Solo Retreat for the Soul

I am alone.  I can literally hear the waves crashing from my little hacienda my husband so kindly rented and gifted me for my Christmas gift this year.  In this place of solitude, you would think I would be rejoicing. You would think I would not have a care in the world and would just be drinking wine and ordering take out and watching all the romantic comedies I could squeeze in.  But here’s the thing: I already miss my family. I feel homesick. And if I am honest, I feel really anxious about being in a new little city all by myself.  

Isn’t it funny how the thing we keep saying we need and want is not actually what we need and want?

 Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity to be alone with the Lord.  I 100% understand the privilege in being able to have the resources and life situation that allows me to run away for a little on my own.  I am grateful and I do not take this time away lightly at all. In an effort to really use the time well, I even created an hour-by-hour itinerary.

I understand the sacredness in time to be alone with the Lord, and I don’t want to waste a second of it, but again, if I am honest, I let about 45-minutes slip away. I felt nervous, a little scared, and quite frankly, like a fish out of water who has become so accustomed to depending on her family and the safety of her routine and familiar city that she has lived almost 26 years in.

Yet, those 45-minutes have come and gone, and I can feel my heart beginning to settle.  And oh, did I mention I can hear the waves crashing from my window? 

Reminiscing of New York City Days

The funny thing in all this is that 7 years ago, I would have been in my element.  7 years ago, I did most things on my own. I would go to cafés and work for hours on end all by myself.  I would go to sushi and sit at the bar and just eat and watch the sushi chefs chop and roll with such precision. 

When I was 20-years old and was living in NYC for the summer, I spent a lot of time alone. I ran late at night (okay, like 8pm) in Central Park without a fear. Most meals, I ate alone. I rode the subway back and forth with a confidence I didn’t even know I had.

My mind goes back to New York because I can remember how I responded to the type of freedom I had back then. Now, as I have a small taste of that freedom, I can’t help but crave the limitations and the noise and the mess of my actual life.  When you’re in the chaos of early motherhood, it is easy to reminisce about those New York City days. Of late night runs, of solo meals, of endless quiet time.

My Life Right Here, Right Now Is Better

Trust me, it is easy to drift off to this place, but again, here’s the thing, I have been given this lovely day retreat where there is endless quiet time and I can actually have a peaceful restaurant experience and there is no one constantly tugging at my legs, saying “more, more, mommy”.  It is just me.  The crashing waves.  A beautiful little hacienda.  And these words. Yet, my heart is already missing my crazy little boy and my handsome husband that loves me so well.

Oh my life is so full and beautiful.  It is messy, loud, dusty, busy, chaotic, but it is beautiful.  

Part of the reason, I am on this retreat is because Lance knows my heart so well and I have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve.  Since the summer, my soul has been struggling. I have been weary and tired and drained. I have felt unimportant and small. My joy has been low.  I have snapped at Hudson, at Lance. I have not been my best self. This time away came out of a clear need and the kindness of my husband. Thanks, Lance!

5 Things My Time Away Taught Me

My soul needed this solo retreat. It reminded me of a few things I have forgotten. It also taught me some new lessons. Whether you yourself are planning a solo retreat or you are in the grind of ordinary life, these takeaways are things that I hope can help you wherever you are.

1. Time Away is Essential 

Whatever our job is, whether we are stay-at-home moms or working moms or work-at-home moms or married without kids, we need time away. This does not make you a bad mom or a selfish wife, it simply makes you human.

It is not always going to look like staying in a hacienda on the ocean by myself, but this time away reminded me that I need to intentionally schedule time away.  This time away could be for just an hour, but I need to do this on a regular basis. It can’t be an hour away of running errands or even of working out.  It needs to be time away intentionally with the Lord. In quiet, in peace.

I realized that I often deem my down time when I escape to Costco by myself or I attend that evening workout class.  Contrary to some, Costco and core class are not life-giving to me. They are good and necessary, but when I am talking about time away, I mean time to really hear the Lord. It is going to be different for every person, but for me I am finding it involves sitting down in a new setting, reading a good book and writing down prayers. 

2. Embrace the  Uncomfortable 

This part was most surprising to me.  I was caught off guard when the initial hours of my retreat felt uncomfortable and fearful.  Like with anything that is outside of your norm, it is likely that initially it will feel weird.  The new job, the new marriage, the new baby, the new home, the new city. Maybe it is just me, but it takes me a while to warm-up to things I am not used to. 

This time away was no different. It felt weird and uncomfortable and I immediately called Lance the moment I entered the doors of the hacienda. I was very, very close to calling off the whole thing and having him and Hudson crash the retreat.  That felt right and familiar and comfortable. And here’s the thing, if I did give in to those feelings, I would have missed out on a really lovely time alone. It would have been great to have them with me, but it would not have been the same.  

Instead of giving in to the uncomfortable, I chose to embrace it.  And I am so glad I did. I heard God clearly for the first time in a while.  I read more than I have in months. For the first time in a long time, I was not worried about someone else.  I had no time constraints: I went on an evening run and I literally just stopped in the middle, went down to a little cove, sat on a rock and watched the sun go down. 

I must admit it felt good to just be. To not worry about getting back at a certain time and starting dinner right at 4pm. This time alone was needed. It allowed me to process and write things down that have been stirring in my heart.  For all those reasons, I am glad I sat in the uncomfortable; I am glad I did not give in to my longings to call off the whole solo aspect and make it just a family thing. 

3. Life with Your People is Always Better 

With all that said about how lovely it was to be alone, my biggest takeaway from my solo retreat was how life is so much better with my people.  It is messier and way louder, and quite frankly, all my sins are much more apparent, but it is my life, my family, and I love it with my whole heart. 

When you are in it, it is easy to daydream to retreats like the one I just had. It is easy to long for hours spent in a café, sipping a latte and reading.  It is easy to wish for just one quiet meal that does not result in food flying everywhere. And it is easy to desire freedom to run and write and watch P.S. I Love You whenever you would like.  It sure is easy, but I am here to tell you that right when I got this freedom, it was not quite as amazing as I pictured. Within the first couple hours I was already missing my family. 

Sure, I got a lot of reading in, wrote down some interesting thoughts, enjoyed a glass of wine as I voraciously flipped the pages, fell asleep to those lovely crashing waves; yet it still does not come close to my actual life.  Life with your people is always better!

4. Some Things are Better Left Unplanned

It should be no surprise that I created an hour-by-hour schedule for my retreat.  This is just how my mind operates. I want to know the plan, even if it is just me and the intention is to relax and get some writing in.  In a lot of ways I am glad I created a schedule, it allowed me to find a really great lunch spot that I likely would not have gone to if I did not plan ahead.  It also allowed me to really use the time wisely.

With my schedule, I got a lot out of my 24 hours away. I made it to a hatha yoga class at 7:30 am, got my eyebrows threaded (which always seems so hard to find the time to do in my ordinary days), listened to so many good podcasts (my favorite one I listened to was about reading the Bible chronologically), had an amazing lunch at Ellie’s Table (if you’re in San Juan Capistrano area, you should go), wrote about my feelings, ran at sunset, ate dinner with my book as company at Pierside, wrote a letter to my husband, talked a whole lot to God, started P.S. I Love You on Netflix and fell asleep to those crashing waves. 

