and that we can (and should) raise our children accordingly.

FWG: What have been some of your biggest blessings in living out your mission?

SRM: So many! In my own home, I’m constantly reminded of the goodness of positive parenting. I see it manifesting in my child’s kindness that she pours out on others. If she sees someone who needs help, she’s the first one to show up for them – even kids she doesn’t know well (and she’s a strongly introverted child, so this is really something).

And of course, every time I receive an email or a blog post comment about how something gentle I suggested WORKED for a parent or caregiver, especially if it was a departure from how he or she would’ve previously handled the situation – that just makes my heart sing.

FWG: How do you balance motherhood responsibilities with your work/mission?

SRM: That’s tricky, for sure. One thing that helps is that, by necessity, I’ve set some strong limits around my own screen time. My child knows she can count on me to be there for her. I’ve definitely sacrificed some self-care time to get my work done in the evenings after she’s asleep, but in many ways, writing is my self-care. Framing it that way helps me keep the importance of my work in perspective, not only for me but also for my readers.

FWG: What’s the best advice you have for other moms who are following their passions?

SRM: Do it when it feels right. Don’t force it when it doesn’t, otherwise your passion will start to feel like a chore. Just like our kids grow in spurts, our own personal growth happens in much the same way. Trust yourself and trust that God will tell you when the timing is right. I’ve never gone wrong when I’ve trusted His timing with that which I feel called to do.

Read more from the series

Moms on a Mission: Dr. Karen Dowling

Moms on a Mission: Erin Mayes

Moms on a Mission: Mari Hernandez-Tuten

Moms on a Mission: Kathleen Brooker

Moms on a Mission: Stacey Pardoe

Moms on a Mission: Kristin Billerbeck

Moms on a Mission: Crystal (aka InnieMom)

Moms on a Mission: Pastor Stefanie Hendrickson

Moms on a Mission: Amy Cutler

Living in a new reality

Life during quarantine

The following post is all about my personal mental health experiences. For the latest information on COVID-19, please visit www.cdc.gov.

While life during the health crisis has been real for me over the last couple of weeks with the kids home from school and our contact with the outside world very, very limited, today the new reality set it for me even more. I’m processing information, which I best do through writing.

Life during quarantine

Right from the beginning today was different. My husband had an early morning post-op appointment with his surgeon. When he had his rotator cuff surgery on March 11, we received the paperwork that included today’s appointment time. I remember thinking that an 8 a.m. appointment meant we’d take the kids to school then go to his appointment.

Life has changed in those two and a half weeks, though. And it has changed dramatically for such a short time. Like all of us, I am off-kilter. The kids are no longer going to their school building and instead e-learning from home.

Venturing out

As we headed to the appointment today, we wondered why there were so many cars out. We assumed they were people headed to jobs our governor deemed as essential.

At the orthopedist’s office, I was turned away at the front door; only patients were allowed in. While I completely understood and respected the decision, it was yet another reminder of our new reality.

I don’t always go with my husband to doctor’s appointments, but he’s still in a sling and not allowed to drive. I knew he was having stitches removed, and I wanted to be there in support of him as he’s done for me so many times. Instead, I was sitting in the car. I wasn’t upset, but it was definitely a new reality.

Going to the grocery store

His appointment was pretty quick, so we made a quick trip to the store on the way home. We’re down to about half a pack of toilet paper. It should get us through this week, but it gets a bit dubious after that. We were hopeful that being early in the day would mean we’d find some.

However, no toilet paper was available. We did pick up a few other things, though. I happily noticed the shelves were better stocked than they had been on my previous visit about two weeks ago. I was thankful for that and relieved to see that things weren’t staying so dire.

I was thrilled to get some napkins since I’d just lectured my kids about how we needed to start rationing them since I hadn’t been able to find any to buy.

Many people were wearing disposable gloves. Most were careful to stay at a distance from each other. In the car, we used hand sanitizer. I even coated my phone with it since I’d used it in the store to look at my grocery list.

