Signs You Might Be a Mom

I cleaned out my big blue purse this week. You know since it was taking me 9.2 minutes to find my keys in the sea of stuff. Plus, I thought I was imagining an odor coming from the bag. Besides all my junk, I pulled out a progress report, a Pictionary Card Game, a smashed granola bar, two hair bows, a battery,  a plastic lizard, a small screwdriver and behold, two of my son’s dirty socks.

If my purse was ever stolen, there would be NO DOUBT I was either a mom or the Unabomber.

Some signs you might be a mom (from me and mostly the best Facebook Community ever):
You double-knot everything you tie.

You find yourself humming “What would the fox say?” (I dare you not to look it up on Youtube).

You really want Repunzel to GET A HAIRCUT.

You ask your husband if he needs to go potty while you’re on a date.

You can discipline your kids with JUST A LOOK.

You count to 5 constantly (keeping track of all the kiddos).

You have wipes and Kleenex in every room/car/bag.You go to grab your wallet and you pull out a Baggie with a tooth!
You point out diggers/construction trucks/animals out loud even when you are on your own.
You might be a mom of boys if…you find a snake head in a bowl of water on the kitchen counter!You dish your husbands dinner, making sure nothing touches, and cut his chicken into bite-sized pieces.You read closed captions out loud…even when alone.

You can stop any argument or fight with the kids by just shouting, “wow pow pow pow pow pa pow!!” And then they all break into dance.

You go to a meeting and pull a cheerio out of your pocket with your business card.

You have a pair of Star Wars angry bird underwear in your purse.

You find miniature ninjas in the bottom of your coffee cup when you finally finish drinking it…

You are constantly humming kids songs and don’t even realize it.

All sorts of things come out of your washer/dryer that were hidden in your son’s pockets… coins, rocks, sticks!!!

When your husband has a little something on his face, you lick your finger and go to clean it without thinking twice about it.

You call random people you know by your kids name, especially when they are ticking you off.

You say “so help me” several times a day.

You have a Hello Kitty bandaid on your leg, and a Batman bandaid on your finger.

You find yourself uttering all of your mom’s sayings from your childhood…”give me strength” or “I hope your child whines half as much as you do one day”.

You send the kids outside to play so you could watch Mr. Rogers in peace and quiet.

The only money in your wallet is plastic play money.

You go to the bathroom with little eyes staring at you.

You find yourself enjoying the toy aisle to see what’s new when you’re supposed to be grocery shopping.

You unscrew the top of the sippy cup and drink.

You can snap your fingers and their heads snap to see who’s in trouble.

You use your own shirt as a Kleenex, mop, napkin, and pouch for carrying toys to the correct toy box.

You look at one of your children that is just like you and get scared of the future.

You realize that your mom was right about you having one just like you and then you laugh because she gets to babysit.

You find reasons to discipline your child with an early bedtime just so YOU can go to bed early, too!

You  accidentally called your husband “daddy” in public (probably more than once) when the kids weren’t with you.

You have baby wipes stashed in multiple places in your car and house…and you may have whipped them out to wipe tomato sauce off a colleague at lunch recently

You know you’re a mom when you drive hours, sit in freezing weather, and rearrange schedules just to watch your child play an hour of soccer.

Moms, have a great weekend!  You deserve it.

It’s All in Who You Know

It happened twice this month.

The people doing it didn’t know their choice not to include me, hurt.

I was left out as a general oversight or a purposeful decision.

Both cut the same.

It’s not the sort of grief that comes with loss or sorrow, it’s the quiet pain we women know so well. Exclusion.

It’s an old war wound in me that resurfaces when I least expect it. Usually when I think I’m a victor over the battle.

But, then there it is. Again.

It starts in the pit of my stomach and grows to become A Thing in my mind. After I’ve thought of every possible angle and excuse, it settles in my heart, like a big brick. And I lug that heavy burden around and see my life thru it’s lens. The feelings that come with being left out (of a group, event, party, initiative, community, you name it) have way more to do with me than anyone else.

I know this.

As I started digging around in my heart, I discovered something ugly. I saw beneath the layers –pride. I recognized it as a desire for my name to be KNOWN.

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I don’t long to see my name in lights, I’m way too introverted for that, but I want people to read my blog, to buy my book coming out next year, to support Mercy House—all good things.  But it’s a slippery slope when you start out wanting to MAKE HIS NAME KNOWN and discover a longing for yours to be known, too.

When you write a blog, run a non-profit, or say yes to anything big, you often hear these four words: Who do you know?

