11 ThisGratefulMama Confessions

1. I covet one-on-one time with each child

In the morning, I run in to our daughter’s room, change her diaper and whisk her back to my room before she can make a ruckus. I cherish those morning snuggles.  Sometimes if our son is awake, I do it anyway. In the afternoon our son takes a ‘rest’ while our daughter sleeps. We sneak our time alone in the afternoon. These moments are sweet, restoring, and special.

2. I will do almost anything to hear our children laugh

A child’s laugh is like crack and I’m an addict. I will do anything to get just one more laugh – act silly, tickle them until they pee, you name it. I love the way their laughs make me laugh. Every. Single. Time.

3. Thunder isn’t fun anymore

I love loud thunder that startles and falling asleep to the sound of pouring rain. The problem is, there is little sleep in our house if there is any indication of thunder. Our son has struggled with fear of storms since we got 2-3 inch hail a couple of years ago (understandable – it sounded like the sky was falling).  I can not sleep on his twin waterproof mattress with him so he ends up on a make-shift bed on our floor.

4. Date nights are much different

Before kids, date night had a much different meaning…a special event, a nice dinner, and getting all dressed up. Now, a date is quality time spent with my husband, in ANY location, at ANY time. Dates require a little more creativity and either require a baby-sitter or scheduling around the kids. Many of our dates have changed from nighttime activities to coffee and lunch dates. Sometimes worshipping in church, holding hands while the kids are in Sunday School feels like our little Sunday morning ‘date’. Or, after kids are in bed, a candle-lit dinner, Netflix movie night or game of Scrabble. I’m just happy to have time with my hubby, no matter the circumstance.

5. Pinterest is seriously distracting

I. Cant. Stop. Seriously, follow me, you’ll see.

6. Changing diapers is easier than potty training

Diapers are gross. Our son is pretty much done potty training except for the occasional nighttime accident. I am NOT ready to start with our daughter although I think she could do it. I’m just not ready to return to tear-inducing potty reminders, waking up in the night to take a trip to the potty, or to have to pull over for an emergency bathroom break. SOME days I wish we could stay in diapers forever – accidents are even grosser than diapers.

7. I admire working moms

I worked outside the home when our son was a baby. Getting out the door on time and getting all the proper supplies to daycare with a child was NOT easy. Leaving a crying child in the arms of a caregiver and going to work wasn’t easy either. Working all day, running errands, picking up a child and trying to get dinner on the table so we didn’t starve was HARD! And the laundry…putting laundry in after work and remembering to move it to the dryer…is the reason we had a monster laundry pile to get through every weekend. If you are a working mom, YOU. ARE. AMAZING. You are a great mom and I salute you!

8. My house will never be as clean as I want

While I clean something different every day, I simply don’t have time to clean it all at once. This means the whole house is never really clean at the same time. Especially the floors. Our kids may eat off of them, but it’s not a good idea! Between the sandbox, crumbs, and tiny pieces of cut paper from our son’s crafts, our floors are dirty immediately after I mop, and potentially smeared with water, drool, or applesauce. The 10 second rule does not apply here – throw that away!

9. I still feel like I don’t have enough time

When working full-time, I was sure my morning time with the Lord, working out, and house cleaning would be easier when I could stay at home. Truth is, these kids keep me busy and I find the same time struggle as when I worked. Making these things priority takes effort and discipline I didn’t expect! I can get up early or my kids can play while I sit and pray, read or workout – I just have to be disciplined to do it!

10. I rely more on the Lord

Parenting is a humbling experience. It reveals my shortcomings in the mirrored responses and behavior of our children. I need grace, peace, patience, and wisdom more than I ever have. For them. For me. I am so grateful that the Lord is faithful to supply all we need. I rely on him daily (sometimes minute-by-minute) to supply what I lack and so desperately need in parenting and life. Without Him…this would be a true disaster. But WITH Him, I can do ALL things and trust that His mercies are new every morning, even when I fail.

11. This is the best job that ever was

Hands down, being a wife and mom is the best job I’ve ever had. I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Even if in demand all day long, I wouldn’t have it any other way. These kids make my day, every day. I am grateful for my husband’s hard work and dedication to make it possible for me to be here. No matter what happens during the day, I’d rather be paid in giggles than any other currency the world has to offer.

11 ThisGratefulMama Confessions | thisgratefulmama.com


“Stop Crying Or I’ll Give You Something To Cry About”

Stop Crying or I'll Give You Something to Cry About | thisgratefulmama.com

Oh my. I went and said it. Words tumbled out before thinking.

