Hello, Fall. I’ve Been Waiting For You – 5 Reasons This Mama Loves Fall

Hello Fall. I've Been Waiting For You - 5 Reasons This Mama Loves Fall | thisgratefulmama.com

Hello, fall.

I’ve been waiting for you.

By far, Fall is my favorite time of year. This year, the Minnesota weather has been cooler than normal, so it started feeling like fall in late August.

While some are still mourning the loss of summer…I am celebrating fall.

5 Reasons This Mama Loves Fall

5 Reasons This Mama Is Grateful For Fall | thisgratefulmama.com

ALL. The. Apples.

By late August, I am ready for orchard apples. While Pink Lady apples are my choice when it’s not apple season, they simply do not compare to orchard apples.

I wait ALL year to pick those first apples so we headed to the nearest orchard on September 1st. It was lovely – we went early on Friday afternoon and were alone in the orchard picking a bounty of McIntosh (my favorite) and Zestar apples. Now the kids are running to the fridge for an apple after school and we don’t have to fight over what constitutes a ‘healthy snack’. I’m grateful our favorite orchard is just 10 minutes away. We’ll buy apples as long as they have them (and hopefully stock up just before they’re out).

An apple a day may not keep the doctor away, but it does make all of us rather HAPPY.

5 Reasons This Mama Loves Fall | thisgratefulmama.com

Boot Weather

A former life guard, I used to love baking in the sun. And, after all those winter indoor pool hours, humidity never bothered me. That is, until we had kids. I’m not sure if I changed and can’t handle it, or if it is caused by becoming a walking pack-mule who hauls kids and their stuff everywhere we go. Either way, I loathe the heat and humidity and love the 70 degree days with a cool evening. Cooler nights mean no bugs – in Minnesota where the running joke is that the state bird is really the mosquito, a no-bug evening is a gift.

And, finally, fall marks the return of boot-wearing weather. Tall boots, short boots, rain boots, leather boots…so long shorts! Oh, how I love boot-weather!

Routines

While I miss the kids while they are at school, I love the repetition and structure of the fall schedule. It feels like we’re shaking off lazy summer days and stepping into productivity. This summer was less structured than ever before and it was wonderful. But I was also very ready for it to be done. Actually, I was ready about a month before it ended. While the lack of structure is rejuvenating and relaxing, I just don’t thrive in an unstructured environment for an extended period of time. I find I accomplish less and lack motivation without deadlines or places to be.

After this first week of the fall schedule, I’m exhausted, but I am loving the return to BSF, kids in school, and my morning routine of waking up before the kids. In the morning I feel ready for them to get up. At the end of the day, I feel so much more productive and like more has been accomplished than on the majority of summer days.

5 Reasons This Mama Loves Fall | thisgratefulmama.com

Fall Fun

Bonfires, apple, raspberry and pumpkin picking, hiking, collecting leaves and taking in the colors, cooking soups and baking pies, football, soccer and more! There are so many activities on our fall bucket list, there just isn’t enough time to do it all. Fall activities make up some of our most treasured family time of the year. We’re off to a great start but have much more to do fit in before fall ends.

5 Reasons This Mama Loves Fall | thisgratefulmama.com

Hot Cider, Tea, Coffee

I love sitting outside on a cool morning or evening holding a warm mug of hot tea, cider or coffee. It’s kind of silly, but the smell and warmth of the mug in my hands is just better in the fall. In fact, I’m going to go get a cup of something hot right now.

 

What do you love about fall?

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It is Well With My Soul.

picmonkey-sample

I woke up this morning surprised at the election results. I really had no idea who would win, and to be honest, I would have felt surprised no matter who won.

Regardless of how you voted yesterday or of how weary you feel after this political season – the wounds revealed and created during this election must be addressed. This election was heartbreakingly divisive. My heart hurts – although today the presidency has been won, the path to get here makes it feel like no one really won.

There is no easy fix – the pain in our nation simply cannot be erased just because the votes have been counted.

I think moving on is going to be difficult for many on both sides of the vote.  Throughout the election, my eyes were opened as the band-aids were ripped off old wounds and as new wounds formed and festered in the issues that divide us all.

I may not be able to fix all that is wrong in our nation, but beginning to move on starts with me. 

Today, I step back and focus on TRUTH.