They seem harmless enough, but when those 4 little words are said to me, this is what I hear: You are not enough.

I don’t have a list of power players or big names. I am small with a quiet voice in this noisy world. I am unknown and I remind myself I wasn’t even on The List or invited to The Event and the wound festers.

I confessed some of this to my husband one night. I told him how I should have been a part and asked why wouldn’t they include me? He said, “You don’t love speaking or crowds or traveling. Would you really have gone?”

I found my answer in my answer, “Well, probably not. But I just wanted to be invited. I wanted to be recognized.”

And there it is uncovered, ugly, staring me in the face: PRIDE.

I found my knees. I asked God to root out this desire to be known that only left me feeling unknown. I prayed, “search me and know me God. Forgive me.”

Because really, I don’t want to be known by the world. I don’t want them to see that I can use my words to hurt others. I don’t want them to know I tend to hold a grudge or lose my cool. I don’t really want my insecurity to define me. My husband and children know the real me. They’ve smelled my morning breath and seen my funky bed head.

And God whispers, “I know you.”

He sees when I sit, when I rise, when I make my bed in Hell, when I serve or give without telling the other hand what I’m doing. He knows me whether I want Him to or not.

He’s beckoning me out of the spotlight and into His light.

So, ask me who I know. The list is short. It’s not very impressive. It won’t land me on a panel of big names or a bestseller list.

But I know Him.

And even better He knows me.

WFMW: Let’s Pleygo

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My son has always loved Legos. Even at 11, he’s still creating. He loves sitting down with his little sister and teaching her building tricks. She is a big fan now.

Have you heard about Pleygo? It’s an ingenious idea! It’s like Netflix for legos. Lego kits are expensive and honestly, once my kids build them, they take them apart and come up with their own creations. My sister told me about Pleygo after she signed up for a free month. A few days later, my niece was building pink Legos at her kitchen table. Here’s how it works:

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It’s an easy-to-use Lego rental system that delivers (free shipping) one kit at a time to your door. Your kids can play, return it and another one is sent. I’m also trying out there brand new affiliate program to earn Lego credit myself..

There are 3 levels of pricing:

1. Get small/medium sets          2. Get small/medium/large sets    3. Get small-large/ huge sets
$15/month, free shipping           $25/month, free shipping                   $39/month, free shipping

Try your free month today.

It works for us!

Giving Our Kids a Moral Compass

I’m horrible at directions. I can’t read a map and I’m at my navigating best when someone is showing me exactly where to go.

One time I described what goes on in my brain when I see a map to my bewildered husband who had drawn a perfectly uniform grid on a napkin to help me get from Point A to B. I said, “is this how you see things? In a neat, tidy grid?” He shook his head.

I scribbled all over the paper and said, “This is how I see it. It’s like a nest in here,” and I tapped the side of my head.

No matter how you see the road of parenting, it’s hard to navigate without a compass.

When my son has something heavy on his heart, he is restless. After the third time of letting me know he couldn’t sleep the other night, I patted the bed and said, “Spill it. What’s bothering you?”

It didn’t take long for him to tell me that the book he checked out from the library for his English project had a few cuss words in it.

And it bothered him.

I hugged my sweet kid and my first thought was That’s it? That’s what was bothering you?  But I didn’t because for his entire life, I’ve taught him those words were wrong and asked him not to use them. It’s only to be expected that he would have an internal red flag when he saw them in a book.

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It was his moral compass giving him direction.

Now, you and I both know that cuss words are A Thing in middle school. Kids are given just enough freedom to express themselves and many, many children try on cursing for size.  I was raised black and white and cussing was on the top ten list of sins you should not do. But I long for grace to be the banner we wave in our home, not rules. So, we talked long about what this was really about. We talked about the way he felt when he discovered one of his nice friends curses occasionally, “It makes me wonder if he is a Christian.”

“Do you think I’m a Christian?” I asked. He nodded his head.

“Have you heard me say a cuss word?” and we both knew the answer. It’s not a common every day thing, but cuss happens y’all.

We talked about grace and not generalizing, but also about the importance of acknowledging when something upsets his moral compass and speaking up about it when it’s necessary.

The next day, he got a new book from the library without cuss words. He also decided that he would offer more grace to his classmates.

How we give our children a moral compass:

We Teach them Absolute Truths

Truth is absolute. There are definitely absolute truths or standards by which to live our lives and raise our kids. The Bible is filled with truth: There is a God, God is love; actions have consequences (Romans 1:18). Truth is absolute; it is not subjective. Truth doesn’t shift when our culture changes it’s mind.

