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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How I Became A Human Vending Machine

How I Became A Human Vending Machine | thisgratefulmama.comOnce upon a time I began giving our kids snacks in the store – a welcome and needed diversion, providing extra time and distraction. And, a more pleasant shopping experience for all.

The goal of the store snack is time.

MORE time.

Now, I’m not saying my kids are unruly or unmanageable without snacks. Most of the time, they are great. I can count on one hand times our kids have melted in the store – with or without snacks. They know how to behave. But when it comes to kids, even with the best laid plans, melt-downs do sometimes happen so we need to be prepared to deal with them with grace and move on.

Every child, even the most pleasant child, has a time limit. That limit may vary but could be caused by boredom, hunger, fatigue or some unexpected issue. Whatever the looming threat may be, we’re always on the melt-down clock when running errands.

For us, snacks keep the peace while warding off the real and serious problem of the hangries.

Tick-tock.

At first, the kids slowly ate and talked while we shopped. It was really quite lovely. Foods that take time to chew are first on the list: carrot sticks, snap peas, apple slices, etc.

These bags of healthy goodness were a win-win – they ate without complaint, and stayed happy longer. Generally, appetites for lunch weren’t ruined, and if they were it was OK – they got the good stuff in first.

For a while – it was almost foolproof.

Gone were the days of running through the store at break-neck speeds tossing things in the cart to get in and out before the melt-down clock ran out.

Our pace was just right. Leisurely, even.

I seemed like a brilliant solution. And maybe it was

But the glory-days of snack shopping was limited to about one year. As the kids grew older, that shiny brilliance has faded.

It isn’t that snacks don’t work anymore. They do. But trips just aren’t leisurely anymore.

Snacks can be a slippery slope. If there’s one snack, why not another, and another?

We’re back on the clock – but now it’s the snack clock. Better get everything done before the snacks run out.

My now older children scarf down even the chewiest snack in 2.2 seconds. They don’t want to chat and eat, they just want the next snack. Fast. So they inhale them – I mean, do they even chew them? At dinner, the same foods would take FOR-EV-ER.

Bottomless pits, I tell you.

I delay the next snack by requiring that we find a garbage to get rid of our trash first. It’s kind of a game, but more so just a tool for getting a few minutes between snacks. You can find us easily, my kids are the ones shouting at the top of their lungs – mom, I see a garbage!

Hooray (note sarcasm)...now you can have more snacks.

It seems that the store snack solution has slowly made me into a real-life human vending machine. For the payment of quiet, happy children, I fork over snacks while I get my workout pushing a cart loaded with 3 children and all our stuff at record speed.

It’s a mad dash, but, generally still a pleasant one.

Now that the kids are older, snacks still include healthy veggies and fruit. To try and slow the bigger kids down, they get beef jerky, raisins, roasted chickpeas or sunflower seeds (no shell), and mini bagels. The chewier, the better.

As you may assume from that list, sometimes snacks become lunch. It isn’t ideal, but does work out well if you need to do a lot of errands in a row. 

Plus, returning home and immediately plopping them in their rooms for a rest still feels somewhat shiny and brilliant. Unloading groceries in peace is a gift.

Don’t tell my kids, but I may also keep a bag Dum-Dums in my purse for emergencies (ahem – when snacks run out). IF the kids were good the whole trip, they just might get one.

I’m not above bribing them.

But one could argue that giving kids snacks in the store is bribery – I prefer to use the word incentives. 

Although snacks no longer provide a luxurious shopping experience, they are still effective in making our errands happier on a regular basis – and for that I’m grateful.

The human vending machine – yep, that’s me. Or perhaps more like the genie from Aladdin – Poof, what do you need?

Either way, I’m OK with it.

How do YOU feel about snacks in the store? 

How I Became A Human Vending Machine | thisgratefulmama.com

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.

 

 

White Knees and Blue Jeans…

White Knees and Blue Jeans | thisgratefulmama.com

Sometimes when my husband has been traveling, I have take too much time to think about random, silly things. And sometimes I decide to write about those things. This is admittedly one of those posts.