We have much to be grateful for. Today, the TV will stay off and social media can take a hike. My house is full of the best medicine I know – piano hymns, a baby babbling, and a little girl playing dress up. I thank God I live in a democratic country, and have the privilege to vote that many fought and died for. My focus is on the people I love, and the God I serve. Why not take time to be grateful every day? It is November 9. Today is a great day to begin th HABIT of practicing gratitude with your family as you prepare for Thanksgiving. Start a family gratitude journal or set up a gratitude tree.

There are no perfect voters or candidates. See me. See you. See Donald. See Hillary. Need I say more? Each is imperfect, and we pull from an imperfect pool of candidates for leadership. We make decisions based on carefully calculated glimpses of who candidates are. Then our voting decisions are clouded by our own imperfection and sin. The only true judge is Jesus Christ who knows all things, and who examines the heart and mind. And to this measure, we all fall short.

The only future we know for certain is in Jesus Christ. Just as we cannot ever truly know the hearts of those we seek to elect, we cannot foresee the future repercussions of our choices. We choose the candidate who best suits us and our own vision for our future.  Only God, the Beginning and the End, can see all of eternity. Thankfully, the Bible tells us that eternity has already been won, even if it doesn’t detail everything that will happen between now than then. We don’t know exactly how, but we know the victor is Jesus Christ and He mercifully invites each of us to join Him.

No leader can stop the plan of the perfect God. He is sovereign over ALL creation, knows all things, and has already won eternity. No matter our circumstance, He has overcome the world. If you are disheartened today, step back and look UP.

O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. 2 Chronicles 20:6.

One nation, under God. Many in our nation have tried to eliminate God from society. But the truth is, we are a Nation Under God whether we like it or not. He is still sovereign, even when we ignore, disrespect, or don’t believe it. Jesus is King, no matter who our president is. And He can and will use any leader to bring about His purposes on earth. Trying to stifle God’s presence has not done much to improve our nation has it? Instead we are more divided than ever. Instead of pushing God out, we need to cry out to Him and ask Him to heal our nation as only He can.

Our nation needs healing and love. Let it start with you as you love your friends, family and neighbors. Now is not the time for ‘I told you so’ or to tell others they got it wrong. What is done is done. Reserve judgement, offer encouragement, hope and practical help. Start listening more than talking. Freely extend forgiveness, love and respect. Since there are no perfect people, this means we need to give respect even if you don’t think a person has earned it – even those in leadership. Choose to treat all people as God’s beloved. Stop comparing – we are all in need of a savior. Here is a good place to start:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

There is peace that transcends all understanding. The Bible has a lot to say about peace offered by Jesus Christ. Months ago in the mess of the election, I chose to fix my eyes on Jesus. It wasn’t easy keeping them locked there with everything going on around me – only by His strength. Last night, I went to bed early with the firm trust that no election result can pluck me from God’s good, sovereign hand. I slept well. Have you ever felt such peace? It is more valuable and more powerful than any assurance a world leader can offer.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Prayer keeps us grounded in Him. We can not be in line with the will of God if we are not spending time in His presence in study and prayer. He will give you direction and where to go from here. Focusing on WHO God is and WHAT He has already done in a time that seems hopeless gives joy and peace that transcends comprehension. Spend time now in His presence and ask for His view of our situation and practical ways to extend love and grace to others.

In this day of seeming uncertainty, I pray we can claim peace, cling to the certainty of God’s promises and let the healing of our nation begin with us.

This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

It is well with my soul. How is yours?

A Letter To Our Son, Who Just Broke His Arm

Aiden sling

My son, you amaze me.

This week you broke your arm jumping off a swing. It is thankfully not a bad break, but painful nonetheless.

Always the cautious child, I was surprised the first time you showed me your new swing-jumping skill. I was so proud of you for trying something new, and a little riskier than I expected from you.

And you jumped SO HIGH!

And stuck the landing.

WOW!

I considered the risk and whether I should ask you to not do it again. But your dad and I want you to be free to be a KID. Plus, I jumped off of many swings and monkey bars when I was your age.

And sometimes I fell too.

Many jumps later, you got off balance and broke your fall with your wrist. On the grass. Who knew a bone could break from something simple like that?

I knew you were really hurt when you were hoarse from screaming before you could even tell me what happened as a neighbor walked you to the front yard.

Even then. In your tears. You were so brave.

Many tears, deep breaths, an ice pack, and a root beer float later, you actually decided you’d rather play than go home.

It’s OK that after a few minutes you came back in tears, ready to go.

It really hurt. And you were brave for trying., and wise to know when it was time to stop.

