Routines to Keep You Centered This December

It has been a busy past few days.  From our trip to Yosemite to Thanksgiving to getting the house all ready for Christmas; my soul feels a bit tired and worn out.  The past week, I have definitely been out of my normal routine. I have been waking up later, working out less, and not sticking to my normal cleaning routine. Things feel a bit out of order. Our house is still scattered with Christmas things that are not fully in place. My mind has lots of words in it, but this typing thing already feels a bit foreign.  My legs are ready to increase mileage for marathon training, but I am not sure my head is there.

The thing with routines is that it is so easy to slip away.  My body fought me hard as I pulled myself out of bed at 5:30 am this week. My mind also fought me as I more easily convinced myself to skip on my typical disciplines. To me, this is just further evidence as to why keeping routines, even in busy holiday seasons is SO important.  If you have yet to read my past post on all of this, you can read it here.

3 Things to Keep Routines Around this December

On a different note, I want to write about some of the routines and rhythms you can keep this December. These three simple concepts are designed to help keep you centered on Christ this Christmas season. You are likely being pulled in a million directions this month. It is so easy to lose focus if you don’t have specific routines in place to keep you centered and grounded.

toddler boy playing in Christmas tree lot

1. Keep a Routine Around the Tree

On our first Christmas together, we started the tradition of getting our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  This was our fifth year of getting our tree the Friday after Thanksgiving. I know a lot of you will get your tree whenever and that often depends on each year, but we have found to really love this tradition/routine of getting our tree at the same time every year. It takes away the guessing and we expect and look forward to it every year.  It is also nice to get it in on the earlier side, so it can be enjoyed all Christmas season. This year, we chose to decorate it the same evening. We listened to Christmas music, put up ornaments, and drank sipping chocolate from Trader Joe’s, which I highly recommend.  It is way better than regular hot cocoa.  

I can so clearly remember our first Christmas as a married couple.  I have a specific memory walking down the aisles at Target and feeling mad at Lance.  We didn’t have much for our Christmas tree. And I wanted to buy all the things for it: a fancy tree topper, a pretty tree skirt, festive ornaments.  But my logical and conservative husband, did not want to spend the extra money. We already spent over $60 on a tree, more money on things like that felt over the top to him.  I was so upset about this. It seems super silly now, but at the time it was a whole lot of Christmas drama!  

family Christmas tree traditions

Anyways, we didn’t buy a fancy tree topper. Instead, I used leftover ribbon we had from our wedding and tied a bow on the top of our tree.  Five years later and that is our same tree topper. At this point, we could buy one of those fancy toppers, but there is something about that bow that I love.  It feels right. It feels like tradition.

Christmas ornaments that hold important milestones for a family

All these little traditions and routines around our Christmas tree are fun and special and even important; however, the tree to me is actually more of a metaphor. It is this very physical thing that sits in your living room for nearly a month of your year. The tree is pretty and shiny, but even more importantly it tells a story. It holds important milestones and moments. And not only does it tell a story of your family; it ultimately tells a story of God’s faithfulness, even in the years that might not have any shiny or memorable ornaments attached to it. So, create routines and traditions around the tree. However, don’t be distracted by the small details, like the tree topper or the fact that your tree is always a tad crooked. Remember, the tree is just a metaphor of something much, much more important.

2. Keep a Routine Around Advent 

Last Christmas, Hudson was just 6-months old, so we did not keep up with an Advent calendar for him.  This year we are! There are so many Advent calendar options that you can buy at the store. Those are good, but I am currently really into the Advent calendars that you fill on your own and use every single year.  My mother-in-law got us this beautiful Advent calendar from Pottery Barn.  It has great big pockets to fill with whatever you choose.  It is nice that Hudson is still at an age where he doesn’t really care what he is getting and the smallest things are still super exciting to him.  For this reason, I filled up his calendar this year with things like stickers, plastic dinosaurs, and protein bars. I know- not as exciting as chocolate, but I think he will still enjoy it.  

