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14 Years and 14 Things I Love: Part 2

14 Years and 14 Things I Love: Part 2

I was stuck on an airplane with no in-flight entertainment for five hours which made it the perfect time to continue my last post. If you are new to this post, go back and read part one first. If you’ve read the beginning, you won’t mind me diving right back in where I left off.

  • When two humans vow to live life together, “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part” there are going to be arguments. Just like all couples Britten and I disagree, we argue and as much as I hate to admit it, I can have a pretty hot temper. Thankfully the Lord knew that about me and gave me a kind, patient husband who NEVER loses his cool. No matter how upset I get or how intense a disagreement may be, he always remains calm and self-controlled. In fact, he usually smiles lovingly at me and tells me my spicy temper is cute, and it’s hard to stay mad at someone that’s telling you how cute you are.

 

  • In 14 years of marriage I’ve done a few absent-minded things. I lost a thousand dollar Canon camera. I threw my diamond earrings in the trash can at a drive-thru window, only to realize it the next day. I could tell you more but for the sake of my pride I’ll stop here. But, what is even more dumb founding than my absent mindedness is that in the midst of my costly mistakes Britten always responds with kindness and love. I can’t count the number of times he’s looked at me and said, “Babe…it was a complete accident, everybody makes mistakes.” He has never once talked down to me, made me feel stupid or even told me what a careless mistake it was. He always gives me a hug, wipes away my tears and tells me it’s ok.

 

  • I work part time as a personal-trainer and group fitness instructor which means when I go to the gym for myself I don’t have the mental capacity to think about my own workout, thankfully I don’t have to. Every time I step inside the gym I have a workout Britten has programmed especially for me. He knows the type of workouts I like, keeps track of what I’ve been doing, knows what goals I want to accomplish and he programs workouts to specifically help me reach my goals. A personal trainer having a personal trainer sounds a bit odd but it keeps me accountable and encourages me to push myself.
  • I recently finished the series “Anne with an E” on Netflix and have moved on to “Hart of Dixie” which tells you I’m a glutton for warm-hearted, girly shows. As you can imagine, my husband is not. Can you blame him? But that doesn’t’ mean I need to watch them while he’s at work or sit on the couch alone at the end of a long day because well, that would be boring. He knows I love these trite little shows so he sits down beside me and chooses to be present. Granted, he may be reading an article online or texting his brother about political issues or Back Squat PR’s but he still chooses to be right beside me and that makes my heart flutter.

 

  • Our four oldest boys are school age and we are beginning our ninth year of homeschool. I’m incredibly grateful for the privilege of educating our boys at home and at the same time I’m tired just from typing the previous sentence. Being a homeschool mom is an amazing gift and opportunity to teach your children to lift their eyes heavenward. In my humble opinion, it’s also an incredible use of one’s life but it’s exhausting to a new degree. That’s why it’s vital to have a husband that loves and supports you in your role as a homeschool mom and Britten does just that. He shares the homeschool load and holds me up on the days I can’t do it alone. That may mean I bounce curricula ideas around while he gives feedback, or he prays for me as mom and educator but sometimes it means I leave the house for a few hours while he steps in as the substitute teacher. Him giving me the gift of time away has led to a renewed sense of calling, a greater appreciation for mom as teacher and some hilarious impersonations of Britten’s teaching from our boys.

 

And if that weren’t enough to convince you why my love for Britten has multiplied exponentially over the years come back next time for part 3 of 14 Years and  14 Things.

14 Years and 14 Things I Love

14 Years and 14 Things I Love

I’ve read the articles and talked to enough couples to know that marriages change. That’s just reality when two people who say, “I do” live life together.

Things don’t stay the same. There is growth. There are setbacks. People develop certain patterns or ways of thinking. And sadly, often times those changes can have a pretty negative impact on the important relationship we call “marriage.”

There has been no shortage of change in our marriage. Its hard to fathom how much has changed since we first sliced into the infamous 6ft tall wedding cake. 

Have we changed in our 14 years? You bet! Are we different people than we were the day we said, “I do?” Of course we are. But what those articles forgot to mention is that sometimes those changes can make you fall even more in love with your spouse than you were on the day you got married. There are so many things I love about Britten that I didn’t know about him in the early years of our marriage.

And in honor of our 14 years, I’m sharing 14 things I love about my man. Of course I love that he works so hard to provide for our family, he’s an amazing dad and that he loves Jesus Christ and loves to tell people about Him. But, if you’ve known him for any length of time you already know those things. I want to share the reasons I love him that you may not know about. So, without further ado, in no particular order here are 14 things I love about Britten.