Different home life

When we got home, I pulled out items to stay in the garage for our deep freezer and pantry shelf. The rest came into the house where I wiped it down with bleach wipes, threw away the sacks and wiped down the countertops.

I used hand cleaner two or three times then washed my hands incredibly well. While I’m always vigilant about cleaning my hands after being in a public place, wiping down my groceries and cleaning my hands so many times is definitely a new thing.

I settled my kids at the kitchen table with schoolwork while I got to work on my laptop for my annual Monday morning deadline. Usually I work in my home office, but while I’m also playing the role of homeschool teacher, working at the kitchen table is easiest.

At lunchtime, my daughter and I moved to the home office so she could Zoom meet with her fourth grade class while I finished my last half hour of work. Many conference calls have happened in the home office I share with my husband, but this was the first one that was for my 10-year-old.

By dinnertime, my head was pounding thanks to the weather change and my delightful fibromyalgia symptoms. I made some food and we watched a science video while eating.

A public faith display

After dinner, we turned on our local radio station just in time to hear our pastor begin talking. This evening was a prayer event at our local hospital. We opted to stay home and pray. I was overcome with emotion as I listened to my pastor and heard him praying over the airwaves. I never would have imagined this local top 40 station would even be broadcasting a very Christian prayer, yet here we were.

My husband, children and I all prayed together. My son came over and snuggled next to me. Just as he did so, my pastor was praying for God to give us strength to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves during this crisis.

God reminded me that I am needed to take care of my children now more than ever. At 7 and 10, my kids no longer need me as dependently as they did as infants, but they certainly are not able to take care of themselves through this crisis. I am needed also to take care of my husband who is still not at full capacity from his surgery. I take all of those responsibilities very seriously.

Feeling all the feelings

This is the new reality. It isn’t forever or for always. We don’t know when life will start to get back to normal. We are talking about things like whether to keep the kids enrolled in their ninja and gymnastics classes that are now meeting virtually. We’re speculating on big events that might get canceled.

The current reality is challenging for its newness and suddenness. For me, it has less to do with not being able to get out and go places, though even an introvert like I am gets cabin fever. It has more to do with a total shift in my thinking and reality.

I find myself being careful to not waste food.

I find myself thinking about how long we can truly go before we need to get out.

I find myself rationing some items to last longer before I get to the store again. (I forgot to get more mouthwash, for example.)

I find myself wondering how this will affect my kids.

I find myself wondering if everyone I love will make it through this.

I find myself noticing when my neighbors are leaving and wonder why they’re getting out.

I find myself being thankful that my son’s good friend in the neighborhood lives a block away and not right beside us so they don’t see each other and want to play.

I find myself noticing full grocery shelves on television and in commercials and wishing that was still reality.

I find myself feeling raw sometimes for seemingly no reason and then realizing that it’s for all of these reasons and new-ness that I’m having all these feelings.

I find myself overwhelmed at the outpouring of love and prayer from a community that doesn’t always show respect for Christianity.

I find myself utterly exhausted more than I’d like to admit from trying to be mom, teacher, wife, homemaker and professional writer.

I find myself feeling God in the moments when I most need Him. I hear Him speaking through the prayer of my pastor as my son snuggles next to me. I am reminded of Him as I listen to a video lesson with my children. God opens my heart and eyes to His presence as I listen to worship music.

I remember that even though this is a difficult time of global proportions unlike anything I’ve lived through before, it is not the hardest thing I’ve personally lived through. The same God who has always been with me is still with me.

I have learned to trust in God and His faithfulness even when things don’t make sense.

I have learned that if I keep my hope in Him, I won’t be disappointed. Life may not go as I want it to. God may say no to some of my prayers, but He won’t change who He is and He won’t leave me. I just have to look for Him.

Want to read more? Check out these posts:

60 Motherhood truths

You’ll relate to these truths about motherhood that are both poignant and humorous!

Once I became a mom, I suddenly understood all the unsolicited motherhood advice that other moms dole out. You just have all this information inside of you that you want to share with a woman about to have her first baby. You want to chat about it with other moms to make sure you aren’t the only one with these feelings or struggles.