scripture and stickers inside an advent calendar for a toddler

The day before Advent, I focused more on finding little things in the dollar section of Target to put into his calendar that I missed the point a bit.  I forgot that the whole point of this Advent season is to reflect on the coming of Christ. So, I kept the random dinosaurs and snowman stickers stuffed in the pockets, but I also added something.  I found an amazing blog that had this adorable handwritten scripture geared towards little ones for each day. She specifically had the two-year olds in mind! I printed it out, cut out the squares and put one in each pocket.  I taped construction paper on the wall next to our advent calendar to stick the scripture on. This way we can visibly remember the greatest gift this season: Jesus.  

scripture from Luke for a toddler's advent calendar

Again, this is nothing revolutionary.  A small adjustment to a typical calendar filled with chocolate or even alcohol (have you seen the beer advent calendar from Costco?).  While there is nothing inherently wrong with calendars like this, I do believe it quickly turns our eyes away from the point of Advent.  It is to remember and await in eager anticipation for what is coming. The purpose of Advent is not in the chocolate or craft beer cans. The purpose is in Jesus.

  If you have little ones and wish to incorporate simple scripture into your Advent tradition, you can get that free printable on the Happy Home Fairy blog right here.  Just because we are already a few days into advent, it is never too late to start implementing more of Jesus into your Christmas traditions.

3. Keep a Routine Around Family Time

After dinner time, we are trying to do one thing as a family that feels Christmas-y.  On the first of December, we started by watching Lance’s all-time favorite Christmas movie, Home Alone.  We just watched about 20-minutes, but it was a fun way to start off the month of December.  A few other ideas we plan on doing as a family include: walking around to see Christmas lights in Sleepy Hollow (we do this every year with our good friends Hannah and Kyle), baking cookies together, reading Christmas-themed books (more on this in next week’s blog post), dancing to Christmas music, drinking that sipping chocolate I mentioned above, attending local Christmas events (especially ones surrounded around celebrating what this time of year is truly about). 

If you live in the South Bay area, our church is putting on a special event called “Campfire Christmas.”  It is the perfect evening activity with your family to spend some time celebrating and singing and preparing your hearts for the coming of Christ.  Do a little research and see some of the Christmas events local churches around you are putting on. These are often free and the perfect Christmas family outing centered around Christ.  

Side note: the truth of the matter is that we are not all curled up together doing some cute, Christmas-themed activity every single night of December. Applause to those families, but that is just not us. In fact, just tonight we had a nice dinner together, Hudson took a bath, and I flew out the door to yoga. The point of routines is intention. We could have gone out to a local holiday event being held in the community this evening, but Lance and I both sensed it was not right for us tonight. I am telling you this story because I want to be clear: we are definitely not perfect and life is busy, but on the nights that make sense, we really are intentionally trying to spend them together doing something centered around this season.

Give Something Up + Commit to Something

I recently listened to a new podcast episode on The Next Right Thing.  I have mentioned Emily’s podcast before on here and it is because she always drops such good wisdom in her short 15-20-minute episodes.  You really should take a listen if you haven’t. Her latest episode is all about how to avoid decision fatigue during the holidays. She suggests deciding ahead of time one thing to say no or remove from your schedule during the month of December.  For her, it was work-related travel. She also recommended planning ahead and saying yes to two things that will keep you centered on Christ during the holidays. It could be a devotional, a playlist, a book.

All this very much resonated with me as I wrote up this particular blog.  For me, I am saying no to late nights and consuming myself with tasks that simply are not that important. When it comes to the evenings, I want to be home with my family, I don’t want to busy myself with shopping and planning and doing. By setting this boundary, I am hoping to end this Christmas season in a place where I am more present and joyful. 

What Are You Prioritizing this December?

Okay, so I know this was a bit all over the place, but the heart of what I am trying to convey is that the things and routines we choose to do during December really, really matter.  Even if we don’t realize it, what we choose to say no and yes to are ultimately revealing what matters to us. When I choose to consume myself with shopping, I quickly lose sight of what this time of celebration is all about.  However, when I choose to put scripture in each pocket of Hudson’s Advent calendar and we stick it up on the wall together, I ground myself and the Word of God pulls me into the true joy of the season.  