  • He shops for me. Yep, you read that correctly and it’s one of the main ways he blesses me. After shopping for and clothing our five children I’m usually too tired to give much thought to my own wardrobe. My incredibly stylish and fashion forward husband knows that about me so he serves me well by choosing clothes that he thinks will look nice on me and that he likes. I give him the sizes and tell him what kind of clothing I need and he does the rest. Dream. Come. True.

 

  • He brings me cookies at 10:30 p.m. Confession: I try to be conscious of my diet and the amount/types of foods that I eat but I have zero control when it comes to Double Doozies from The Great American Cookie Company. More times than I care to confess my sweet husband has gone out after 10:00 at night to get cookies for me just because I want them. As a matter of fact, it’s 10:09 p.m. on Tuesday night and he’s currently driving to The Cookie Company as I type. Shameful, right?

  • Because I eat a lot of cookies, I have to counter it with healthy eating at other times and we all know it’s easier to eat healthy when you have someone to do it with you. Which brings me to the next reason I’m completely smitten with Britten. Do you see what I just did there? He’s always up for my preposterous health food ideas. I’m constantly bombarding him with wonky ideas like, “Let me put butter in your coffee” or his personal favorite, “We are going to drink this Detox Drink three times a day for two weeks.” But no matter how crazy my ideas are, he plays along. And it’s not because he needs to. It’s because he knows it’s important to me.
  • He tells me daily how beautiful, smart and talented I am. On the night of our wedding rehearsal Britten’s great uncle shared a bit of advice with the young groom-to-be that has stuck with him for the last 14 years. His Great Uncle James said, “Don’t ever let a day go by without saying something kind to your wife.” His Uncle James would be so proud to know that Britten took those words to heart and not a day goes by that he doesn’t tell me that I’m an amazing mom, that he loves being married to me or how thankful he is for the work that I do in our home.

 

  • He hauls me all over town and has never once complained. I’ve mentioned before that there are challenges to living in a country where women are not allowed to drive. I use Uber a lot to get around when Britten is at work but if he’s at home he will drop any and everything to take me where I need to go. I’m not crazy enough to think that he loves driving me around but that’s what makes it even more special. Despite the fact that he has other things to do, doesn’t want to get back out or is just plain tired he never lets me know that. He puts a smile on his face and crawls back in the car to drive me all over town.

I could fill the world wide web with the many reasons I love my husband but in an effort to keep this post from getting too long I’m going to stop at five. Join me later this week and I’ll finish out the list.

Anything But Normal

Anything But Normal

I can’t speak for every expat but I can speak for our family.

When we first moved to the Middle East four and a half years ago everything felt new, strange, unfamiliar and different. Adapting to a new culture is no easy task especially when everything is no longer “what you’re used to.” Our senses were assaulted from every possible angle and somedays we didn’t know which way was up.

Fast forward a few years and give us a few countries under our belt and you may find us having a good chuckle at just how “normal” our unusual life is.

In an effort to help myself remember these days I’m going to post them here.

We live in a completely Muslim country where it is illegal to produce, consume or import any form of alcohol. In light of the “no alcohol” rule it is very popular to see a wide variety of non-alcoholic drinks in restaurants (don’t be fooled by these fancy mocktails)grocery storesand convenience stores.
Several of the non-alcoholic drinks have fun fruity flavors and colors which make them especially appealing to children. My boys will generally choose one of these fruity soda-like beverages if given the opportunity.

Just this week I was reminded how our lives are anything but normal when I looked over at my six year old who was relaxing by the pool and chugging his beer.

Thoughts For the New Mom

Thoughts For the New Mom

New moms. You hold an incredibly dear place in my heart.

Maybe it’s because the desire to have more children has never gone away &  the phrase “just one more” flows easily from my lips.Maybe it’s because when I hold a newborn baby for the first time I’m in awe of the truth that the Lord found me worthy to shape the life of another human being created in His image. (Genesis 1:26)

Or maybe it’s because when I look into the weary eyes of a new mom I’m reminded of the sleepless nights and I desperately want to commend you for the countless hours of work you put in that nobody ever sees.

Being a new mom in suburbia American can, at times, feel like you’re in the octogan with Conor Mcgregor. It’s not for the faint at heart. As if the rapid mood swings, uncontrollable crying and night sweats aren’t enough, today there is a surplus of new things to worry about.

-vaccines causing autism, sunscreens causing cancer, insect repellents damaging the nervous system, screen time affecting language development, contaminates in baby food…the list goes on and on.

Then there are the opinions…

-natural childbirth vs. epidural, co-sleeping vs. crib sleeping, bottle vs. breast, scheduled vs. demand feeding, passive feeding vs. baby led weaning, working vs. stay at home moms, crying it out vs. soothing.