I’ve compiled a long list of motherhood truths. The first 35 I wrote when my kids were 3-1/2 years and 5 months old. You’ll find relatable truths that are sentimental, humorous or both! Keeping a sense of humor in motherhood is vital for survival.

(And thanks to a couple of readers who gave me some motherhood truths to share as well!)

Truths from the early years of motherhood

Motherhood truth #1: You’ll have many moments when your husband, your children and your dog all need something from you at the exact same time. This is usually when you’re doing a frivolous activity like making dinner or washing laundry or going to the bathroom.

Motherhood truth #2: Speaking of going to the bathroom, you’ll wonder if you will ever have privacy again.

Motherhood truth #3: Knowing that one day you will miss having an entourage follow you throughout the house and adoring fans crying for you from another room doesn’t make it any easier to deal with right now.

Motherhood truth #4: You will have moments when you’ll wonder why on earth you ever taught your preschooler to talk since she never stops talking. Ever. Ever, ever. 

Motherhood truth #5: You will be amazed at how many tasks you can accomplish and have no memory of when you’re sleep deprived.

Motherhood truth #6: You will sometimes tear up because you have so much love for your little people that your heart overflows and can’t contain it. This even happens at 2 a.m. when you’ve been up since 7 a.m. the previous day.

Motherhood truth #7: You will always feel guilty about something. You will beat yourself up over every single thing you do and every single thing you don’t do. Mommy guilt is ever-present and sometimes all-consuming. Watch out for it!

Motherhood truth #8: You will find yourself saying things you never dreamed you would like: “Your Crocs are in my bedroom with corn in them.” Or, “If you fall and hurt yourself, I’m not going to help you.”

Motherhood truth #9: You will have more fun playing with your kids than you did playing when you were a child.

Motherhood truth #10: You will be glad to have given birth and yet somehow miss being pregnant at the same time — even when you had a miserable pregnancy.

Motherhood truth #11: Just like mommy guilt, mommy worries are also always present, especially with the first baby. You’ll worry if she’s sleeping too much. You’ll worry she’s not sleeping enough. It won’t make any sense, but it will happen.

Motherhood truth #12: You will channel your mom. Enough said.

Motherhood truth #13: You will lose yourself for a while after the baby is born, but you’ll come back. Slowly, over time, you become more you again, yet different in a way you’re OK with.

Motherhood truth #14: You’ll have the super power of being able to touch hot plates without grimacing. I don’t know how this ties into motherhood, but it’s true. My hands can stand much more heat now than ever before. Maybe I’m just too tired to care about getting burnt.

Motherhood truth #15: You won’t remember a darn thing. Mommy brain is real. I keep multiple lists and set multiple calendar items and reminders on my phone to pretend like I’m organized. You won’t remember a darn thing. (Did I already say that? I don’t remember!)

Motherhood truth #16: You will need an extra half hour to get out of the house — at least. Because there is always a diaper that needs to be changed as soon as everyone is ready or a sippy cup that needs to be filled or a doll that needs to be found.

Motherhood truth #17: You will sing children’s songs in your head all the time whether it’s in the middle of the night when you’re up for the bathroom or to feed the baby or whether you’re on a date with your husband (and if your husband is like mine, he’ll sing right along with you!).

Motherhood truth #18: Speaking of husbands, you’ll be overwhelmed at how much more you can love him when you see him holding your baby. And you’ll also be overwhelmed at how irritated you can get at him, but remember hormones and sleep deprivation make even the best husband seem annoying. This applies to all relatives and even random strangers, too.

Motherhood truth #19: You have an inner mama bear that will come out when riled. I have stood up to folks I never speak up to when my child’s happiness was at stake. I would take on anyone who tried to mess with either of my babies and I mean anyone!

Motherhood truth #20: You won’t be grossed out very easily. In fact, you’ll do gross things and not even give them a second thought. Leaving the house with spit-up on your shirt is the least of them. 

When my son was a newborn, I literally caught a bowel movement in my hand as he started to go while I was changing him. My reasoning was that it was much easier to clean my hands off than have to clean it off the changing table pad. Only later did I even think, “Hey, that was probably gross.”