I hope this makes you think about exactly how you are spending your time in the days and weeks to come.  What is your focus? What is spinning on in your head? Is it your shopping list and the parties you are attending?  Or is it your family? The candlelight Christmas-Eve service? That verse from Luke you just can’t shake from your mind?  

It sure is easy to be pulled away from the important things this time of year. My prayer is that this December can be different for you. You will likely still make some mistakes and fill your schedule a bit too full, but I hope that you can end the month with just a bit more peace, joy, and gentleness than last year!

Share a comment if you have a particular routine during December that keeps you focused and joyful this time of year! I would love to hear from you.

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Mom

We all have different experiences when it comes to motherhood, but for me, becoming a mom was a million times more draining, sad, and dark than I ever would have imagined. The commercials definitely do not paint motherhood in this type of way. They show the pretty parts. Just like social media. We seem to mostly scroll through happy babies and joy-filled mamas. And these are definitely parts of motherhood, but there is so, so much more. There are the nightly crying sessions (by both baby and mama). There are the deep and real feelings of rejection and failure when your baby screams every time you are just trying to feed them. There is that chart you are obsessively tallying how many wet diapers your baby had. There is the paranoia that keeps you on edge every minute of every day. There is the fear that they are not getting enough milk as you drive again to the hospital to weigh them, hoping for just a few more ounces. There is the pressure, the anxiety, the uncertainty.

A year ago, I was in a dark place. You wouldn’t have been able to really tell by the smiley pictures I posted on social media, but internally, I was struggling. I was utterly exhausted from pumping and nursing and nipple shields. My brain was bursting with feeding schedules and numbers of wet diapers and ounces of weight gain. They told me it would be hard, but I think this is the problem. Hard is just not specific enough. Hard I could handle. Hard is like a 20 mile run. It’s hard and painful, but you know that you’ve got it. You have the experience and miles prior to back you up. It hurts but deep down you know you will hit that 20th mile. That is hard. I can do hard. But motherhood is not even comparable. As a new mom, you don’t have those previous miles as back up. It is all new and you absolutely question: Am I made for this? Can I handle it? Can I make it to that 20th mile? Motherhood is much more than hard and exhausting. I feel like that was a lot of what I heard. And my thought was okay, but I can handle not sleeping as much. I did it in college, I can do it now. But here’s the thing. It is more than just not sleeping. It is the physical element of it all. It is the rocking, the shushing, the nursing for hours on end. That is what makes it all so exhausting, forget the barely sleeping part.

I really wish someone more specifically told me how it was going to be hard, not just that it is hard. Because like I said, 20 miles is hard, but rejection, failure, lack of sleep is something entirely different.

While Lance and I did a fair amount of research and preparation before Hudson’s arrival, there was still so much that happened in those first couple months that I was mentally not prepared for. So, if you are a soon-to-be mama and have done the big things they tell you to do, like taking a birth class and buying all the latest baby gadgets, but haven’t thought as much about what life will actually be like with your new baby and changed body, this is for you. Here are the 5 things I wish someone told me before becoming a mother:

1. You will spend HOURS Each Day Nursing

In one of the baby books I read, there was a section about breastfeeding schedules. It was this neat, laid-out chart. It specifically stated the feeding times and stated how the baby will spend about 15 minutes nursing on each side. I can clearly remember reading this a couple weeks before Hudson was born and thinking, I got this, this will be easy. I will just follow this schedule, set a timer, and we will be good. While this book had a lot of helpful information, the way it made out breastfeeding to be was so far off from my experience. I was absolutely unprepared for the physical demands of it all. I was unprepared for how I would feel when Hudson refused to latch and screamed and wanted nothing to do with me. No lactation class can fully prepare you for that type of rejection and failure. Even when things got a bit sorted after seeing a lactation consultant a couple times, I still was completely overwhelmed with the way nursing quickly took over my life. All my decisions seemed to revolve around it. It controlled what I could eat, good-bye butter and ice cream. It controlled what I wore, no more buttons and dresses. It limited me. I knew every couple hours I would be tied to the glider for close to an hour. It would not be relaxing or peaceful or sweet. There would be tears, sore muscles, and milk everywhere. Breastfeeding in those early days was way more of a time commitment than I was prepared for. I wish I knew. A year later, it is entirely different, Hudson nurses for about 5 minutes. It now is sweet and peaceful and comfortable. And this is the stage that is easy to remember and pass on to others; however, it definitely was not always like this. It changes quickly, but if you are an expecting mama and plan to nurse, try to get mentally prepared for both the physical demands of nursing and the time you will invest. It is 100% worth the struggle and the time and the initial discomfort, but know that it takes time for both you and baby to learn and get into a good rhythm. Be patient. Don’t set timers, just listen to your baby, they will let you know when they are done. And watch lots and lots of tv, or have something to help pass the time.