The immense worry and desire to “do what’s best” can cripple a mom. The various opinions can lead to self doubt and make us think we aren’t doing enough, being careful enough or giving enough.And that is why I wish I could sit across from you over a cup of coffee that’s been reheated in the microwave multiple times. I desperately want to squeeze your hand and with tears in my eyes remind you that you aren’t just enough….you’re God’s perfect plan.

You are the one the Lord chose to parent your child. Out of the millions of other women in the world…the Lord graciously chose you to be the mother of your child. It doesn’t matter if you gave birth to that child or that life was formed in another’s womb…you were chosen. There is no one else in the world more suited for the job at hand and no one that knows more about what your child needs than you. Breathe that truth in deeply and relax in His abundant grace.But I also want to tell you that as the days pass and the weeks turn into years you’re going to learn who you are as a woman and who you are as a mom. The decisions that today make you anxious and apprehensive will become second nature and be made in complete confidence, often times without a second thought.

It’s a gradual progression and if you aren’t careful you’ll miss it but you’re going to settle into this whole “mom thing” and find a rhythm that works for you and your family. One day you’re going to look up from the beautiful chaos of diapers and onesies that so accurately portrays your life and realize that you’ve made it through the trenches of new mommy-hood and graduated to the ranks of seasoned mom.

And my one piece of advice is that when you find yourself in that new season remember those exhausting, uncertain days and let those memories drive you to take the hand of a new mom and offer a kind word of encouragement. There isn’t a mom on the planet that fondly recalls the suttle rebukes, or the underhanded jabs. But, we all remember the woman that lovingly took our hand and encouraged us along the path.

 

Family Game Night Apps

Family Game Night Apps

We love family game night. Board games, card games or party games can be a lot of fun but the new digital group games on our devices have brought a new excitement to our  family game night.

Today I’m sharing a few of my favorite family game night apps in no particular order.

  1. Spaceteam

This one is fun if you have multiple devices in your home and your kids can read pretty well. Each person needs to download the app on their device and be in the same room on the same wifi network. Each person  will have a control panel on their screen and you’re all working together as a “space team” to get the rocket ship to the next sector.

A command will appear on your screen and you have to read it aloud so the person with that control panel can perform the necessary task. You’ll also be receiving commands simultaneously that you’ll need to perform on your device. For instance, I may give the command, “Engage Hydrofusion” but you’ve got the Hydrofusion flip switch on your device so I have to give you the command so you can perform it. Other commands require all players to participate together. You can play with 2-8 people so playing with my boys means we all end up screaming with excitement. Accurately complete enough of the commands and you’ll arrive safely at the next sector. Beware…the levels get increasingly harder the further you go.

2. Heads Up

I’m sure it tells my age but this one reminds me of a favorite childhood gameshow- $25,000 Pyramid. One person holds the device on their head and the rest of the group uses words or actions to describe the word on the screen. When the person holding the device guesses the word correctly they tilt the phone down to move to the next word. If a word is too difficult you can pass by tilting the phone up. I was originally leery of this game because of the rating but we’ve had it for a while now and have never come across anything inappropriate. As always, use your own discretion and check it out for yourself before turning the kids loose unsupervised because I said it was ok.

3. Who Can’t Draw

This one works for 2-8 players with one device to play. It’s a cross between the old Telephone game and Pictionary.

You’ll choose a word to draw and do your best to draw the picture on the tablet/phone. When your time is up you’ll pass the phone to the next player. They will attempt to draw the same word without seeing the other drawings. Continue passing the phone around until everyone has drawn. The last player does not draw but guesses the word based on the drawings. You then vote on the player “Who Can’t Draw” and that person receives the Worst Artist award which can sometimes lead to hurt feelings in our house- I choose to use that as a life lesson. You’ve been warned.

4. Just Dance Now

This one is my favorite. It’s like the Just Dance games you’ve probably played on Wii or PlayStation but without needing a specific game console and without buying new versions of the game to have access to new songs. Simply download the game on your device and then connect it to an iPad, laptop, Apple TV, etc.

There are a few free songs but $2.99 gets you 24 hour access to all the songs and $24.99 gives you a years subscription to all the songs. Using your phone as the controller you can dance your way to a five star finish. Our favorite part is that we can compete with family and friends from around the world simply by entering the room number and having them enter it as well. As an added bonus, I reached my exercise goal on my Apple Watch after just a few songs without even going to the gym. There is also a “workout” section that still has you dancing but with a focus on exercise.