The schedule helped me really use the time wisely, but all those things I listed, only some of them were on the schedule.  Pierside I just wandered into after my run without taking a shower. Weirdly, I scheduled a shower after my run and before dinner, which is so not me, so I just went to dinner with running shoes on and book in hand. The prayer walk on the beach I had scheduled for 1 pm, never happened because I lingered at Ellie’s Table much longer than expected.  But, prayer was scattered all throughout my time it just did not look as neat as a “prayer walk on beach.” Point in all this, is that spending time away intentionally is super important, but be okay with having some gaps and unknowns in your schedule. 
 

5. Things Might Feel the Same

When you do intentional things like this, it is easy to have this hope and even expectation that when you return, things will feel different.  That upon returning, you suddenly will be that patient mom, extra loving wife, and all-together better human being that is much more holy than before she took a solo retreat.  And here’s the thing, I felt the same. I quickly became anxious again as all my responsibilities quickly hit me with one step back into our home. I lost my patience soon after as I said “no” a million times and had to clean throw up off the floor.  But this all goes back to #3. Life is easier when you are away, you are likely going to be appear to be a much more loving and patient person than you actually are, but life is always better with your people.

This retreat did not instantly change me, but God absolutely used the time.  Through the podcasts I listened to, the words I read, the words I wrote, the miles I ran, the prayers, the yoga teacher, the lady that threaded my eyebrows, and those crashing waves, God reminded me of his nearness, he reminded me of how loved I really am, and he reminded me of the great gift and privilege it is to have the beautiful life the Lord has entrusted me with. So while I still struggle with a lot of the same things I did pre-retreat, my vision does feel clearer, my heart feels lighter, and I feel so much gratitude.  

Managing Christmas Expectations: Broken, Fallen, and Redeemed

How is your Christmas season going?  If you haven’t guessed from my title, so far, it has been less than perfect.  This seems to happen every single year and I think I am just now beginning to learn how to better respond when our holiday season simply does not match the high expectations we have in our heads.  

toddler with santa hat smiling by Christmas tree
Don’t be fooled by his cuteness, he is an ornament breaking machine.

Broken Things

It is just the middle of December (as I am typing this) and so far Hudson has broken about 5 ornaments, 2 salt and pepper reindeer shakers, and one snow globe (yes, there was water and those little, fake flecks of snow everywhere).  This is to be expected. Last Christmas we still had a baby that mostly was in our arms. I don’t think he was even really crawling last year. This year, he is literally running. And oh man, it is so much fun, but it also means that things break more easily.  Next year, there will definitely be less glass and ceramic ornaments on our tree.  

Fallen Things

Along with a long list of things that have broken, our Christmas tree has fallen over TWICE. As I have already mentioned here on the blog, every year Lance and I fight about the straightness of our tree.  Every year I complain that it is crooked and every year he tells me it is not. Well, this year, it fell in the middle of the night.  This resulted in even more broken ornaments that Hudson, in fact, had no part in. The point here, is obvious: the tree will shed a million needles, the tree will falter and not stand perfectly straight, the tree will fail us every single time.  Do you see what I am saying? It is amazing how in this time of year, how easily our eyes are taken away from Jesus and moved toward imperfect and unimportant objects like the tree.  

toddler unhappy at santa photos with Mrs. Claus
Unsure about this whole Santa thing.

Imperfect Things

And finally there was the Santa photos.  Last year, we opted for the EXPENSIVE package at the Grove with the Santa that looks like he just fell out of the pages of The Night Before Christmas.  We were excited and eager first time parents willing to spend whatever on the perfect Santa photos.  And they were pretty good, Hudson was still so little, that he had no reason to even cry. He just looked directly at the camera with a sweet smile.  

This year, we went to the Santa at Bloomingdales.  There was even a Mrs. Claus and the photo was absolutely free, which is our very favorite price.  However, Hudson did not like Santa very much and the photo is less than perfect to say the least. Somehow, I ended up sitting on the Santa chair and Santa didn’t even make the picture! 

toddler crying in igloo in Minnesota
The reality of traveling with a toddler.

Painful Things

Since last typing this up, we took a little trip to Minnesota with Grammy & Auntie Kay. And in similar fashion to the theme above, Hudson and I both were not feeling 100% and I was hit with some especially bad body aches (so bad it brought me to tears!).  Traveling with an over-active and curious toddler is hard, but it becomes especially difficult when both of you are not feeling well. Thankfully my mom and sister were incredibly helpful!

toddler happy in igloo in Minnesota
The way I picture things in my head.

While my ideal for this trip would have been to feel a bit better, it still ended up being a great trip! We got to see a lot of family we don’t get to see often. Hudson got to touch snow for the first time. We visited the Mall of America. We slept in, ate lots of good food, and even sipped cider in plastic igloos. So overall, it was a special and memorable trip, minus my body being difficult.

toddler hugging santa claus
We changed our minds. We do like him.

And you can actually scratch the imperfect Santa photos. We ended up trying again and visited Santa at the Mall of America. Tip: if your toddler is anything like mine, try allowing them to walk up to Santa on their own, instead of placing them on Santa’s lap. This was my sister’s idea and it was really effective. Hudson was so much more confident and interested in Santa as he walked up to him on his own.  We got some really sweet photos. My personal favorite is Hudson hugging Santa and looking straight at the camera.  

Redeemed Things

Okay, so what is the point in all this? It is not to bring you down. Or get you to start complaining about all the little things that have not gone according to plan. No, it is to remind you to manage your Christmas expectations. If the gifts, the parties, the perfectly decorated home, the homemade cookies, the Christmas lights, and that perfect family Christmas card are the things at the forefront of your mind right now, you will likely be disappointed. You will likely feel like Christmas was just not quite right. However, if everything in you is focused on the baby, the baby in the manger: Jesus; then disappointment will not follow you. Because here is the thing: your cookies might burn, your cards might be late, the dog might eat the gingerbread house (true story); but he is already born. We know how that story goes. So no matter how many of your Christmas expectations seems to be falling around you, you can still rejoice, for there is good news!

“But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger'” -Luke 2:10-12

toddler smiling with gingerbread house
Before the big, bad Nala ate the whole thing!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! I hope this perspective can help you really embrace all the imperfect elements of your holiday that really don’t matter that much and can allow you to focus and rejoice on the baby that changes everything!

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.

Rest as a Routine: 10 Ways to Help Keep Your Sabbath

It is early Monday morning and I am getting some writing in before Hudson wakes up.  I find myself working with a sense of peace, clarity, and focus. Probably not typical feelings on a Monday at 5:30 am, but I have a secret and I want to share it with you.  Keep the sabbath. Allow for 24-hours of your week to be untouched by work, hustle, hurry, schedule, and yes, even social media. This actually is no secret. It is a biblical command: 

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  You must not do any work…For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy” Exodus 20:8-11

It seems like even for Christians, this is a command that is easy to not take as seriously.  Our culture literally preaches the gospel of work and hustle and making a name for ourselves. The concept of rest often runs counter to everything our culture seems to stand for.  