It all started with a long day. Our son just didn’t get to do what he felt like doing. We ran a lot of errands and because his sister wasn’t feeling well, we didn’t spend time outside playing with friends. We went in the basement for some running and to PLAY before bed and a few minutes in, he stubbed his toe on the concrete. What started with tears of pain quickly morphed into a hysterical melt down. Before long, it was evident he no longer knew WHY he was even crying anymore.

Various tactics to distract, comfort and soothe failed. At some point, I decided it was time to calm down and told him so.

He tearfully stammered, “I. Can’t. Stop.”

For whatever reason, that was the last straw. Out of my mouth came words I thought I’d never say…

Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about”

He looked at me quizzically, sucking air and actually attempting to stop crying. His gaze begged the question – what on earth does that mean?

Good question.

Words escaped before I considered their meaning. What DID I mean? And how was I planning to follow through with that threat? Did I want to punish him for crying? Is not being able to calm down a punishable offense? Or is it even an offense?

All I knew is he was making a ruckus and I was grasping at straws to make him stop. Honestly, I was tired of listening to it and ready to move on.

But WHY?

Why WAS it so important that he stop? Sure, it was LOUD, but we were at home, inside, and his crying wasn’t really hurting anyone but him. He was going to pay the price of this tantrum – with lost play time, puffy eyes and a stuffy nose.

Him. Not me.

Why do I need him to stop crying if something in him makes him feel like crying something out? What if this emotional expression doesn’ NEED to be fixed but rather needs release? 

Why ask him to STUFF his emotions if they are so powerful he can’t sort through them any other way? I DO NOT want him to stuff tears simply to avoid punishment. Nor do I want him to be afraid to show emotions in front of me or to pretend to be OK for my benefit.

I DO want a child who is who he IS and is comfortable in his own skin – happy or sad. 

I want him to feel safe and to be himself in our home. If that means he releases emotions with crying when he has no other way, it needs to be OK. Hurrying and judging his emotions did not work and caused escalation. Next time I need to just let him cry it out. We will continue to teach him to seek solace in family, friends and the Lord when he feels down.

He needs to know it is OK to be upset, disappointed, or to just feel like crying even if he does not know why – it is OK to just cry.

I’m not saying we should create an environment for temper tantrums defined by disobedience, stomping feet and screaming. We will continue to teach him that it is ok to be upset but it is not ok to break rules just because we’re emotional.

But once in a while, this kid just needs to CRY. And who doesn’t? There are days when all I need is a good cry. Although I prefer not to do so…I feel better when I’m done.

On this particular day, loud overnight storms had interrupted his sleep, his dad was out-of-town, and the day was packed. I know he was disappointed by the lack of play time and friends. By the end of the day, his body and emotions were exhausted. A stubbed toe sent him spiraling into an emotional release of epic proportions. This wasn’t a tantrum laced with disobedience – it was simply alligator tears and body shaking sobs.

His confused response to my words revealed his need for grace and to be allowed to get it all out. Even if it takes longer than I prefer.

How do you guys deal with this? Sometimes maybe we just need to wait until they are ready to move on. If we’ve done what we can to help and nothing worked…it is time to just wait.

After processing the confusion of my words, he returned to crying, warily eyeing me to see if I’d follow through.

Instead of acting on those careless words, I apologized, sweeping him into my arms. We just sat together and he cried until he was done. I’d rather be soaking wet in tears and deaf in one ear from his loud sobs directly in my ear than give him something else to cry about.

As he calmed down, he snuggled in, finally at rest in my arms. Subdued. Grateful for my presence. Relaxing in the arms of someone who let him just BE. What a glorious picture of how our Father in heaven longs to envelop us in His arms and comfort our very souls.

Instead of giving something more to cry about, lets extend grace and patience. Instead of teaching them to stifle emotion, lets give freedom to express what cannot come out any other way. Lets give them room to figure out how to stop on their own – when they’re ready.

Of Course My 2 Year Old Wants Coffee

Of course my 2 year old wants coffee | thisgratefulmama.com

One lovely morning, I sat on my front porch talking by phone with my sister. The sun was shining and I was enjoying drinking my morning coffee in peace. The kids were playing in the yard and our daughter meandered over to sit next to me. She proceeded to point at cars passing by and to bounce up and down while cracking herself up.

Then, she gave me a sly look, kneeled down, and decided she wanted to lick coffee out of my coffee cup.

Naturally, I removed the cup from the step.  You would have thought I pinched her. She dramatically threw herself onto the concrete and began to scream “I. WANT. Coffee!”

Toddler problems are serious.