2. You Will Become Obsessed with Poop

If you look back on my camera roll to a year ago, you will find lots of pictures of Hudson’s poop. I needed evidence to show to his pediatrician to try and figure out why he was so fussy and uncomfortable all the time. I felt like a scientist when it came to baby poop. I was obsessed with color, texture, frequency. I can specifically remember many of my google searches leading me back to this nice chart. I had no idea I would care so much or be so interested in someone else’s poop. You become a parent and suddenly you care about things you never thought you would. Prior to baby, I had no idea how much the poop could tell you. For us, it was the mucus and strands of blood that helped us figure out the cow’s milk allergy Hudson had, which is a very common allergy, especially for C-section babies. I say all this as a reminder that your baby will likely not poop in the way you expect. There might be days where there are no tally marks for poopy diapers and you will be freaking out. There also might be days where there are tons of poopy diapers but there is also blood, and you will be freaking out even more. This may sound strange, but I do wish I had done a bit more research of the types of baby poop in terms of color and texture. I think this would have saved some valuable time and stress.

3. You Will Also Become Obsessed with Ounces

I had no idea how stressed I would get over Hudson’s weight gain. In my head, it was all pretty simple. Baby is hungry, baby eats from mom, baby gains good weight. This is seriously what I was expecting and again this expectation was far from our reality. Baby might be hungry, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will eat the way you want them to. You will do everything you can just to get them the ounces they need. You will use syringes, supplemental nursing systems (SNS), really anything to get them milk to get them to gain weight. I did know that babies lost weight in hospital, but I had no idea how much they could lose in such a quick amount of time. In two days Hudson was already down 10% of his body weight. I also was unaware at how his weight loss would feel like entirely my fault. I felt so terrible in the hospital. I felt like I wasn’t giving my baby enough nutrients and that it was all my fault. If you choose to exclusively breastfeed and do not supplement with formula, it can feel like a ton of pressure on yourself to make sure your baby is gaining enough weight. I became a bit of a crazy person when it came to ounces. I would drive to the hospital every week to weigh him. I would weigh him, then nurse him, then weigh him again. I would quickly do the math in my head to see how many ounces of milk he took from me. This may sound crazy, but this was my life those first couple months. I am so happy I was able to nurse Hudson, but for someone with my type of personality, it was really difficult not knowing how many ounces of milk he drank per feeding. This little method of weighing and subtracting the two weights, helped calm my anxiety. Just know that as a new mom, you brain will think only in ounces. Your life will temporarily revolve around the ounces. Just embrace it. Pretty soon, they will be hit the double digits in weight and your worries and concerns will drastically decline.