While rest is something that definitely does not come naturally to me, I have been learning, especially recently in the past year, how essential the weekly routine of sabbath is for myself and for our family.  It has become the part of the week that I most look forward to. It is restorative and necessary. And the truth is, this stop in work, is the very thing that allows me to produce better quality work throughout the week.

We Work from Our Rest

I have had the concept of work and rest backwards for much of my life.  I used to think that I had to work really hard to deserve my rest.  And here’s the thing: I never felt like I fully deserved it.  There will always be things left on my to-do list.  There will always be things I simply did not get to.  If we only allow ourselves to rest when we feel like we deserve it, rest will likely not happen very often.  

It clicked in my mind a month or so ago when I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey.  Her guest that week, Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith, explained how we don’t earn rest, we work from our rest. When you think about rest in this way, it no longer is just some nice luxury that you will get to if you have time; it is absolutely necessary and is commanded of us by the Lord. 

Typically, when we think of routines, we probably don’t first think of rest.  However, we should start thinking of rest as a routine that is just as important as our cleaning routine.  One of the many reasons I love routines so much is because it makes things that do not come naturally to me, aka rest and cleaning the house, actually happen!

The thing that is different with sabbath is that this is a routine that I do not need to create or carve out on my own, it is a gift given by the Lord. It is not about us creating sabbath, it is about us keeping it. Thank you to Emily P. Freeman’s podcast episode on “Keep Your Rest” for reminding me of this truth. It is not about creating or carving out rest on our own power; it is about obeying and keeping the rest that is already ours.

10 Ways to Keep Rest as a Weekly Routine

Below you will find a list of 10 things to consider when thinking about how to better keep the sabbath in your own life. I say the word “consider” because there is no one size fits all sabbath. Based on your season, your sabbath will look different, but it does not mean you simply throw out the practice. You adjust and keep sabbath based on your current stage of life.

1. Choose a Day 

It does not necessarily need to be Saturday or Sunday.  Examine your week and choose the day that is most open for you and your family.  For us, it is on Sunday. We could also practice sabbath on Saturday, but Saturdays seem to always get full with birthday parties and events and time obligations.  Sundays work better for our family. We try to keep church the only planned thing of the day. After church, our day is fully open.  

2. Keep a Timeframe 

Once you choose the day, it is important, that you set a clear signal for when your day of rest officially begins and when it ends.  Biblically, sabbath goes from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. So for some, this is a helpful way to indicate the beginning and end of sabbath. If you don’t have a clear indicator or signal, it is less likely you will fully get a 24-hour period of sabbath. Also, if you are in a place where 24 hours of sabbath feels not possible, that is okay. Create a time segment that you can weekly commit to. Maybe it is when you wake up on Saturday until lunch on Saturday.  Whenever it is, I have found that it is essential to commit to that time framework.  

3. Step Away From Social Media

This is one I recently added to my personal discipline of sabbath and I think it is essential.  I have a personal rule that I will not look at any form of social media, the entirety of my sabbath.  This rule prevents me from laying on my bed, scrolling through newsfeeds.  This is definitely a temptation of mine when it comes to my day of rest, but I have found (after many sabbaths filled with social media) that I do not receive as rejuvenating of a rest when I am on social platforms. 

We do not limit all screens, we tend to watch a show or maybe even a movie, but even this we need to be careful with. Sabbath simply is not about just vegging out and doing nothing.  There is a big difference from practicing sabbath versus being on the couch all day binge watching Netflix.

4. Limit Time Obligations 

This will likely mean that you will be saying “no” a lot when it comes to plans or events on your given sabbath day.  Occasionally, we will attend a scheduled event that falls on our sabbath if we feel it will be a time of good fellowship.  For example, sometimes our church will have fun outreach events on Sundays and we will mostly always still attend those.

When it comes to getting together with friends, we like to schedule things like this on Saturdays, but with really close friends (shout out to Hannah and Kyle) we enjoy spending time with them on our sabbaths.  It is all about determining what is restoring and what people ultimately bring you closer to the Lord. Spend time with those types of people on your sabbaths + whenever else you can. If we are meeting people or people are coming over to us, we like to have a looser time boundary on our sabbaths. It is incredibly refreshing to have one day that does not feel as scheduled or as pressured to be at places at a specific time.

5. Prioritize One Thing You Typically “Never Have Time For” 

I started a scrapbook for Hudson when he was born.  For the first 6 months of his life, I was invested in this scrapbook.  Every month, I would fill out the page and write all about what we did for his _ month birthday and list out major milestones and his likes/dislikes.  Now, he is almost 17-months and I have piles of photos and a half-empty scrapbook. Life has gotten more full now that he is older and scrapbooking just does not happen during our busy weeks. 

But here’s the thing, memory keeping through the act of scrapbooking is something that very much fills me up. I love it. When I create the time to actually work on it, I sense my whole body relaxing.  It is a really healthy and joyful practice for me; the perfect sabbath-keeping activity. It feels extra special because I know Sundays are the one day I get to work on my scrapbook. What is it for you?  List out the activities that your heart always longs to do. Maybe it is gardening, or baking a pie, or knitting a sweater, or learning calligraphy. Write out your list and use your sabbaths to start actually doing those things!

6. Connect with Your Family 

Sabbath is the perfect day to really spend quality, focused time with your family.  Of course we try to spend a good amount of family time throughout the week, but during our regular week, it feels like a to-do list is always running in the back of our heads.  It is refreshing to have one day set apart that I just sit on the couch and really watch Hudson play and create and imagine. I love this stillness that is created on our sabbath.  I am not frantic, I am just sitting and watching and connecting.

Last Sunday, during Hudson’s nap, Lance and I went out into the backyard, threw Nala tennis balls and went through our roses, buds, and thorns of the week.  It was simple and good, and it is so different from our normal pace during the week. Our best connection as a family absolutely happens on our sabbaths. So, turn off your phones, get outside, watch your children play as you simply sit, and slowly chat with your spouse.  

7. Don’t Touch Laundry, Dishes, or the Broom 

Our house is not pretty on our sabbath days.  And I am perfectly okay with this. There usually are dishes stacked in the sink, laundry sitting in the dryer, and crumbs scattered throughout the house.  And I do not touch it. I do this stuff all the time during the week. It is essential for me to have a day that I simply let the house go. This would typically bother me, but because this is the designated day of rest, I am perfectly fine leaving it for Monday or later that evening.  I also try to not get super legalistic with things like this. Of course, if there is a huge spill or mess, one of us will wipe it up, but as a whole, we will try to not worry about cleaning on our sabbaths.

8. Read 

Like scrapbooking, sabbaths are my days to actually curl up with a good book.  If you read all the time, maybe choose a special book you just read on your sabbath.  Something that will draw your nearer to God. Something that really fills you up. I am currently reading Run the Mile You’re In by Ryan Hall (thanks mom for giving this to me!).  It is the perfect sabbath book for me right now because it is a book about God and running. Two of my favorite things. Find a book if you are currently not reading, and save it for your sabbath days. 