“In a society where ultimate truth is treated like a fairy tale, an outdated idea or even an insult to human intelligence, the motto of the day becomes, “WHATEVER!” Believe whatever you want. Do whatever seems best to you. Live for whatever brings you pleasure, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. And of course, be tolerant. Don’t try to tell anyone that their whatever is wrong.”-Linda Keffer

When we teach our kids these truths, we need to take a principal like “don’t have sex before you get married”, and offer a precept (a scripture that tells us this) with it. When we couple these together, it reveals a characteristic of God that says He loves me and wants me to experience purity in my mind and body and relationships and so He protects me with the absolute truth. (Teaching from Right From Wrong by Josh McDowell)

We Let those Absolute Truths Be Our Guide

It’s so easy for our children to question what truth is in our constantly changing world, especially when there are being fed lies by our culture, especially in media. Lies that say they have to be sexy or thin or tolerant. We live counter to cultural lives by not jumping on every new norm that presents itself in society.  It’s okay to say what we believe, to stand up for Biblical principals no matter what we read or hear in our society. When we teach absolute truths from the Bible, we let those truths guide us.

Present Opportunities to fall in love with Jesus

As a teen, some of my decisions to remain pure, not cuss-party-drink-or-date-boys-that-do, were driven by fear and not always by relationship. While I want my kids to have a healthy fear of momma and daddy and God, I mostly want them to make choices because of their relationship with God, out of a desire to honor and follow Him. It goes beyond attending church once a week and doing moral stuff. Our kids need to see us pursuing a relationship with God; they need us to lead them in devotions, teach them how to pray, homeschool them in the ways of God.

If our kids don’t have a moral compass, they will feel lost in the world, constantly changing how they see truth. Our kids are going to make mistakes, just like us. It’s how we learn how to get it right. And when we offer grace, we show them more of Jesus.

It’s not an easy road to navigate, but if we ask Him to guide us, He will.

The One Thing That Has Brought Our Family Together: {Review & Giveaway}

UPDATE: The winners of this giveaway are Mrs. R., Colleen B and Erin K.

I have two kids in junior high now, three in school.

And I feel like I owe all parents of kids age 10+up, a big fat apology.

Because. Y’all. We have spent years trying to parent intentionally, slowing down our lives, limiting extracurricular stuff. Then this season started and I’m looking at the calendar in shock. With just one after-school activity each and church stuff, it looks like it’s going to explode.

And I’m so thankful the ignorant, naive Kristen from years past, started one very important habit.

If there has been one thing that has strengthened our family and kept us together, around the table, around a chair, around each other, it’s reading together.

Not only have our kids fallen in love with reading (yes, they are the ones with flashlights under the sheets because they just need to finish the chapter, Mom), they have fallen in love with reading together.

We’ve gone on wild adventures and learned about different cultures together. Books have led us into deeper community with each other. They have urged us to ask hard questions, press into our struggles. They have been a catalyst to richer family life.

We read around the table after dinner regularly. We also read individually with each of our kids. We pat the space next to us and say, “Let’s read, together.”

And as my kids have grown, the books have grown with us. But no matter how old they are, they want to read.

I have to tell you about the latest one that has captured my family, all of us.

My husband reads to our first grader every. night. She loves it and looks disappointed when I step in to substitute. I love that they love this time together. She is reading on her own (you know the sweet first grade KIND OF READING THAT MAKES YOU WANT TO STICK A FORK IN YOUR EYEBALL), but there’s just something about reading a chapter book together that is special.

Plus, it’s a lot quicker.

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Begin, the first book in the Growly Series by Phil and Erin Ulrich started out as their book. It’s an epic adventure about a little bear named Growly and my daughter begs for another chapter every time they finish one. Last night they finished chapter 17. What’s funny is I can tell you every single thing that’s happened in the adventure so far and so can my son. We just couldn’t not listen! It’s wholesome family reading at it’s best and it’s also illustrated beautifully.

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The vivid descriptions make it easy to imagine exactly what’s happening in the story. It’s a great book to read to your 4-7 year old and children 8-11 would enjoy reading it on their own. We can’t wait to read what happens next to Growly! It’s sure to be adventurous.

The other night it was getting late and my hubby was busy with work, so I picked up where they left off. A few paragraphs in, my husband found us cuddled up reading and asked us what had happened so far. I handed over the book and smiled.