5. Super Family Hero

This one is geared towards the younger kids and works well with non readers too. Adults and kids can play together on one screen but have tasks of varying difficulty based on their age. You’ll go on interactive story adventures and try to defeat Dr. Excuses through a series of minigames, some that require all of the players working together at the same time. This one works on a phone but is much easier to navigate on an iPad or tablet.

I love how each of these games fights against the usual iPhone isolation and causes us to play together, talk to each other and work together as a team. They work great for family time, summer boredom busters or even your next social gathering. Have fun!

Too Big T-Shirt Tutorial

Too Big T-Shirt Tutorial

Sure you’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt but was the t-shirt too big?

Don’t throw that too big T out just yet…grab some scissors, take a deep breath and snip away. It’s super simple.

To go from the oversized t-shirt on the left to the cute up-cycled creation on the right you need a t-shirt, scissors, pencil and a ruler.Start by folding your t-shirt in half and cutting off the sleeves and neck to make a tank top. Decide how long you want the shirt to be and cut off the needed amount from the bottom. 
Use the ruler to draw a straight line down the arm hole side of the shirt while it’s still folded in half. I made my slits an inch and a half but you can make them bigger/smaller depending on the size you want the shirt to be when completed. 
Cut strips through both sides of the shirt all the way to the pencil line. Open the t-shirt up. Remind yourself that it’s just a shirt you were going to throw away and cut a straight line along the fold on each side. Don’t stress over that fact that you just cut the shirt completely in half. 
Now tie the fringe together, one knot at a time, all the way down both sides of the shirt. 
Wash and dry the t-shirt as you usually would and then take a selfie of your adorable creation while your kids play WWF Smackdown on your bed because they know you are distracted.

My Favorite Things

My Favorite Things

I love learning about new products, movies, albums, restaurants, etc. from other people.

My philosophy is: if you take the time to tell me about it then it must be good. 

Today I’m sharing a few of my favorite things. Don’t worry. I’m not trying to sell you Essential Oils, Rodan + Fields, It Works, Plexus, Beauty Counter or any of those other products populating your news feed. I just love these products and think you should know.

  1. Lil’ ScrubbiesThese silicone scrubbing pads are gentle on your skin and more effective than washing with your hands. It also doesn’t hurt that they cost $2.50 for two. The suction cup on the back allows you to stick it to the mirror or shower so they aren’t easily misplaced.

2. Read Scripture App

I must confess that when my husband told me about this app I balked at his nonsense. I told him I didn’t have that kind of time and I’d just stick to the Bible reading plan I was already using. If you know Britten you know how persistent he can be and aren’t surprised that now I’m telling you how crazy I am about this app. Not only is it a thematic Bible reading plan but it comes with these amazing videos from the Bible Project that help contextualize each of the 66 books. You can also set reminders, track your progress and ping yourself to help stay on track.

3. ROMWOD
I realize most of my “fitness challenged” friends just scrolled over this because you saw “WOD” in the name but, please don’t overlook this gem. As I approach the big 4-0 I’ve noticed my flexibility is decreasing, joint pain increasing and muscle tightness becoming a limiting factor not just in the gym but even when I’m sitting on the floor playing with my boys.

Romwod stands for Range Of Motion Workout Of the Day. It’s a website that provides daily videos designed to increase range of motion, optimize athletic performance, and promote recovery, healing, and longevity. The program is designed to open your joints and strengthen your ligaments/fascia so people at any age or fitness level can benefit from the program. Britten and I do it together in our living room floor while our boys laugh at us so it doubles as family time.

4. Infinity Belt

I have a love/hate relationship with belts. I love that they keep my pants up but hate how my shirt doesn’t lay smooth because of the chunky buckle. That is precisely why I love the Infinity Belt. The buckle is designed like a bra clasp so it lays flat under your clothes without being noticed. And…if you go through airport security as often as we do then you need to know this belt doesn’t have to be removed going through security checkpoints and that alone is worth the investment. The website shows ladies wearing the belt exposed but I personally only wear it when it’s covered by a shirt.

The mascara I use today I learned about from a friend who shared her favorite things on Instagram so I’d love to hear about the products that make your life a little easier.

 

Fighting Against Envy

Fighting Against Envy

We recently visited a Japanese inspired restaurant in our city that not only gives trainer chopsticksbut serves green tea and hot cocoa at the end of the meal. 

After dinner the waiter presented our four older boys with a steaming cup of hot cocoa in an adorable porcelain cup. For reasons I do not need to list, he chose not to give our youngest son a cup.

In approximately 0.4 seconds the entire restaurant knew that our boys had been given something the baby brother had not. The tears started to flow and the deafening sobs echoed throughout the room.