I couldn’t help but laugh at her angry, tearless cry as I reported to my sister what caused the ruckus. As it turns out the 2-year-old need for coffee may be universal (at least to our family) because her daughter does the same thing.

Of course they want coffee! Kids are observant. They know what makes grown-ups happy.

And I must admit that coffee DOES make me happy on a regular basis.

I head straight for coffee in the morning. The kids know that little gets done before coffee is served. I know they see the content smile as I hold cradle the warm cup in my hands and smell it while it cools down. No matter how tired I am…coffee makes the morning better. A morning without coffee…well, any coffee-lover knows how that does.

The kids have seen a drive-thru cup of coffee MAKE. MY. DAY. And, when we go through the coffee drive-thru, they get nothing. But they can tell the grown-ups are getting a treat.

They also see adults having coffee with dessert. Who wouldn’t want something so closely associated with dessert?

My no-spill travel mug keeps coffee hot for 5 hours (yes, you need one of these!). Our kids see me clinging to it for dear life all morning when we’re out and about. Really, I can hardly remember life without coffee (probably because I was to sleepy to pay attention). In all seriousness, I’m pretty sure God made coffee with ME in mind.

Even at the age of 2, children already know the secret that coffee is a gift. A comfort. A grown-up cup of deliciousness.

However, they’ll have to wait. Everyone knows coffee stunts your growth. And of course, the caffeine would make them so hyper we might not make it. Seriously.

So my darling…no coffee for you. I understand your sadness because it would make me sad too.  It must be tough being 2.

Today I’m grateful I’m not 2…and for coffee.


Surrender is not a natural thing.

We want control. We want OUR plans. We want our way.

My way.

This week presented two ‘possibilities’ that I basically have no control over. Sure, we have choices to make, but overall, these things are out of my control.

These things surfaced at once, just as our family starts the fall schedule we’ve been counting on, and waiting for.

They threaten to alter MY plans.

While I’ve been careful to avoid rabbit trail daydreams during the day, last night I made the mistake of letting my mind wander…imagining crazy ‘what ifs’, and worst-case scenarios.

Then I made the even bigger mistake of investigating one of the ‘possibilities’ on Google. Are you cringing as you read this? Of COURSE that was not a good idea! Google may offer information, but it does not offer peace. Unfortunately, the new wealth of information and lack of peace resulted in tears and a somewhat one-sided conversation with at my husband.

All my angst came flowing out in one…BIG…Bleh. Not my best moment (sorry honey).

The silly thing is, none of these possibilities are a sure thing. We have decisions to make. Nothing is locked in stone, and we have choices. None of these things are emergencies.

But I do not have control over them. And I don’t like it.

This week I’ve been praying myself to sleep while pondering the attributes of God. Mercifully, He has granted sleep every night. What a faithful God we serve! There is much peace and rest in knowing and remembering WHO God IS and what He has DONE.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. -Psalm 63:6-8 (NIV)

God IS good.

He has a plan.

God loves families and made them. He loves unity. Whatever He is calling ONE of us to do, He is calling the rest of us to support and help in.

His will IS perfect, even when we don’t understand it.

He works in ALL things for the GOOD of those who love Him – such a profound promise!

With these truths, I was baffled as to why I was still lacking peace. What I’ve come to realize today is that I cannot find true peace until I fully surrender to His will for me and our family. While I’ve surrendered these things to God before, the possibility of change distracted me and I lost sight of His face.

Instead of focusing on God, I’ve been focused on what might be…I refuse to persist this way. I choose to seek His face regardless of our circumstance. And to step into a deeper faith as I trust Him with more and more of our present and future.

I may not be in control – but HE is.

These ‘possibilities’ must be intentionally surrendered to His will. It is time to quit dwelling in my own self-pity and worst-case daydreams and it is time to trust the God who is LORD over ALL. Over me. Over our family. Over our circumstances. Come what may…He is still LORD.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all. – “I Surrender All” Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1896.

I surrender…even if the answer He chooses for our family isn’t what I want. Even if it doesn’t match MY plans. God does not make mistakes.

God HAS called me to do things for Him this fall. His peace and assurance as I have stepped into those roles is unmistakable. But He may be calling our family to stretch and change more than we ever imagined in the coming year.

If so, HE will guide us through it. HIS will is never accompanied by asking us to flail about on our own.

HE equips.

HE loves.

HE goes with us and before us.

Today I seek my peace in the capable arms of Jesus, instead of the bottomless pit of Google and daydreams.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. –Mathew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Surrender | thisgratefulmama.com

The thisgratefulmama 2015 FALL Family Bucket-List

2015 Fall Family Bucket List | thisgratefulmama.com

The 2015 fall bucket list focuses on activities to enjoy with your family during the fall season, with an emphasis on gratitude and service to others.