Sabbaths are also great opportunities to collectively read the Bible as a family. We typically just do our personal Bible reading in the morning, but this is something I would like to start incorporating into our weekly day of rest, especially now as Hudson is getting older and loves listening to stories.

9. Dream

On our most recent sabbath, we all woke up extra early due to the time change.  I threw together a veggie scramble, we ate, watched the NYC Marathon, and since we had two hours to spare before church, we drove down to the beach for a walk.  On our walk, Lance and I dreamed. We rambled and casted vision for our future. When we both are undistracted by the hum of our to-dos and social media, we can really come up with amazing things.  I was reminded on our dream walk, how days of rest are the perfect days to dream and wander and talk to God about what He has in mind for the future.

10. Thank God 

This should be a daily practice, but sabbaths also create the perfect, quiet space to intentionally thank the Lord.  This could be done through prayer or creating a gratitude list. It is easy for our busy and full days to slip by without even noticing the amazing work the Lord is doing.  Take the time on sabbath to really notice.  

If you would like to read more of my thoughts on rest & sabbath, it is a topic that I have written on a lot in the past. You can find all other posts related to rest here, and here, and here.

I would love to hear from you. Do you practice sabbath as a weekly routine within your own life? If so, I would love to hear some of the ways you keep sabbath. Please leave a little comment below about sabbath, rest, time away from social media, or really anything this post made you start thinking about!

See you next Thursday. Find some rest, my friend. Actually, keep the rest. Remember, it has already been found by our kind, Father.

5 Tips for Finding Routine as a Stay-at-Home Mom

I love structure, routines, and schedules. I love doing the same type of thing every week.  For some this might seem super boring, but for me, it is absolutely necessary.  I struggle with decisions. I am incredibly indecisive, so the fewer decisions I need to make within the week, the better.  There is something incredibly refreshing about establishing weekly rhythms in your life.  I believe these small patterns in our lives have the power to impact so much more than just how we choose to spend our days.  It impacts our attitudes, our characters, and ultimately our entire lives. So, if you ask me, this routine stuff is essential!

You might be reading this and thinking yes, I am all about schedules and routines too, but right now the season of life I am in makes consistent routines super difficult.  I get it! This is one of the many reasons I struggled so much early on when Hudson was born. I lost all sense of routine and control and if I am honest, it really had an affect on me in an emotional, spiritual, and physical way. I believe that even in a season with a bunch of little ones running about, you can develop a sense of routine.  And you should! Because it will not only help keep you more sane, it will allow for you to ultimately be more productive.  

daily routine for stay at home moms that will actually allow for rest, productivity, and quality family time.

So mama, if you are in a place where you want more steadiness in your life, but you don’t even know where to start, here are 5 simple things you can start doing today to get routines into your days. Just because you are a stay-at-home mom, that does not mean you cannot build in some of the structure and schedules you used to have in the pre-kids life.

green coffee mug for mom starting her morning routine

1. Wake Up Before the Kids

I have written a lot about my morning routine. You can read more about it, here. There are a few things I try to do every morning. The reality is that it is really hard to get the time to read my Bible, journal, and pray if I don’t get up at least 30 minutes before Hudson rises. I know this can be a real challenge, especially if you have really little ones that are not sleeping throughout the night. It can also be tough if your little ones are not consistently waking up at the same time. In particular seasons like that, allow for grace.

I would recommend setting a timer for you to get up at the same time every morning. Maybe for you right now, it is not realistic to wake up at 5 am. Try 6 am or 6:30 am. The reality is that you cannot control when the rest of the house is going to get up, but you can control when you get up. Consistently, waking up at the same time every morning is such an important rhythm that really sets the tone for the rest of the day. 

mom weekly cleaning routine

2. Set a Cleaning Task for Each Day of Week

As a stay-at-home mom, I put an excessive amount of pressure on myself to have the house in order. I know I am not alone in this. But here is the thing, solely taking care of a baby/multiple children is a full-time job in itself. There is not always time to have the baseboards shiny and the linen closet organized. Time and energy is limited. How can we have a relatively tidy house without feeling completely overwhelmed and burnt out?  Set small tasks for specific rooms of the house every week. Create a cleaning schedule that works best for you and stick to it.

Before you know it, you will be changing the bed sheets every Wednesday without even thinking about it. This is not a revolutionary concept, but having small cleaning tasks that are assigned for specific days of the week really helps me to not feel as overwhelmed. There are certain tasks like making the bed, emptying the dishwasher, sweeping and wiping down counters that happen on a daily basis, but here are the specific tasks I do for every day of the week, minus Sundays because those are for resting:

  • Monday: Frontload laundry (try to do as many loads as I can) + focused floor clean (baseboards on a bi-monthly basis)
  • Tuesday: Focused kitchen clean  
  • Wednesday: Change bed sheets + vacuum bedroom
  • Thursday: Change Hudson’s crib sheets + vacuum nursery
  • Friday: Focused bathroom clean 
  • Saturday: Mop floors, so floors feel nice and fresh going into our Sabbath (day of rest). Saturdays are often nice days for us as a couple to tackle any bigger projects, like a garage tidy or refrigerator clean. 
things to do with young children

3. Set an Activity with your Kids for Each Day of Week

Similarly, to the way I clean, I like to do similar types of activities for each day of the week. For this fall season, we are taking a couple mommy and me classes, so this built-in structure makes Monday and Tuesday activities already planned. Below is an example of a typical week activitiy schedule for us:

  • Monday: Mommy & Me hour length class + Trader Joe’s run post-nap 
  • Tuesday: Mommy & Me 2.5 hour length class + play in backyard post-nap
  • Wednesday: Trip to library + park before or after if time permits 
  • Thursday: Free Day! It really depends on the week, but I try to do something out of the normal routine with him on Thursdays.  This might mean hosting a fun playdate at our house, having lunch with a grandparent or attending a local kid’s event.  
  • Friday: Park, beach, or errands/appointments with mommy.  Our weekends are typically pretty full, so I try to keep Fridays more mellow.  

I have found that this rhythm of having an outing at the same time every day during the week is essential.  This time of the outing is going to likely change a lot as the nap schedule changes, but now that he is 16-months old, he has only one long afternoon nap.  This allows for a longer chunk of morning time to have an outing.  

One of the beautiful things that happen when we establish these park and library routines is that we are indirectly developing community.  You will find that other moms, nannies, and children also love routines. As a new mom where every day seems to be different, I have found a tremendous amount of comfort in seeing the same familiar faces every Wednesday at the library or every Thursday morning at the park. It reminds me I am not alone. It gives me a sense of connection that my days otherwise lack when I stay at home.