My heart raced and my cheeks flushed with embarrassment as I imagined the other parents glaring at me with disapproval. I quietly growled at the baby in my mean mommy voice while donning a forced smile tried to settle him down but nothing worked. The waiter realized the situation and rushed over with a cup of cocoa and the weeping and gnashing of teeth tears ceased.

Riding home that evening I thought about the fact that my heart can be equally as grimy when I don’t get what I want…and even more so when someone else does. And though I may not scream and cry in the middle of a quiet restaurant, if my thoughts were displayed for the world to see, it wouldn’t always be a pretty picture.

 

It’s hard when things don’t go like we’d hoped but we all experience it, in one way or another.

  • Someone else got chosen for the job you desperately wanted.
  • You’ve tried incessantly to get pregnant and another friend posted a sonar pic announcing her pregnancy.
  • You’ve been a bridesmaid so many times you could open a store front for gown rental but you’re still single.
  • Your friend posted a picture of an epic girls night out…except you weren’t invited.
  • You’ve lived in a rental home since day one of your married life and another friend just moved into her dream home.
  • You can’t afford to take your family to the beach for the weekend but everyone else is spending two weeks at a five star Disney resort.
  • You want to be a stay at home mom and go on playdates with all of your stay at home mommy friends but that just isn’t an option.
  • You can’t lose those extra pounds and all your girlfriends are sporting skinny jeans and posting bikini pics on social media.

One of my favorite quotes on the matter is from Lisa Terkeurst.

“But then there were other moments. Hard moments. Moments when I felt my friends’ lives were rushing past me in a flurry of met goals, new opportunities, and affirmations of their callings from God. It seemed like the world was literally passing me by.”

But what I would add to the quote is that at times as I’ve watched “the world pass me by” I’ve grown envious of what God is doing in another’s life. How quickly my sinful flesh wanted to resent another’s success or what someone else had. In a matter of seconds I became completely unaware of all the things I do have because I was blinded by the things I don’t. Instead of celebrating joy in another person’s life the bitter seed of envy took root and caused me to take my eyes off of Christ.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30

Over time I’ve learned to recognize the warning signs in my own heart and developed a plan to turn my heart to God.

First– I search my heart to determine what about the situation is making me jealous. Is it an unfulfilled desire or a sense of entitlement? Does the envy stem from deep rooted fear or a sense of insecurity?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my anxious thoughts”  Psalm 139:23

Second– I confess my sin & ask for forgiveness.

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” Proverbs 28:13

Third-  I begin to praise God for what He has accomplished in the other person’s life. This part can be initially painful but the act of self discipline can change the focus of my heart almost immediately.

“Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.” Isaiah 12:5

Today, let’s not to conceal the presence of envy in our hearts and instead let’s celebrate His faithfulness in our lives and the lives of others.

Egg Science

Egg Science

A very wise women once told me to enjoy the early elementary years of homeschool because around 3rd grade things would start to get a little more difficult. I couldn’t have possibly understood what she meant but her words proved to be true.

So, when she told me to take a deep breath and enjoy the later elementary years because 6th grade was going to sucker punch me…I listened and took her advice.

For me, it’s a combination of homeschooling four kids at the same time and one of them being in sixth grade but long gone are the days of finger paint, craft projects and theme oriented snack times. Goodbye fun mom, may you rest in peace.

I’ve learned that I’m more likely to do “fun things” if I incorporate them into our school day because lets be honest…when the weekend rolls around there’s a long list of other things I’d rather do.

For the last couple of weeks we’ve replaced our regular science curriculum with random egg science experiments from the internet and reached a unanimous decision- eggs are really cool!

Who knew eggs were strong enough to stand on? And how adorable is Breck’s face in this photo? He couldn’t contain his excitement from this experiment. 

We learned that with a few items you probably already have in your house you can completely remove the shell of an egg leaving only the membrane intact. When the shell is removed the egg absorbs the liquid it’s floating in which makes it larger.
The boys made predictions of how many books could be stacked on top of a raw egg before it cracked. We were horribly off on our predictions when our egg held 18 books. If you try this experiment be sure to put plastic under the egg. You’ll thank me later. The creativity came out when each of us had to come up with a way to protect our egg in the “Egg Drop Challenge.” 

And of course I jumped at the chance to stick a label on something but you probably already knew that. 

And oddly enough, it turns out wrapping a raw egg in Play-Doh is an excellent form of protection.

In an effort to check the “school box” I made journals for the boys to record the information in each day. Do you see what I did there? Cheesy, I know, but I just couldn’t resist. Happy Easter!