Motherhood truth #21: You’re on a long journey. You’ll have good days and bad. And sometimes they happen all in the same day. Don’t get bogged down by the bad moments. Know that it really is worth it and whatever phase you’re in really does end.

Motherhood truth #22: Life really won’t ever be the same again. Having a child changes you forever. Life is no longer about you but all about the little people you gave birth to. It’s OK to mourn the loss of life as you knew it. Just don’t get stuck there and miss enjoying the life you have now — or at least the really good parts of it!

Motherhood truth #23: You must have a sense of humor. Keep a sense of humor about the trials and challenges of motherhood, pregnancy and childbirth. Own it. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes you will cry. But, sometimes you can laugh instead.

Motherhood truth #24: Keeping a sense of humor is also important because there is never enough energy or time for a good cry.

Motherhood truth #25: You will develop a keen radar and be able to find your child’s favorite toy in a pile of a million toys strewn all around your house. At all times I know where my daughter’s favorite doll is and my son’s favorite ball is. Seriously.

Motherhood truth #26: You will hone ninja-like abilities to move silently out of your baby’s room after a 30-minute battle to get him to sleep.

Motherhood truth #27: You will apologize to your parents for fighting sleep, talking back or simply just being alive after dealing with your children. Just this week I texted my mother to apologize for fighting sleep. She’s told me my son reminds her of me as a baby. I’m so sorry for that for her. I’m even more sorry for that for me sometimes!

Motherhood truth #28: You will wonder how you ever thought you were busy before. I remember before having kids I felt like I was so busy all the time. I laugh at that idea now. Heck, I thought I was so busy with one baby. Now when I have only the baby to deal with, it feels like free time. And he’s a much needier baby than my daughter was.

Motherhood truth #29: If you breastfeed, you’ll be surprised at all the places milk can end up. You’ll be equally surprised at all the places spit-up can end up as well. This is probably true for bottle feeding as well!

Motherhood truth #30: You will be surprised at how much you praise bodily functions. Sometimes that will carry over to others. I have literally said to my husband before, “That was a good burp-y.” Yeah. It happens.

Motherhood truth #31: You will share “looks” with other moms at Target when their child is whining. While before you might have looked on with judgment, now you look on with empathy and, internally, are just plain relieved your child isn’t the offender at the moment.

Motherhood truth #32: You will want to smack anyone who does anything to wake up your baby. You may think I’m exaggerating, but I’ve had to refrain from putting the smackdown on the pizza delivery guy who returned unannounced for us to sign a receipt right after we got the baby to sleep and were about to indulge in pizza and a movie on a date night. 

Or the family friend who insisted on stroking the baby’s arm when she saw us at a restaurant and our food had just arrived and he was happily asleep for once. Or the dog who stands outside the baby’s door and barks for no apparent reason. I could go on.

Motherhood truth #33: You will refer to yourself in the third person. Worst of all for someone like me, you will intermix third and first person. For example, “Mommy needs to take a shower. When I get out, we’ll make sure you didn’t burn down the house.” OK, I haven’t actually said that, but you get my point.

Motherhood truth #34: You will feel as if you should get awards for various things that no one would ever think of giving awards for. Like an award for showering, bathing the children, making dinner, doing laundry, paying bills or refraining from telling your child to shut up. Small tasks become so very monumental.

Motherhood truth #35: You will survive. Well, I’m pretty sure you will.  So far I have survived and it’s been just over 3 and 1/2 years. I also know plenty of moms who have grown children, so I like to think that survival of motherhood is possible. 

Truths from the school-aged years of motherhood

Motherhood truth #36: (From Kayla, a mom of four) Your kids will always ask you for what they need, even if your husband is closer to them. They’ll even call and ask you a question if you’re at work and their dad is home with them.

Motherhood truth #37: (From Kayla, a mom of four) You are the only one who can see dishes in the sink, laundry that needs to be folded and a house that needs cleaned.

Motherhood truth #38: (From Melissa, a mom of three) Parenting is harder than anyone can ever explain. (It never gets easier.) Just like no one can ever explain how much you will love your child.