If you are feeling stuck with not knowing the best activities to do with your little ones that are home, here are a few suggestions that have helped me get out of the house:

Ways to Get Out the Door with Little Ones

  • Sign-up for classes! There are so many amazing baby and toddler classes offered by the city.  Signing up for classes is not only a great way to help with the development of your little one, but also a great way to build structure and routine into your unpredictable days of motherhood. 
  • Find your favorite local parks.  Not all parks are equal! Do some research (this might mean actually going to a handful of parks) and find the ones that you and your kids like the most.  And go out to them on a consistent basis.
  • Utilize your library! I cannot emphasize this one enough.  The library is one of the most untapped resources our cities offer.  Get to know the library staff. Grab their calendar of events and actually go to them.  The library we attend has great resources for both babies and parents.  
  • Make mom friends.  I am a part of a local MOMS Club and I am a big fan.  Joining this club over a year ago was one of the best decisions I made in those early months as a mom.  It has given me friends and has helped get me out of the door. Whether it is MOMS Club, MOPS, or any other local mom’s group, join something! Not only will this get fun events on your calendar, it will allow you to find community with other moms.
woman exercising in the early morning by herself as part of her routine

4. Exercise Consistently at Same Time 

I think people assume that for people that “love” running, it comes naturally for them to go out for a run.  Not true! At least not for me. Getting out the door, especially recently, has been such an internal battle. My whole mind and body often fights against it.  I know I am not alone in this.  

This is only further evidence of the importance of establishing exercise routines.  Without a consistent routine, it will simply not happen. You need to treat your times of exercise like important work meetings, even if it just a you.  Schedule the times you will run or go out to exercise and actually follow through.  You won’t always feel like it, but you will eventually hit your stride.

As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I am on a bit of an off-season for running, but I am trying to still exercise 6 days a week.  These days it is much less mileage and more group workout classes. This is what a typical week looks like for me currently: 

  • Monday: 6 mile run.  This is a really important run!  I am a huge believer of front-loading and starting your week with hard things.  This sets the precedence for the rest of the week. Last Monday, going out for a run was literally the last thing I wanted to do.  I felt pretty terrible and tired, but since this is part of my established routine, I did it. Even in those moments of not wanting to do something, I can think back to the past of how running on a Monday makes me feel, and from this, I am motivated to stick with it.  
  • Tuesday: 6:15 pm Yogaworks class.  For over the past month, I have been going to the same yoga class with the same teacher, Petra.  I used to pop from different classes with different teachers throughout the week, but for me personally, it is so important to go to the same classes every week.  This routine allows for me to start building a relationship with the teacher and build community with the other ladies that I see every Tuesday and Thursday.  I love how Petra knows me by name, chats with me, and compliments my yoga pants. This sense of belonging and community does not happen if you never consistently go to the same class or instructor.
  • Wednesday: 6 mile run
  • Thursday: 4 mile run + 6:15 pm Yogaworks class
  • Friday: 4-6 mile run (usually with Lance)  This is the end of the week run where I really listen to my body.  Last Friday, I felt terrible so it was just 4 miles. Two Fridays ago, I felt awesome so it was closer to 6.  It really depends. I am not super concerned about this particular run. I usually run this with Lance, so it is a nice run to connect with him and not need to push the jogger!
  • Saturday: Long run in Palos Verdes (right now this is usually around 10 miles) OR 7 am Yogaworks class with Petra
  • Sunday: OFF
woman preparing meal for dinner for her family

5. Start Dinner at the Same Time 

Set a time to start dinner and stick with this as much as you can.  For me, it is 4 pm. I know this is early, but we are early dinner people.  This rhythm of starting dinner at the same time is essential for us in our evening routine.  This allows us to eat at about the same time every night. This rhythm allows for a chunk of evening time that is not spent worrying about dinner prep and dirty dishes.

Like most of what I have written here, it is such a small choice, but this daily pattern of 4 pm dinner making allows things to get started when I often don’t feel like it.  This is usually the time where I am more tired from the day; however, this pattern I have set in our lives, allows me to grab the ingredients and turn on the oven at 4 pm without even really thinking about my feelings. Just another example of the importance of routine! 

Mama with the Crazy Child: You Are Not Alone!

This one is for you mama. 

The one who feels like she most certainly has the craziest, loudest, and messiest child in the world.  You are not alone. I am right there with you.

I know I cannot be alone in this feeling that my son seems to be the only one that is quite as loud or makes quite as much of a mess compared to all the other babies.  It is so easy to fall into this trap of comparison and feel like there must be something wrong with the way we are raising our kids. Here is the thing, sometimes children, especially really little ones, have bad days and it is NO indicator of how good or bad of a parent we are.  

In full transparency, Hudson and I have been having a rough past few days.  Like hitting other babies and throwing sippy cups off gondola rides rough. I can’t make this stuff up.  This is our life. Hudson is not even 16-months old yet and these past few days have felt like we are already in those terrible twos.

It is amazing how I can already see very large glimpses of the type of boy and man I can see him becoming.  And these glimpses are beautiful! I already can see that he is going to be incredibly passionate in whatever he chooses to pursue in his life. This makes me super excited for his future; however, this passionate personality feels a bit overwhelming right now. 

toddler boy with converse shoes standing by tree outside
Look closely! You can see some of the green paint remnants on right side of shirt.

The Green Paint Incident

Last Tuesday, we were at our mommy and me class when the teacher put out paint for the babies to use.  None of the other babies even went near the paint, except for my sweet Hudson. And let’s just say, there was green everywhere.  In his hair, on his shirt, on his shorts, on my shirt, and on my jacket. Then, he started running away with the green paint brush in hand and decided it was time to make other things turn green as well, like the soccer ball and the toy car.  So here I am, chasing this wild baby and wondering, why is he is the messiest and craziest one in this whole class?

The other babies seems to be neatly playing with the play-dough and water tank. They are not covered in green.  The thing with this mindset is that I am zeroing in on particularly tough moments and failing to remember the million, little sweet things he did on that very same day.  In that moment, Hudson was the messy, paint boy, but in the very next, it will be a different little one and I am guessing that mama or dad will feel just the way I did. Let’s give our kids and ourselves a little bit more grace. We all have our green paint kind of days. 

toddler boy waiting for the doctor at the doctor's office
Waiting for the doctor, post-poop everywhere…

The Poop Incident

The story does not end here.  Two days after the paint incident, there was the poop incident.  Hudson had his 15-month doctor appointment. As I took him out of his carseat and started walking up to Dr. Berman’s office, I felt something warm on my arm.  I also smelled something awful. Hudson pooped, but we are not just talking about a normal poop. Something went very wrong and this poop, like the green paint, was everywhere.  On the wall, on my shirt, on his shorts, and on his socks. For the entirety of his appointment, I smelled like poop.  I did not have a change of clothes for either one of us, so Hudson went home in a diaper and I went home in a poopy shirt. Again, here is a moment of feeling like I must be the most unprepared mother with a baby that has the craziest poops. All lies.