Ok?

Now lets talk about blue jeans.

Don’t worry, I’m not claiming to be a fashion writer (no one would believe that anyway). What I am claiming to be is a mama with blue jean problems.

Any mama knows just how inconsistent body weight and shape can be during child-bearing years. Both weight and shape change drastically – first with pregnancy, then while nursing, then when finished nursing. Add in varied dedication to eating well and working out and you’ve got a recipe for a clothing size roller-coaster.

For this reason, every pair of jeans I’ve owned over the last 5+ years are still in my closet – an impending avalanche of folded denim. All fit at some point but maybe just 1 pair fits WELL at any given time. But I can’t only wear one pair of jeans. SO…the rest have problems.

Too tight, too low, too wide, too stretchy, not stretchy enough…what is a mama to do?

The nothing-fits-the-waist problem:

With my body shape, most jeans fit well everywhere but the waist. For the life of me, I cannot find pants that stay put! Does anyone else have this problem!? No one needs, or wants to see what these jeans should be hiding.

The belt-solution: Cinch it tight and sit in peace. However, it often causes pants to pucker. Sigh…as if any mama needs extra bulging in the tummy region…

The shirt-solution: Buy only tunic length shirts and tanks. Sit down because you’re covered. Literally.

The buy-jeans-every-month solution: Expensive! But if you must, commit to buying second-hand jeans – already washed and shrunk.  The only jeans that fit me now I snagged for $3 on clearance at Clothes Mentor. Be sure to keep the old, you may need them to survive the next round of the body-shape roller coaster.

The I-used-to-wear-heels problem

Before kids, I wore heels all the time and bought jeans long on purpose. Now, heals are rare. Why? Heels are hard on your back and even worse for a mama lugging a purse, diaper bag, and one or two children all at once (like a glorified mama pack-mule). Plus, bending down an extra 2 or 3 inches to reach a child’s hand…well, that’s gonna hurt.

If I do manage to find jeans that fit my waist, they are often too long. So, they’re now tattered and worn out on the bottom. Why keep them? I’d rather jeans be too long than show too much.

The hem solution: Tailoring length is a good idea. I’m not getting any taller so fixing the length will prevent the ripped-up-heel look. My jeans are already ripped up…be proactive people.

The white-knees problem

My favorite jeans are so dark they can stain other stuff and probably smell like indigo dye – less casual and seem to go with everything. They hide minor stains from dirty hands and faces that regularly gravitate towards mama legs like a bug to a light. But for the mama of small children, these jeans only look new briefly. The knees fade and will soon look starkly white against rich indigo beauty.

The never-wear-dark-jeans-around-kids solution: Oh wait, is there any other time to wear jeans? Oh, yeah…on a date some time, or girls night (yes, please). Wear already worn out jeans at home and save those unfaded dark ones for a special occasion (and hope they still fit) .

The dye solution: Check out what modern thrifter did to restore jeans with white knees. It should work. When I stop regularly crawling around and kneeling with children I plan to give it a whirl.

The embrace-it solution: Precious mama, if your knees are white, you’re doing exactly what you should be. Those white knees are a badge of honor. They tell of afternoons spent crawling after a giggling toddler (probably pretending to be some kind of animal), giving horsie rides, wrestling, tickling, rolling with laughter, and kneeling in prayer or to soothe an ‘owie’. White-knee problems are nothing compared to the joy of doing all that.

The comfort problem

A serious issue with jeans is they just don’t have the stretchy, knit goodness of leggings. Now don’t go thinking I’m saying leggings are acceptable substitutions for jeans – leggings are not jeans. Leggings require a very long shirt, a skirt, or that I’m staying home inside all day. Otherwise, you will find me crawling after a toddler in white knee-d, uncomfortable jeans and a tunic length shirt.

The  stretchy-jeans solution: Not my favorite look, but oh-so-comfortable.