Motherhood truth #39: (From Kayla, a mom of four) Motherhood is the hardest and most rewarding job ever!

Motherhood truth #40: (From Kayla, a mom of four) You’ve got to have downtime and evening snuggles while watching Disney is the way to go!

Motherhood truth #41: You will have parent homework, meaning projects and such that rely on you to organize and manage them. While you may think you have passed kindergarten or second grade before, you will find yourself helping with the work yet again. Don’t fight it and gripe about it — or you’ll just make yourself miserable. (I speak from experience here…)

Motherhood truth #42: You don’t have to be friends with the parents of your children’s friends. Being friendly with them and knowing them is a good plan, especially if you are going to let your kids go to their houses. But just because your kiddos are BFFs doesn’t mean that you will be, too!

Motherhood truth #43: Some truths about your children remain the same from the time they are little until they get older. My son — the challenging sleeper as a baby — still has trouble sleeping. My daughter — the chatty preschooler — is now a chatty 4th grader.

Motherhood truth #44: Even if you’re the first one up each morning, chances are really good you’ll be the last one to get ready since you help everyone else along the way.

Motherhood truth #45: Watching your children perform anything anywhere will make your heart burst with pride, even if they aren’t exceptionally great at what they’re doing. It doesn’t matter. They are up there and you’ll realize afterward that your jaws can get sore from smiling too much.

Motherhood truth #46: Even when your kiddos seem so big compared to the babies and toddlers they were, they still revert to those same sweet faces and want you when they aren’t feeling well. The only difference is now you soak it up all that much more because those moments are more fleeting than they once were.

Motherhood truth #47: Your son may have just turned 7, but you still have a bit of PTSD from his early days as a reflux baby who did very little sleeping at night. You will do your best not to hold this against him.

Motherhood truth #48: Traveling with your kids gets easier as they get older. You no longer have to lug half your household along and they are much more flexible.

Motherhood truth #49: If you kids are going to get a stomach bug, at least 90% of the time it doesn’t start until after bedtime and often after midnight.

Motherhood truth #50: You’ll plan what outfits your kids will wear for big events (or family photos) and then scramble around at the last minute deciding what you’re going to wear.

Motherhood truth #51: Watching your children play together is an awesome feeling. Seeing them treat each other with love and kindness is the best feeling!

Motherhood truth #52: Growth spurts will strike at unexpected times — like right after you just finished buying them clothes for the season or one month before the season ends. (I just had to start buying more winter clothes for my son because he got taller, even though warm weather is on its way!)

Motherhood truth #53: Once you stock up on a food your kids have been in love with for weeks, they’ll decide they don’t like it so much. OK, not every time, but many times!

Motherhood truth #54: You’ll get a better understanding of God’s love and greatness. I marvel at how much I love my children and can’t fathom how it’s possible He loves them even more.

Motherhood truth #55: Even being their mom first, you’ll have times you get to be their friend and it’s just plain fun. I love getting a chance to just hang out with my kids, especially one-on-one, and taking off my mom hat to just be with them doing something fun together.

Motherhood truth #56: You’ll wonder how shoes and socks can disappear so easily, even with set spots for them to go. You’ll begin to wonder if elves appear overnight and move things around!

Motherhood truth #57: You’ll have to work past grudges against other kids who didn’t treat your own very well even when they work through the issue and become good friends.

Motherhood truth #58: Great memories are often made in the small moments. Earlier this week, we spent a few days at an indoor water park on the kids’ spring break. They had so much fun, but I think the memory I’ll most hang onto is lying in bed with them, eating mini muffins and watching “The Golden Girls” (their pick!) on our last morning in the hotel.

Motherhood truth #59: You’ll learn so many lessons from your children. I have been astounded at the spiritual insights my kids have. I have been humbled and blessed in hearing them pray for me, our family and big issues in the world.

Motherhood truth #60: Being a mom is the most exhausting and draining job on the planet. But it’s also the best job you can ever imagine. The rewards far surpass the challenges.

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