That night, we iced it, and you went to sleep with nothing more than Tylenol in your system. It’s OK that you woke up several times in tears.

Knowing what we know now, I’m surprised you slept at all.

In the morning, you woke bright-eyed and said you thought it felt a little better. I watched you all morning, playing, but careful not to move it up and down.

When I asked, you were willing to try moving it. You winced in pain, but tried anyway. You were adamant that you could go and play with friends that morning.

You played all morning long and had a blast, arm cradled close to your body. After seeing you cradle it all morning, we headed to the doctor.

The doctor isn’t your favorite place, but you are always willing to go and to do what they ask of you.

Even when you’re terrified.

Through the years you have battled some serious woes – reflux, repeated pneumonia, ear infections, allergy skin and blood testing, wheezing and asthma, and more. Many kids don’t know the doctors as well as you do. But they also don’t have to be truly brave because they haven’t experienced the things you have as you head into the office.

I am always amazed that even though you are afraid there, you understand that they are going to help you and that we need to be there. You don’t fight me as we go in the door, and you accept that some of what may happen might not be fun.

I promise to always be honest with you about what will happen there – I know you can handle it, and will always be right there with you.

As we waited to see if we needed an x-ray, you asked all kinds of questions. I love your curiosity and how you carefully listen to understand. I love watching you quietly process the words and to hear the next question.

You are incredibly smart. A wise soul in the body of a 5.5 year old.

As the doctor asked you to move your wrist, you knew it was going to hurt, but you did everything she asked you to do. You held still as she gently examined your arm.

I was so proud as I heard you thank her before she left the room. And then you thanked the nurses and x-ray technician, too, as we saw them one by one.

You weren’t so sure about that huge x-ray machine, but you sat still, and watched with cautious curiosity as they prepped everything. Even though the position for each x-ray wasn’t comfortable, and I had to leave your side to stand behind the wall, you sat still. You anxiously looked for my face in the window, but did exactly as they asked.

When we told you ‘good job’, I saw you light up. You knew you did it just right.

Then it was fun to see your face light up when they showed you your x-rays and you saw your bones.

You were so excited! It isn’t every day you get to see a picture of your bones! Although a broken bone isn’t fun, you still emanate joy despite your circumstances.

Tired of waiting, I could see that deep down, you just wanted to know what came next – even if it meant the bone was broken.

As with so many other doctor’s visits in the past, you are always willing to hear the hard news – sometimes more than I am.

You meet these battles head-on.

When the doctor returned, I could see on her face that the bone was broken. She soberly explained what happened to your bone to cause a buckle fracture in the radius.

You listened carefully. You asked a couple of questions.

Then you quietly accepted the truth, turning to tell me it was broken, just in case I didn’t understand.

You held very still as they prepared the splint and wrapped your arm, even as your arm got tired from holding it out and above your head. I could see the fascination on your face as you watched what they were doing. Even though the splint and sling were uncomfortable, you were willing to wear them.

No fuss.

And when the doctor explained how we couldn’t take the splint off, you quietly nodded.

Always willing to do as they ask, even when it may mean the end of summer water fun.

Walking to the car, you kindly asked for help with your seat belt, offering suggestions for how the sling could go on top of the belt.

My little troubleshooter. If you want to, you will make a brilliant engineer one day.

And as the sling belt dug into your neck, you told ME it was OK, you were going to be fine. You were so sweet, thanking me as I placed a soft towel underneath to make it more comfortable.

You are one tough, thoughtful and grateful kid.

It was surely disappointing when we came home and all your friends were outside playing but we had to go inside because the temporary sling wasn’t dry or set yet.

And as you asked me questions about playing in water, riding your scooter, and bike, and more that wouldn’t be a good idea right now, I saw the sadness in your eyes.

But then you took a deep breath and again, reassured ME, saying…’It’s OK mom. I don’t care if I broke my arm. I’ll be OK’. And, even better, ‘I’m glad God made our body so it can heal’ (be still my heart!).

What more could we ask of you?

Easy going. Brave. Calm.

With a good attitude even with a broken bone in the middle of summer.

We get the cast on Monday. It wont’ be fun wearing it for the rest of the summer, but I know you are going to be OK, just like you told me. There will be disappointment, but I can already tell you are going to make the most of this.

This morning you made me laugh as you asked me to put your eye patch on you so you could play pirate with your sister.

pirate

A broken arm cannot touch your imagination, sweet pirate.