4. You Will Not Feel Normal

Every time I sneezed or laughed I would have a sharp pain on my C-section incision. I dreaded when I felt a sneeze coming on and I tried to avoid laughter, which sadly was not very difficult in that first month. My experience is slightly different since I had a C-section, but I was surprised at how long it took for my body to recover and feel normal again. I definitely had a mindset that I would bounce back super fast. I am young, healthy and tough. I can give birth and get back to normal life. I don’t need that much recovery time. I will be good. This is what I told myself, but I was so wrong. It doesn’t matter if you are 24 and in good shape, having a baby is trauma on your body. You will not be the same after. And you definitely will not feel normal in that first month. It took me a solid four months to begin to feel like myself again. And if I am really honest, it hasn’t been until recently, like a year later, that I have felt really normal. I can leave the house with just a backpack with wipes and a snack and I know we will be good. This confidence takes time. It is a huge mental and physical adjustment. It takes a lot of getting used to, but you do hit your normal again, it is just a new normal. Last week I ran my workout in my sports bra, no shirt. This is a big deal. In college, this was normal. If it was hot, I would be running in just a sports bra. I also had abs, not really 6 of them, but I had a solid 4. Let’s just say postpartum life did not give me any pack of abs and there was absolutely no way I would be running in just a sports bra. And here’s the thing, last Wednesday, it was humid, I had 4 hard mile repeats, and I was wearing a long sleeve (the clouds deceived me). I went to the bathroom and I had a choice. Suffer in my long sleeve or just not care and rock the postpartum look. To be fair, my body has gotten back into a similar shape as I was pre-baby (definitely less abs, though). While my stomach and everything doesn’t look that much different, it is more of an internal feeling. I felt so insecure, timid and unsure of myself as I left the bathroom stall with my sports bra on. I tell this story because I think it’s important. The things we used to do all the time, the way we felt about ourselves and our bodies, will forever be changed. We are not the same, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still run in sports bras. I get it, that might not be your thing, but don’t be afraid to do the things before baby. Maybe for you it’s that bikini stuffed at the bottom of the drawer or that dress gathering dust in the closet. It might look and feel slightly different, but there is no reason postpartum you can’t rock it.

5. You’ve Got This

You’ve got this. You do. It might not feel like it in the moment, but you will figure it out. Your baby will get enough milk, however you choose to feed your baby. They will grow and gain enough weight. They will have normal poops, sort of. All those little worries and daily anxiety attacks will eventually begin to fade. You were made for this job. There is no better mom for this child than you. You can do it. I wish I could of told all this to myself a year ago. I am not even sure I would of believed myself. There are some really hard days in those early months. It is easy to question if you were made for this role, but you were. God knows what He is doing. He has you where He wants you. He will equip you. Trust His plan. It might look very different from your expectations, but He knows exactly what He is doing. You’ve got this because He’s got it.

Marathon Wednesday Series

Happy July! July over here in the Capel household is a big month. It is marathon month. We are just 25 days out from our first marathon. In just a few weeks, we will be flying to San Francisco, leaving Hudson for the first time (more on this on this to come), and celebrating our 4th anniversary the best way we know how (running 26.2 miles together!). Every Wednesday, for the month of July, I will be posting all things running and marathon training related. This will be a 4-part series that will cover the following topics:

  1. Marathon Training Tips
  2. Best Products for Training
  3. Recovery (this will be specifically geared towards the non-elite runner that does not have same access to recovery facilities that a pro runner has).
  4. Marathon Motivation (this will be a special post filled with responses from people I surveyed about what motivates them to get to that 26th mile).

If you are beginning to train for a fall marathon (Chicago, New York), I hope this series can be a helpful resource for you! I think this will be a fun month filled with (hopefully) helpful information, but also just filled with stories and inspiration that can help get you out the door and lacing up your shoes.

Marathons are not everyone’s cup of tea. I get that. Even as a runner, training for this marathon has been pretty brutal. It take a lot of time and a consistent effort. So, I get why not everyone has the desire to run a marathon. However, I really hope that this series can somehow inspire you to put something on the calendar a few months out. Put something on the calendar that will require you to work on a consistent basis. Create a goal and a plan. This could be a 5k race, it could be a local triathlon, it could be a challenge you make up for yourself (choose a distance and a mode of travel). Whatever it is, put it on your calendar and take it seriously. I cannot emphasize enough how impactful and important it has been to me, especially as a new mother, to have this marathon as a goal. It has been an outlet. More than an outlet, it has given me a purpose outside of changing diapers and making snacks. It has reminded me of my deep love of running. It has given me back a confidence I forgot I lost.

So with that, happy July and happy marathon month! I will see you back here tomorrow for all my best tips for marathon training.