I’m not sure who loves Growly more! You can get your own copy here for $8.99

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The author Erin, who is also my blog designer and a sweet friend, sent us a copy to read together and today she’s giving away three copies. Hop over and check out the book and the amazing pictures and leave a comment here to be entered.

And please, make time in  your crazy busy lives to read together. You won’t ever regret the adventures it takes you on!

WFMW: All About The Books on My Table

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One of the happiest things about being a writer is getting to know other writers. It’s a weird when the online world collides with real life and bloggers become friends. Do you know what’s even better?  Reading your friends’ books. Here are three new ones on my bedside table.

[Click on the images below to visit *my Amazon affiliate links to learn more about these fabulous books.]

Reading on my own: A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P Freeman
I would never consider myself an artist. Actually after one day in art class in the 7th grade, I realized I’d made a grave mistake when the teacher asked us to draw the proverbial fruit in the bowl and mine looked more like an assortment of minions. But after reading Emily’s book, I’m convinced I’m an artist. I still shy away from sketching, but I’m living daily art. We all are, a daily living sacrifice. This book is for the person who wonders if what they do matters. It’s an important book. It changes the way you see your everyday living. It reminds you of your purpose and of our ultimate goal: to glorify God. The world is a canvas and this book is your guide to make art right where you are.

Reading with my teen daughter: Speak Love: Making Your Words Matter by Annie Downs
When my teenager and I sit down with each other and read together, something powerful happens: we connect. Even after long days where we struggle to get on the same page, when we come together (literally on the same page), it deepens our relationship. We are loving Annie’s new book, Speak Love. I don’t always speak lives with my words and at one point in the book, my daughter and I apologized to each other for using words as a weapon against one another. I love the way Annie writes to teen girls. She’s real and funny and challenges the reader to speak into our own lives and into the lives of others.

Reading with my little girl: Audrey Bunny

I read this sweet picture book to my 6 year old and she has been acting out the story ever since. Not only is it beautifully illustrated by a talented young girl, Angie’s powerful story of life after loss is felt with every page. We all feel a little different at some point in our lives, marked if you will, like Audrey Bunny. This beautiful story reminds our children (and us) that we are loved and accepted exactly like we are.  It’s a special book.

I love reading and I love books, they work for me!

What are you reading lately?

What It Means to Be a Girl in Our World

There is a price on her head. She runs for her life because she knows they will kill her, she hides in dark corridors like a criminal, she sells her body for food.

What is her crime?

She is a girl.

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The United Nations estimates there are 200 million missing just like her, killed, aborted or abandoned just because they are girls. Today, India and China eliminate more girls in their countries than are born in America every year.

It’s a quiet genocide.

But it’s not just a foreign issue: in our country we exploit, objectify and even traffic girls. Pornography is a 10 billion dollar industry. Sex sells and our daughters are the commodity. There must be a direct correlation to this booming practice when you consider trafficking is on the increase in our nation. Girls are trafficked in 49 states in our country and the average entry age for commercial exploitation is between the ages of 12-14 years old and many of these girls are punished for prostitution instead of helped as a victim.

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In countries like Kenya, girls have been subjected to genital mutilation and polygamy and sent out to prostitute their bodies for food to help feed their families. And if they end up pregnant, they have to quit school and are often kicked out of their homes. Some are orphaned, some are trafficked.

It’s the main reason we risked it all and started Mercy House.

A day this week has been set aside as International Day of the Girl.

The Day of the Girl is a response to an urgent problem facing our world today: the neglect and devaluation of girls around the world.

You might have a daughter or two, a sister, you’re probably a mom reading this. And we are busy busy people with so much to do, so many demands placed on us. But we cannot ignore the plight of our sisters around the globe.

How can we help? Because this isn’t just a day, it’s a call to a movement, we can stand up for the girls in our world by boycotting places that sell pornography, getting involved locally in trafficking organizations like Not for Sale, become active in the fight to save our girls. Here are 11 tangible ideas for action.

“No act is too small; you may never know the full extent of your impact. Activism is contagious. While you may be one person, your voice and actions can touch others, whose voices and actions can touch still others, and so forth until we experience change. This is how activism works.” (Fight Like a Girl by Megan Seely)

We can also do something right now. Change begins with the opportunity for education.