Today I’m writing this because I see you. I am proud of you. I am grateful for your positive attitude and joyful heart. I see your childlike faith and trust that God will heal you.

Today, you have encouraged ME, your mom – and I’m not the one with the broken arm.

Thank you.

I love you.

I promise you I will find fun activities for you to do with a cast and your one arm.

And to tell you just how much I love you and just how proud of you I am – today, and every day.

Hands FULL. My Cup Runneth Over

Well hello there. Wonder where I’ve been these past months?

On May 11, 2016 at 12:34 pm, we were blessed by the arrival of our daughter Audra Grace at 7 pounds 9 ounces.

Audra Grace

To say things have been busy…is an understatement. In fact, I don’t have time to be writing this now, but my soul and my brain are in serious need of writing therapy.

While I expected an adjustment period, I was unprepared for what a third child adds to the mix. Our hands are FULL.

One month in, I was just starting to get used to three children. We started getting out of the house on time, and figured out how to grocery shop with a baby and toddler in the cart, and 5 year old in tow…

But when silent reflux showed up at 4 weeks, it threw me for a loop and I’m still playing catch-up.

Many days are a blur. In some ways it seems like we’ve had this baby forever, and in other ways I feel like I blinked and she’s 7 weeks old.

How can that be? The newborn period is so very short.

My hands are literally FULL. Most everything is done with one hand. The other is holding a baby… shopping, cooking, cleaning, reading to the kids while they hold the book…

At times I feel like everyone needs a piece of me, and there aren’t enough pieces to go around.

I feel worn out, and fear I am not giving the older two enough attention. I am grateful  as they throw their arms around me without judgement or resentment. But as my 3 year old snuggles in with me at night and says, “I need you, I miss you”, I feel the pang of mama-guilt mixed with the joy of being loved unconditionally by our children.

And so we snuggle tighter, and a little longer.

Despite challenges, what I see looking back on the past 7 weeks is  an abundance of blessings.

A big brother and big sister falling in love with their baby sister is one of the most precious things I have ever witnessed. I love how they are ready and willing to help grab diapers, pacifiers, and burp rags, or to just sit and talk to her. They are my second set of eyes, alerting me when she spits up, is crying, or needs something. This baby is VERY well tended to! It is fun to watch the older kids play together more than ever because their parents hands are often full. I am grateful to see how easy going they have become and how they are growing in responsibility and love.

And then there’s my husband. My hero, yet again. My rock through pregnancy and delivery. My encourager. The tenderness he has shown as he cared for me and our family after delivery is inexpressible.

Selfless. Persistent. Loving. Enduring.

This man took over so much around the house and with our kids. He entertains and plays with our kids, filling our home with giggles and squeals of delight. He brings me beverages and snacks while I feed the baby. He cooks, cleans and runs errands, all while working full time. Thoughtfully, he recruited help for me when he had to go out of town on a work trip so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. He is a full time, hands-on daddy and husband.

When we’re having a rough reflux-day, he comes home from work early to give me a break.  In the middle of the night, he takes over rocking the baby when she can’t fall back asleep. And he encourages and compliments, while graciously biting his tongue when I’m not doing the same. I am so grateful for his faithful, patient, selfless service to me and our family as he loves us through actions.

Words can simply not express just how grateful I am for him. Words fail me.

Our family and friends have blessed us beyond measure. Gifts, meals, visits with helping hands and loving arms have been given in abundance. We have been so generously cared for, the thank you card list keeps getting longer an longer (some day they will actually get written and be mailed!).

I feel the prayers of many lifting our family up as we adjust to being a family of five, and as we pray for Audra to feel better. We are so well loved, cared for, and covered in prayer. When I think I’m at my limit holding this sweet, crying child, a phone call or text message comes through checking in on us, or to tell me they are praying for us – always in perfect timing, bringing tears of joy and the feeling of being known.

And I feel no doubt that the Lord who created these precious children sees me, knows our struggles, and is carrying us through. We trust in his healing of Audra’s reflux, and that it will happen in HIS perfect timing. We trust that any present suffering is being used for good, and we expectantly wait on Him to show us exactly what He is doing here. I feel his loving, comforting arms as others selflessly step in to serve us and to lift us up.

He withholds no good thing from us.

We just have so much to be grateful for. I refuse to wish these days away, reflux or not. So we focus on gratitude, on our family, and keep our gaze on Jesus. Time is flying by, and we commit to soak it all in, no matter how busy or exhausted we are, or how much this sweet hurting baby cries.