The stay-at-home-so-you-don’t-have-t0-get-dressed solution: Viable at least once a week. Your kids and husband may not agree.

The skirt solution: Summer means skirts and dresses…as long as you can figure out how to crawl around on the floor in one.

The truth of it all

Although jeans may never fit just right, I think we can call agree that like most mama-problems, jean problems should be a badge of honor. Although our bodies have been through the ringer, every loose-waisted, uncomfortable, white-knee’d pair of jeans is worth it.

Your children won’t ever remember if your jeans didn’t fit quite right (except when they tease you about ‘mom-jeans’ as teenagers).

They will remember YOU – kneeling to pray, soothe them, and talk face to face.

And, how you loved to PLAY with them.

Like you, they will fondly remember both of you giggling as you crawled after them, gave them rides and smothered them with tickles and kisses.

Wear those white knees proudly – and keep up the good work.

Never Say “Never”

Ever have those moments in life where you literally eat your words? I’ve had several such moments as I’ve learned the lesson – never say ‘never’.

Once upon a time, I had these plans.

They were my plans, and I thought they were pretty darn good.

Entering college, I planned to go to pharmacy school after undergrad. I even joked with my family that I was not going to be a just a pharmacist, I was going to be a famous pharmacist. Yes, I seriously said that. They tease me still today.

So, with my plans, I was adamant that I was never, let me repeat, never, going to get married and skip pharmacy school. In fact, I remember telling a friend that God would have to send me a burning bush to make me change may plans. Ugh. The stupidity.

I am SO glad God did not send me a burning bush as I’d all but demanded (seriously, consider what it would be like to encounter the living God’s presence in a bush that does not burn up and to hear HIS VOICE. And in that moment, to be fully, and I mean fully aware of your own ungodliness, unholiness, and sin – terrifying!).

I am grateful that instead of doing things my way, God was gracious, merciful and gentle with me. No, He didn’t send a burning bush, although He would have been right to put me in my place for uttering such ignorant nonsense.

Instead, he sent me an amazing man who became my best friend for life and who swept me off my feet. I was all but jumping up and down as I said yes over and over when he asked me to marry him. Our wedding day was the best day of my life.

And get this – months BEFORE my best friend asked me to marry him, I did apply for pharmacy school and take the PCAT, but when it came time to decide where to go, I just wasn’t interested in pharmacy school anymore. I pulled my applications and decided not to go.

God had other plans.

And they were better than mine.

Newly married and hunting for places to live, I said I was never going to live in the city where I grew up. Apparently, I hadn’t learned the never say ‘never’ lesson yet.

9 years later in the winter of 2013, we bought a new house. In that very city where I grew up. Close in proximity to family. Close in proximity to my husbands’ job. Smack dab in the middle of fantastic neighbors who have quickly become close friends to us and our children.

This place I never wanted to live in fits our family just right. We have no doubt – this is where we are supposed to live.

God had other plans.

And they were better than mine.

Now this may seem silly, but when we had kids, I said I was never going to be a mini-van driving soccer mom. And who was I to act like a soccer mom is something to be repelled?

Can you guess what happened last week?

We bought a mini van.

And our son started soccer.

IN THE SAME WEEK.

God had other plans. And a sense of humor.

And they are better than mine.

I’m done with saying ‘never’. From what I’ve experienced, my view of life is much to narrow to utter such strong, ignorant words. Only God knows the future and I should stop presuming that saying never could eliminate choices He may lead me to.

Instead, I have started to say – God willing.

I am so grateful God had other plans!

My pharmacy-working-unmarried-living-somewhere-else-without-2-kids-and-a-van life would have been lackluster and possibly even horrible. That was my plan, and it was short-sighted and sad.

God has many plans for us that we cannot fathom today. He longs to give us life abundant in Him, and He loves to bless us.

I could never have even dreamed what I’d be missing. And trust me, His plans ARE good. I can’t wait to see what He has planned for today, tomorrow, and forever.

This mini-van driving mama is proud to be where He’s brought me.

God is SO good!

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