I’ll never forget sitting on a blanket outside Mercy House in Kenya with one of the very first residents almost three years ago. This young girl had been rescued from unspeakable horrors. She gingerly reached out to touch my white skin and said, “Thank you for bringing me here.” I thought she was referring to sleeping on a bed, living in a clean home with plenty of food, a safe place to heal and become a mother.  But her next words surprised me. She thanked me for the the chance to get an education. “I want to learn. This is what I want the most. I want to be something,” and then she put her hands on her swollen belly.

“We know from study after study that there is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and women.” Kofi Annan

Education is a fundamental right for all people, women and men, of all ages. Unfortunately in Kenya and many countries like it, education for girls still lags behind education for boys.

When girls are given the opportunity to learn, it not only changes their lives, it changes the world (facts based on research at womendeliver.org):

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  1. Educating girls raises lifetime incomes for them, their families and their countries. In particular, girls with secondary education have an 18% return in future wages, as compared to 14% for boys.
  2. Educating girls and women fosters democracy and women’s political activity. Educated women are more likely to resist abuses such as domestic violence, traditions like female mutilation, and discrimination at home, in society or the workplace.
  3. Educating girls and women saves children’s lives. Each additional year of schooling for girls reduces infant mortality for their offspring by up to 10%. Also, mothers provide better nutrition and health care and spend more on their children: girls and women spend 90% of their earned income on their families, while men only spend 30-40%

Want a tangible, practical way to help? Today, right now, you can be a part of Phase 2  of the (in)Mercy fundraising campaign called Learn Mercy. After moving into a smaller (paid for home), the Mercy House desperately needs a two-room classroom addition for the residents to be educated, continue their sewing skills (sewing machines are outside under tarps right now due to space), learn computer skills in a future computer lab and work on their studies.


Let’s remember girls everywhere today.
Please share this post. We can be a part of changing what it means to be a girl in our world.

*Photos by Bess Brownlee

Moms: Okay is Good Enough

She leaned in and put her arms around my neck. I could tell she was about to whisper-spit into my ear and I tried not to cringe:

“I love you, Mommy.” She paused and took a deep breath as if she was gearing up to say something really important.”You’re the best mom–I’ve ever had.”

She squeezed tighter and I tried not to laugh at her words.

But when I pulled her back, she had the most sincere look on her face. I really was the best mom she’d ever had. Of course, I thought about pointing out the obvious fact that SHE’D NEVER HAD ANOTHER MOTHER. But I didn’t want to ruin the moment.

I’m that person that if you compliment my dress, I will tell you I got it on sale. If you like my hair, I will tell you it needs to be washed. If you tell me something good you see in me, I’m the first to tell you something bad I see in me. It’s not a good trait, the deflection of compliments.

I’m a self-admitted average mom.  Life can’t all be baby kittens and puppies (thank God, because that’s just more work for mom). My children see my humanity more than anyone else. They know that I make mistakes. They know that sometimes I lose it, yet they are the first to offer me grace. It still amazes me that even with all my junk, they want me.

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Moms are often their own worst critics. We compare ourselves to others and when we don’t match up, we have guilt.  It’s time to start diffusing the-too-good-to-be-true comparisons that perplex us and remember that life’s greatest lessons are usually in the ugliness we try to hide.

It’s okay if your kids clothes don’t match.

It’s okay if you don’t cook from scratch.

It’s okay if you let them watch too much TV.

It’s okay if you don’t share your sweet tea.

It’s okay for you to wish for bedtime.

It’s okay if you need a glass of wine.

Shake off the guilt. The would have’s and should have’s don’t define you, Mom. But love does.

Some of the best encouragement I’ve received as a mom has come from other moms, not gloating in their perfection or looking down at me. It’s come from other exhausted, weary moms who let me in behind their imperfection and confide, “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done; my kids do that _____ (fill in the blank), too. Want to compare notes over sweet tea?”

Good moms learn to embrace the okay and doing so releases us from nasty mom guilt and actually makes us better mothers.

I want to be on the Honor Roll of Motherhood and thank my people for their support. Who doesn’t? But a good mom is really the combination of less-than-perfect mothering with a bit of His glory thrown in. It’s loving the life you were given—as crazy as your tardy excuses may be—and finding God in the mix of it. Yesterday I corned my teen daughter in my closet after a rough morning. I put my arms around her neck and hugged her until the tension melted away. I don’t always get it right, but love is enough.

Because here’s the thing: Unless God wills differently, we are the only mothers our children have. They see us at our best and our worst, but at the end of the day when we cut up their chicken into bite-sized pieces or kiss a boo boo or snuggle on the couch to read a favorite book, that’s better than okay.

It’s good.

You’re an okay mom and that’s enough.