Our hands may be full with these three precious children, but our life, and hearts are overflowing.

My cup runneth over.

 

 

Practice Gratitude: The Grateful Tree

The Grateful Tree | thisgratefulmama.com

I’m excited to share how our family has been recording our 59 days of gratitude. Last year, we used a gratitude calendar journal. This year, we chose to keep track of what we’re grateful for by writing on tags and hanging them on a tree.

A grateful tree.

While trying to figure out how to make our tree, I came across these worthy ideas from creative bloggers:

Inspired by these ideas, I started looking for a BIG, pre-lit tree. Preferably not a pine Christmas tree. I stumbled upon a series of pre-lit birch trees at Target and was able to buy a 4-foot version of this pre-lit LED birch tree (4 ft tree is currently out of stock).

With a 50% off designer tag sale at Hobby Lobby on Black Friday, I snagged over 60 tags in a variety of designs for under $6. I used a silvers sharpie to write ‘Thankful’, ‘Blessed’ or ‘Grateful’ on the plain brown tags.

Tags for grateful tree | thisgratefulmama.com

Each day, I take time with our son to talk about what we are grateful for. We write the date and what each of us are grateful for that day on one of the tags. The tags are hung on the tree using ornament hooks.

Most mornings and evenings, we incorporate what we’re grateful into our prayers to reinforce thanking God for all that we have.

Daily taking time with our son to think about what we are grateful for, and hanging the tags on the tree has been fun! It has created a regular chance to talk about gratitude and thanksgiving. I’m glad we decided to continue until January.

It also adds some joy to our entryway.

The Grateful Tree | thisgratefulmama.com

 

Practice Gratitude – And An Invitation.

Practice Gratitude - And An Invitation

 

As I wrote last year, I firmly believe that Thanksgiving is more than a meal with Turkey. In 2014, our family placed an extra focus on gratitude during the month of November. Our son and I filled out gratitude calendars. It was amazing to hear how our 4-year-old son could verbalize what he was thankful for and to also hear him do it with far more variation than I expected.

October was a busy month, filled with a rotation of colds and coughs, apple picking, bonfires, fun activities, a trip to Maine to visit family and rejoice at the wedding of our nephew, and culminated with the return to Minnesota and the celebration of our son’s fifth birthday. It was a whirl-wind.

In fact, October was so busy that I feel like November snuck up on me. I woke up this morning in a day-light-savings haze and realized it was ALREADY November. We were already one day behind!

There are 23 days until Thanksgiving, 52 days until Christmas, and 59 days until New Years Day.

Our plan for 2015 is similar to last year, only we will practice gratitude from now until 2016. If we had started yesterday, it would be an even 60 days, but 59 will have to do. Perhaps next year I will be a little more proactive.

Instead of the gratitude calendar we made and used last year, we are going to try a gratitude tree. I’m excited to go out and find the ‘tree’ this week, but in the meantime, we’ll record our gratitude on little notes to hang when the tree is ready. I can’t wait to share it with you!

It may have to be a big tree to support our family’s notes for 60 days! Perhaps we need one per person…

So, what does it mean to practice gratitude for 60 days? 

Let’s start with defining practice and gratitude according to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary.

prac·tice (verb): perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency. carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.

grat·i·tude (noun): the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

In essence, we are choosing to develop the quality of being thankful by practicing it repeatedly through the New Year. With the busy-ness of the holiday season, it is easy to get caught up in To-Do lists, and all kinds of good activities. Although the season is fun, filled with family and friends and twinkling lights, sometimes we lose sight of just how much we have already, because we are focused on what we have to DO.

By focusing on what and who we are thankful for, we create a pattern of reflecting on what we already have. We will more readily see the blessings in life despite and through our circumstances, and more easily and habitually GIVE THANKS to others. From experience, the effect is uplifting, joyful, and WORTH IT. 

And why would we do this?

Because we have MUCH to be thankful for.

We have MANY people to thank.

We have a Lord who deserves ALL our gratitude and praise.

We will strive to emulate a passage of scripture that is very dear to my heart:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 And so…

I’ll be posting our daily gratitude on the thisgratefulmama Facebook page for the next 59 days. I would love to share this journey with you. Will you join us? 

 

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!

Cook

 Events (Twin Cities)

Do

  • 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

Make

Go (Minnesota)