The Bus Incident

And the story continues.  On Monday, we went back to the San Diego Zoo. We went to the San Diego Zoo when we visited my sister about a month and a half ago. You can read about that first zoo visit here. This time we went with friends. These friends also have a baby that is a similar age to Hudson.  She is super calm and mellow. And this does not help my head case of feeling like Hudson is the craziest and messiest baby alive.  But here is the thing, they have such different personalities, I simply cannot compare. Hudson will never be the quiet one that can sit still and not say a word, and I am perfectly okay with this.  Again, I love how passionate he is about the world and all the little things in it; however, right now, it feels a tad overwhelming.

Hudson is obsessed with the animals.  It doesn’t matter what type, if it is moving and he sees it, he immediately signs “please” and wants to touch them.  He wants to be up close and personal. He wants to chat with them and see how they are doing. Again, I love this about him, but right now this manifests in him shrieking and screaming when the bus tour we are on drives away from said animal exhibit.  The amount of noises he made on that 40-minute bus ride was rather impressive. And again as I am bouncing him and exerting all the energy I can muster to get him to quiet down, that comparative voice again starts running in my head. I look around at all the quiet and calm babies sitting on their parents’ laps.  Why is my baby the loudest and most active on this whole bus?  

The Gondola Ride Incident

Then, there was the gondola ride, where he threw his sippy cup off the ride.  Thankfully, it landed on a building and it was just his green sippy cup. It could have been much worse; however, this was just another thing that added to my feelings of insecurity at this whole parenthood thing.  Why can’t I seem to control my child?

In between these moments on the bus and the gondola ride, there were also moments where he was super fun and independent.  In the Reptile Walk, he would run from glass exhibit to glass exhibit, with such excitement and enthusiasm. He would point at each animal, smile, and run to say hi to the next one.  These are the moments that I need to hold on to more. These are the times I should be asking: Do I have the cutest, most passionate baby in the whole wide world? Yes, yes I think I do.

Then, there was the dinner, after a long day at the zoo. This exhausted boy who was running and screaming all over the place at the zoo, was sensory overloaded by the time dinner hit.  As I write this, everything is beginning to make sense to me. The amount of energy he exerts throughout the day, often leads to him being a complete nightmare in restaurant settings. As his mom, I need to understand this better and make sure that after a full day I don’t push him beyond his limits. While the other baby could handle it, he is different and it was just too much for him.  

This sums up our past few days pretty well!

The Hitting Baby Incident

I will end with my final example.  This one happened yesterday at this week’s mommy and me class.  It involved a toy lemon and a plastic pan from the toy kitchen. I am not going to even sugar coat it, Hudson used this pan to hit another baby on the arm.  I could type up a bunch of excuses here, but I am owning it instead.

He hit her and he absolutely shouldn’t have; however, it was the reaction of the mom that again put me back in the spiraling head case I have been fighting for over a week. She simply said one word: “wow!”  With that one word and her telling her baby that they should head over to the kitchen, far away from this crazy child and his mother, I felt alone. This is really a story for another post, but as mothers, can we respond to situations in ways that create bridges, instead of further divide?

We Are in this Together

This is a lot of little stories to point to this one fact: we all have bad days, especially little ones, but don’t let the bad days take away from the good ones.  Don’t let the bad, misbehaved moments, take away from the really amazing ones. And this is especially for the mom that has a baby or child with a similar personality trait to sweet Hudson. 

Embrace this passionate side of your child. Yes, it may feel like he is the messiest, craziest, and loudest one on the whole bus, but he or she has a lot of good that they can offer. Learn to tame the wild and put all this energy and passion into good.  Ultimately, the point of all these very honest and raw stories are to be my open hand out to you. We are in this together. You are not alone, mama. If you think you have the craziest, loudest, messiest baby; come over and meet mine.

Why We All Need an Off-Season

Recently I have been writing a lot about motherhood things, but today I would like to spend some time on running.  It has been nearly two months since the marathon, which is a bit crazy to me. Time is moving. In those two months, my running has been very minimal.  I have been very slowly returning to it. I still take a few days off from running per week and have only had two longer runs (10 and 12 miles, respectively) since the race.  And I am totally good with this slow return back to higher mileage and greater intensity.  I am embracing this off-season. I am approaching this topic of the off-season from a running perspective, but the truth is, no matter what we do, we need time to step away from the high intensity of it all.

Just within the past couple weeks I have become more consistent with my runs.  I have mentioned this on here before but I will map out when and how much I will run on Sunday before the week gets going.  Even if it is just me writing down mileage in pencil in my floral planner, you better believe I will hit that mileage.  If it is written, it is happening. It is this type of intensity and commitment that really got me through the tough days of marathon training when I did not have a team or a coach.  

Mother and son in the ocean together.
Recently, I have been doing a lot of this.

Make Adjustments

Two Fridays ago, I adjusted my mileage.  That day I was supposed to run 6 miles.  The run started later than I typically like, and it was already incredibly hot out.  I was pushing the jogger and within my first few steps I could sense it was going to be a bad run.  That first mile is usually a pretty good indicator for me on how the rest of the run will go. In mile one, I already felt so sluggish and weak.  I could have pushed through and ran the full 6. Instead, I listened to my body and in the middle of my park loops told Hudson that we were running home.  I told him that mommy was hot, tired, and weak. I made an adjustment.  

In college, it was all about pushing and proving.  This mentality is something that is still within me.  To some degree, I love this about myself, but there are days where I need to remind myself that I am not a collegiate runner or a pro runner.  I am a mom. I can have days off, days where I run less, days where I just jog. This holding back and listening to my body is hard for me. I am running such low mileage right now without any workouts, and if I am honest, I feel guilty. It feels like I am slacking, and that I should be doing more.

Female runner running in sports bra on running trail.
And not a lot of this.

Make Future Goals

These feelings are rather funny because I literally have no need to run at all. I have no coach or team, but these pressurized feelings that have been placed on running seem to not easily be shaken. And I am okay with this to some degree.  I feel like I still have a lot left in my legs. I want to still push and prove; however, it is just going to look different and there will be more adjustments, especially in these months where the focus is not all about training. I have a few other things on my plate right now that I am prioritizing over miles.

Right now, I am just running to run, but currently trying to figure out a couple races to put on the calendar before Boston!  That is one big, exciting thing that I have not mentioned on here yet. Two weeks ago, Lance and I registered for the Boston Marathon.  This has been the goal motivating me since the spring and it is so exciting to see it all coming to fruition. It is 7 months away, which worries me slightly because who knows what will happen in those months, but if it is aligned with God’s will, I can’t wait to show up to the start line at Boston.  This date of April 20th excites me because it gives me a clear indicator of something to train for and it will help pull me out of my current off-season.

All this to say, set big goals for yourself.  Chase after them wholeheartedly, but don’t be afraid to adjust along the way.  Don’t be afraid to run slow to eventually run fast. Don’t be afraid to run less to eventually run more.  It is so easy to let the dreams and goals take over. It is easy to feel like we should push, push, push. But we all need an off-season.  We ultimately, need to slow down.

Off-Seasons are for Everyone

This relates to you if you are a runner or not. We need time away from high intensity and high output. We need a season that is off. If you are like me, you will keep running, keep doing the thing that you love, but it will not takeover your days in quite the same way it does when you are in the peak of training.  These off-seasons are tough because it feels like too slow and too low, but I firmly believe it is these times that will ultimately allow for big things to happen for later seasons to come.  