I hope these 100 ideas help you fill fall with joy. 

Hello, Fall!


 Events (Twin Cities)


  • Play a board game
  • Start a Fall Family Tradition
  • Rake leaves and jump in the pile
  • Be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army (starts in November)
  • Set your fall schedule
  • Play backyard football with the whole neighborhood
  • Visit a new playground and have a picnic lunch
  • Help your kids start a nature collection
  • Plant tulip bulbs in your yard with the kids
  • Write letters to deployed service members
  • Spend the day cleaning the garage as a family before winter
  • Stay warm on a chilly night around a bonfire while enjoying hot cocoa and S’mores
  • Start a family prayer journal – keep track of requests and answers this school year
  • Volunteer to serve meals at Loaves and Fishes
  • Take a family photo shoot in the leaves
  • Make the most of dark evenings – have a candlelight dinner date after kids go to bed
  • Set goals for the school year and encourage each family member throughout the year
  • Spend an afternoon at Feed My Starving Children
  • Clean out the closets and give warm clothes, hats, mittens and coats to those in need
  • Go to a local high school football game
  • Let your child do chores to earn money to give on Sunday at church
  • Deliver Meals on Wheels in your area
  • Help the kids write letters and mail them to grandparents and extended family
  • Spend the afternoon doing homework and reading together at the library
  • Sign up for the family oriented fall Public Programs in the MN Valley Wildlife Refuge
  • Start a Gratitude Journal
  • Get lost in Minnesota’s Largest Corn Maze in Brooklyn Park, MN (Sept 19 – Oct 25)
  • Gather all the neighbors and play an epic game of flashlight tag
  • Download and start the JOY DARE from A Holy Experience 
  • Create your own family Fall Scavenger Hunt and take a nature walk together
  • Read fall-themed books as a family
  • Spend the next large family gathering playing a huge game of Capture the Flag
  • Say Thank you to those who go out of their way to help your family
  • Collect acorns and have some fun with Acorn Races
  • Help your child take photos of fall leaves
  • Help your child find a pen-pal and help them write and send ‘snail mail’
  • Practice gratitude
  • Clean out the toy box together and take your children to donate items
  • Have a movie night with blankets, jammies and home made popcorn


Go (Minnesota)

You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

You Can't Always Get What You Want | thisgratefulmama.com

You can’t always get what you want…”

Will someone please tell me they also hear the Rolling Stones singing in their head when they read those words?

Because I do.

And sometimes when I say those words to our children I consider breaking out in song – they’ve never heard it before so will likely wonder what is wrong with me as I belt it out. I should rehearse now so I’m prepared for teenage years when they’ll really enjoy my off-key singing.

All singing aside, the lesson in these words MUST be learned.

You CAN’T always get what you want. You WON’T. And you SHOULDN’T.

As parents, it is our job to teach this lesson. Unfortunately, the task is not easy and is often met with frustration, sighs, crying and general displeasure. We fight against the prevalent worldly influence of entitlement and the pressure to make our children happy regardless of the cost.

I don’t like saying “No” and sometimes I feel like I’m saying it too much. I don’t like to see their disappointment and quivering lips..but there are simply some things we need to say NO to.

There are things we just CAN’T give them – due to insufficient finances, skills or time. There are things we just WON’T give them – due to values, priorities or necessity. And there are things we just SHOULDN’T give them – like letting them win every time so they never learn how to lose. Or doing things that require us to favor one child over another or to risk safety or health…Or simply because they’re whining…

It seems so logical here on this screen…but  perserverance is often DIFFICULT. HARD.

Especially when my husband is out-of-town, or when I’m tired, or when the kids are tired, or it’s just Monday…it WOULD be easier (for me) to just give them that second popsicle. It WOULD be easier (for me) to pick up the toys for them than to hear them cry while they do it at a snails-pace.

Why, oh WHY, am I putting them myself through this? Because giving in won’t make it easier on me in the long run. And it wont’ make life easier for our children either. 

The stakes are too high to take the easy way out.

I DO want our children to be happy, but not because of STUFF, endless activities or getting everything they ask for. I want them to be happy because they know the Lord – after that, everything else falls into place. 

It won’t always be fun for them and it surely won’t be fun for us. It’s a good thing I hear a song in my head that makes me smile when I say those dreaded words…

They have to learn that their perception of fairness may not be what happens. They have to experience not getting what they want in order to be thankful for what they DO have and what they are privileged to DO. They need to learn what absolute truth is, and what God has to say about our behavior.