5 Things I Wish I Knew About Weaning

Mamas, let’s talk about weaning. 

Weaning is something that seems to not be as talked about.  There seems to be an abundance of information surrounding the early days of breastfeeding; however, I have found that there seems to be less out there when it comes to weaning.  Why? Not totally sure, but I have a few guesses. The weaning experience is felt very differently depending on when you choose to wean. Weaning your baby at 8-months is very different from weaning your baby at 14-months.  The experience is also going to be different based on how regularly you nursed. Weaning a baby that is already used to occasionally drinking bottles is very different from the baby that exclusively breastfed 6-8 times a day.  This large variety in experience when it comes to weaning could be the reason some of the challenges are not regularly discussed. Just like our individual relationship with breastfeeding is unique, how we experience weaning is too. 

I am coming from the perspective of weaning after a year.  I am also coming from the perspective of having a baby that only nursed (Hudson refused bottles).  Not only was Hudson exclusively breastfed, I would nurse him really whenever he wanted. Fell and hit his head? Nurse. Can’t fall asleep? Nurse.  Teething? Nurse. Fussy on the airplane? Nurse. Nursing was the answer to most of our troubles. It really did feel like a superpower. While breastfeeding was initially the source of a lot of anxiety and doubt, it eventually became this thing that gave me a lot of confidence.  It was this power that only I had to instantly calm and comfort him. Little did I know how much of a loss it would be for the both of us when it came time to give it up.

Weaning has brought a sense of freedom and independence that I have been missing for over a year. I feel like I have my body back, even though it feels changed and slightly depleted.  With this sense of freedom, there is also a great deal of loss and change I am still adjusting to. This season of weaning is proving to be much more challenging than I expected. A year ago, I looked forward to being done with the woes of breastfeeding, but now I have a deep-pitted sadness for a bond and season that has fleeted away.  If I am being fully honest, I am still mourning this loss. If you are rolling your eyes right now and think I am being dramatic, I get it. That is how I felt a year ago when I heard people talk about breastfeeding with such affection and longing. It did not make sense to me why mothers missed this season of bloody nipples, 2 am nursing sessions, and leaky boobs.  Was I missing something? I was in the very early stages of breastfeeding and the idea of not needing to nurse, seemed like the best life. I could drink wine again. I could eat ice cream and cheese again. I could make my food as spicy as I wanted. I could be gone for more than a few hours. I could wear buttons and all my dresses again. My July self a year ago dreamed about this season.  Now that I have my hands full of wine and Brie cheese, I can’t shake this feeling of wanting to go back to those 2 am nursing sessions. Isn’t that funny how life works?   

So, if you are beginning to wean your baby or are currently in the process of weaning, here are a few things to know, that I really wish I was more prepared for.

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  1. Post-weaning Depression is Real 

Unfortunately, there is not a ton of research out on post-weaning depression, but it is very much a thing.  When you stop nursing, there is a decrease in levels of prolactin and oxytocin.  Both of these hormones are largely responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being.  It only makes sense that when you stop nursing, you will feel some of the effects. This is just the scientific reason behind the sadness.  There is so much more going on than just a shift in hormones. For me, it had a lot to do with suddenly feeling not as needed. Especially as a stay-at-home mom, who nursed like it was her full-time job (it was!), stopping, felt like losing my purpose.  Think about how people feel when they lose a job. For me personally, and I think this is true for other women as well, the end of nursing felt like being fired from that all-important job you once held. When you break it down like this, it is no wonder that some women have such a difficult time in the post-weaning season.  It is a big change to your body, not only physically, but emotionally as well. Just like with all big life changes, you need to allow for God grace in this season of adjustment

    2. Engorgement Can Happen Again (even if you wean gradually)

This was another surprise for me.  I wrongly assumed that since I was weaning after a year-old and I weaned relatively gradually for a month before stopping cold turkey that I would not experience any painful engorgement.  Turns out, I was wrong. Even though I slowly removed feedings for an entire month, the week after the last time I nursed, I was painfully engorged. Especially if you were someone that was still nursing relatively frequently past a year, it is more likely that your milk supply will still be in good measures.  So, if you plan on weaning, try to plan it during a time that you don’t have as much going on. I made the rookie move of weaning the week before I ran my first marathon. This was not the smartest move, and thankfully the engorgement mostly went away by the marathon with the help of hot showers and expression.  You never really know how your body is going to react to this big change, so don’t be like me. Try to wean during a time that is more low key, aka not the week before a marathon! 

      3. You Will Question Yourself

This one seems to be true for me for just about every stage of motherhood, but I was not expecting to question my decision to wean as much as I did.  I had previously made up my mind months previously that I would have Hudson weaned by the end of July, just before he turned 14-months. I had this date set in my mind for a while.  There were clear, logistical reasons I needed to have him weaned. We would be traveling to San Francisco for the race without him, so I wanted to be sure he was fully weaned before we left.  Even though, on paper the timing to wean made sense; I questioned my decision. I had daily battles of wondering if I made the right decision. If this is the right time, why does this feel so hard and unnatural for the both of us.  I wondered if maybe I should go back to nursing, I still had milk once we had returned from our trip. Ultimately, I am happy I stuck with my original decision. Currently, we both are well-adjusted, but through the process of weaning, I desperately wanted to return to our old ways.  For you, maybe it was easy to stick to your guns, but if you also are struggling and questioning if you are making the right decision; trust your instincts and don’t compare. You deep down know what is best for the both of you.  

     4. Your Baby Might Take it Hard 

How your baby responds to the weaning process is again going to vary based on timing and if it is mom’s choice or baby’s.  I know some babies quickly lose interest in nursing. Some; however, seem to cling to the comforts of nursing even more so as they get older.  Hudson is for sure a clinger and weaning for him was difficult and sad. This is largely why #3 was so true for me. The way he cried and tugged on my shirt broke my heart.  I felt so bad to be refusing him something he desperately wanted. Especially if you are weaning after a year, it is more likely that your baby will be more aware of the great loss that has occurred.  I wish I was better prepared to handle the extra tears and increased clinginess that weaning caused in Hudson. There were a stretch of days where he was just having an extra hard time with it. Change is so hard, especially for a little one! The other surprise was that it took him a while to adjust.  It has been nearly a month since I weaned him and when he gets hurt or tired, he still will pull at my shirt. He has not forgotten about our nursing time. He still craves it. I wrongly assumed he would quickly forget and move on. Just like you need to give your body and heart time to adjust, you must also give time to your little one.

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     5. You Are Still A Source of Comfort

This is the one I need to still tell myself.  It felt like I lost my superpower. It felt like I could no longer provide him with the comfort he so desperately wanted. This is not true.  You might not be milky mama anymore, but you will always be mama. I might not nurse anymore, but I am still Hudson’s source for snuggles and hugs and comfort.  For me, it has been helpful to replace all of our nursing time with other activities that still show him I am near and love him. We still spend a lot of time in the glider; it just looks different.  Instead of milk, I am nurturing him with words and songs and laughter. Your nursing relationship might be over, but in reality this is just the beginning of your sweet bond.

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.

10 Reasons I Love MOMS Club

As I have already written a lot about, motherhood is hard work. It takes a village. You need a team, a community, a tribe behind you. In the first few months, I tried to prove I could do it all on my own. I tried to prove to God, myself, my husband, and those random strangers that I was supermom. Help? No, I got this on my own. Even in that very first month, after still recovering from a C-section, I wanted to show everyone that I was fine. It is funny looking back, but reading my journal from a year ago some of the things I was doing in those first few weeks were silly. I lifted the car seat on my own, even though I could literally feel the strain on my new incision. I cleaned out the entire refrigerator, I reorganized the pantry, and I cleaned our kitchen counters way more thoroughly than I do now. I took Hudson out on way too many outings, all again in an attempt to prove (mostly to myself) that I was still living my normal life. I could do all the same things I used to, I kept telling myself. I was trying to do it all on my own. I am not exactly sure why, but I very strongly felt this need to show everyone how capable I was. I think part of the reason was that I was staying at home. If I was leaving my job as a teacher to fully focus on being at home, well then I better be the best mom I can possibly be. Those first couple months I drove myself (and probably Lance) insane. I isolated myself to the point of balling on the bathroom floor. If you have read a lot of my posts, this scene on the bathroom floor always seems to crop up in my writing. It was a literal low. It was July 29th. I was exhausted from a day of again trying to prove to the world that I had it all together. It was yet another night of failed breastfeeding. Another night of pumping, and I was about to lose it. I was losing it. I am thankful for that bathroom floor, because in my head that was the turning point. Things got better from that point. I had my moment of sulking on the floor, but then I got up and I began to let go of the things out of my control. I also found community through my local MOMS Club and this helped me for the first time not feel fully alone. Those first couple months I was constantly googling, constantly on all these different mom and breastfeeding forums. In some sense this was helpful, but there is nothing quite like an actual community of real moms that you can connect with. There are so many local mom groups and classes that you can join. While MOMS Club is more geared towards stay-at-home moms, there are so many resources and groups for all types of moms. Here is a resource from Motherly of 10 amazing mom groups. I can only write what I know and that is my own experience with MOMS Club. And my experience has been so positive. Joining the club has been hands down one of the best things I did in Hudson’s first year. It was a game changer. It allowed me to meet others moms that were so kind and nonjudgmental. It allowed me to have activities to occupy my time during the day. It allowed Hudson the opportunity to interact with babies and older kids. It ultimately helped me get off that bathroom floor and feel so much less alone. So, if you also find yourself in a similar place I was in on July 29th, find a group of people that can remind you that you are not alone and that you’ve got this. I feel thankful to have community within our church, but I am also thankful for the club for giving me a group of women that have also been in my same exact place of struggling with this new stay-at-home life.

Since I love lists so much, here is a list of the 10 reasons I love my MOMS Club.

1. There is always an event or activity to do

Every month, there is a calendar of events full of activities! There is basically an event every single day of the week. This has been so helpful to have set activities to go to for our daily outings. On days when I have no idea what to do, I look at the calendar and know that something fun is happening. In the early months, it was so helpful to have a reason to get out of the house. It made me feel less alone because I knew there would be other moms and kids there as well. By joining the club, I immediately had a calendar of things to do and amazing ladies and kids to do them with.

2. I have met many friends

I was used to having my work friends that I could eat lunches with and chat with every day. It was a weird adjustment to lose that. The club gave me a group of friends that I now can also eat lunches and chat with. These lunches just look different now. They often are picnic-style in a park. I am thankful that even though I am staying at home, I can still have a community of work friends, aka, mom friends.

3. Hudson has met many friends

The club has also been a great way for Hudson to socialize and meet other babies around his age and also be around older kids. I can so clearly remember one play date in particular where I was so touched by all the older kids being so kind to little, 4-month old Hudson. We were at the park and they were all surrounding him and giving him such sweet attention. It was in that moment that I felt like we were exactly where we were supposed to be. I have loved seeing how all the older kids have become such great friends through MOMS Club. I can’t wait for Hudson to make amazing friendships with all the other babies his age.

4. It is a Greate Value

This is a more trivial reason, but some of the different mom groups and classes can be really expensive. MOMS Club costs just a yearly due of $30. The club offers a value so much greater than 30 dollars. It has been such a valuable resource and community.

5. It is Local

I love how there are so many chapters available based on where you are living. It is really nice to be part of a group of people that all live in the same zip code. It makes it super convenient to attend the different events because most of them are just 10-15 minutes away. It was our neighbor just a few houses down the street that originally told me about MOMS Club. I am so thankful she did! It has been great to feel like I am more apart of our local community through getting to better know our neighbors.

6. It is Diverse

One of my favorite parts of the MOMS Club that I am a part of is how diverse the group is. I love that it feels very much like a melting pot. Diversity is very much encouraged and welcomed here. It is so great to have a group full of women of different colors, backgrounds and perspectives.

7. It is More Than Just Play Dates

The club is much more than park play dates. I love that there are a variety of other things offered through the club. From monthly general meetings that usually involve a speaker or a topic to discuss to parties and events specifically for the moms. There are mom’s nights out, holiday parties, and seasonal parties for the whole family. I love being part of something that encompasses so many elements. I love how it also helps me get out of the house just for myself to be with other moms and enjoy time together without kids.

8. It is Structured

Along with missing my work lunches, it was the structure of the work week that I also really missed. I really appreciate how official and structured MOMS Club is. There are the monthly general meetings, the weekly emails sent out with reminders of upcoming events and there is a board made of a few members that lead and make sure the club is organized and runs smoothly. While I never was part of the student body government in high school, I love how being part of the club feels like I am part of something that is governed and structured. The meetings are called to order. There is a president and treasury. There is an agenda and a budget. There is a newsletter. There is an installation dinner. For someone like me, bringing a little structure to the chaos of mom life is very much welcomed.

9. It is Easy to get Involved

As an extension to my previous point, the club is structured in such a way that makes it very easy to feel involved and part of the community. There is lots of room and flexibility to utilize your gifting to help support the club. You can be involved in the club in big ways, like serving on the board. Or, you can be involved by occasionally hosting a play date or event. There are also coordinating positions where you can be in charge of organize a type of event each month, for example, Hands On Play Dates, Mommy Time, or Baby Play Dates.

10. It Celebrates Motherhood

Probably one of my very favorite parts of the whole club. I love how I have found a group of ladies that all fully embrace and celebrate both the challenges and joys of motherhood. Becoming a mom has been the very best job of my life and I feel so thankful for MOMS Club for giving me a community that validates and celebrates our job as being mamas. From monthly events just for moms and the mystery mom gift exchange, I feel celebrated for everything I do as a mom and also celebrated for who I am when I don’t have a baby on my hip.

If you’re reading this and thinking: I need this in my life. Here is a link to the MOMS Club website to get more information of the club in your area!