Our goal is to raise adults – contributing members of society who do not expect things handed to them. And who understand that everything is a gift from God and that no one owes them anything.

Some days…it seems like a lofty goal. Far away. A struggle met with tears, eye-rolls and confusion. Sometimes I feel like giving in to demands and whines. But the big picture matters too much. Failure just isn’t an option. We have to WIN.

I am grateful that with persistence, small victories become more frequent – moments when disappointment rolls off their shoulders and they understand and accept it. Success is measured in small victories. When they say ‘OK mama’, and go back to playing without batting an eye, I call that success!

Small victories promise adults who know the difference between WANT and NEED. 

But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need”

All those small victories promise success of the ultimate goal – a God-loving, content and grateful adult. So with perseverance and great hope for victory, I cling to the promise:

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” – Proverbs 22:6

You Can't Always Get What You Want | thisgratefulmama.com

Shell Shocked Parents…And The Face Of A Child’s Resilience

One of the exhibits at our local Children’s Museum is a life-size ant hill. The kids love the maze of tunnels. Our daughter is just 2, so my husband and I climbed in with them. We were not as fond of the humid, carpeted tunnels and the smell of sweaty socks as they were – we went in only for giggles.

This time, the fun was short-lived. Our daughter crawled in a second level tunnel and blindly moved forward. I heard my husband shouting for her to stop. Below her, I moved towards them hoping to catch her. Not fast enough.


Any parent knows that particular sound – the unmistakable sound of a head face hitting something hollow. She crawled straight over a hole and fell, face-first so her nose and mouth took the brunt of the impact. Cradling her as we crawled out into the light, we surveyed the damage.

A face full of bright red blood.

It. Was. E-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.

First, my husband and I froze, our faces mirroring looks of horror and concern. Then suddenly, adrenaline kicked in and I shoved her into my husband’s arms and ran for something…anything…to soak up the blood. Her screams echoed as amazingly helpful and sympathetic staff began arriving to assist us.

I’m not gonna lie – the afore-mentioned adrenaline could easily be interpeted as panic. My thoughts raced down all kinds of rabbit holes…loss of teeth, broken nose, bit tongue, concussion and worse.  Grabbing paper towels and the diaper bag while replaying the thud and the blood in my mind…I wondered if we needed to go the ER. I prayed we wouldn’t.

Running back, I found my poor (amazing) husband sitting, trying to console her and keep the blood off of the museum bench. As we soaked it up from our writhing and screaming child, we made eye contact.

No words required.

Fear. Love. Concern. Prayers. Hope…all at once.

It took maybe 10 minutes to slow the bleeding down to a trickle. It felt like HOURS. We assessed the damage and were amazed there was no external cut. A tongue bite that hardly bled, and a record-setting bloody nose.

As we tried to apply an ice pack provided by the staff, she struggled to get up, screaming to get down. Why? Not because it was cold. Not because it hurt. No, she was ready to play.


My husband and I were ready to go home.

We moved to the hallway and and gave the kids a snack while we continued to try to get her nose to stop bleeding. By now, our main concern was whether she had broken her nose.

Her main concern was what she could play with next.

When the bleeding finally stopped, we changed her clothes, washed up, and decided to try one of the quieter exhibits. My husband and I spent the rest of the time trying to make sure our over-ambitious two-year old didn’t fall on her face again. Or…rather we succumbed to overprotective instincts and annoyed her. Helicopter parenting at it’s finest worst.

To our surprise, we finished the rest of the museum and left with two tired, happy kids. The only evidence of what is now known as the ‘childrens museum incident’ was a bruise on the bridge of her nose. How so much could come out of someone so little and leave only a tiny bruise…I still cannot understand but am grateful for it.

I was amazed by how quickly she moved on from injury. As parents, injuries seem to linger in our minds long after our children move on. Our wandering minds remind us of what ‘could have happened’. But she refused to let even the most epic of bloody noses to stop her fun. We feared she would reinjure her nose, but she had no fear AT ALL.

She chose not to dwell on it – a lesson many adults could benefit from learning. The urge to play was stronger than the urge to wallow. So, she got back up, and got back to the business of having fun.

We left shell-shocked. She acted like nothing happened – with a smiling little face of resilience.

Carry on, Sunshine girl.

Still with a bruise - a smiling face of resilience. Our little tough girl. | thisgratefulmama.com

Still with a bruise – a smiling face of resilience. Our little tough girl. | thisgratefulmama.com