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!

Summer Activities with a 1-Year Old

It is officially summer! Summer has a different meaning for everyone. For some of you, it might not feel that different because you still have to work. For the teachers, it is a glorious time off, but if you have little ones, it is an adjustment of figuring out a new routine. For stay-at-home moms, summers can become more work as you adjust to having your older kids at home more often. Regardless of your feelings towards summer, my hope is that wherever you find yourself, whether that be a house packed with little children, moving out your last child to college and about to be empty nesters, or hands full with a 1-year old who is in that awkward in-between phase of desiring independence, but still being wobbly and out of control; you can enjoy it and soak in as much sunshine as possible. I can only write from where I am and that currently is being at home with that wobbly and out of control 1-year old. I am finding this phase to be a lot of fun as he is becoming a little person, but it also has been a challenge because he is still at a place where he is not quite that active toddler that can do more things on his own. He thinks he is, but he is not quite there. He is not yet walking, so wants to crawl when we are out, which often results in very dirty hands. I have been struggling with finding the right activities to occupy him with. When I search for summer activities with a toddler, I have found that a lot of the ideas seem to be a few months ahead of him. So, if you are with me, and also find yourself in this awkward in-between phase of baby-toddler, I want to give you a list of 5 ideas of things to do this summer. Most of these things are not revolutionary, but hopefully it can give you some inspiration if you are feeling stuck. I am finding especially as he is getting older, the best for both of us often involve getting out of the house. While especially as a new mom, getting out the door can be a real challenge. So, if you are in a place where getting out of the house a ton just doesn’t feel possible, that is absolutely okay. Give yourself grace. Take baby steps. I just had a great conversation with another mom this past week about the pressure the sun brings. The weather doesn’t always match our mood. For me, I am in a season where I am welcoming the sun. I want to soak it all in and be outside, but it is very likely that you are reading this and the sun coming out feels like more pressure to get out. Maybe for you winters are easier because there are more excuses to stay inside. Wherever you are, I hope you can try one of these ideas and if not, give yourself a lot of grace. There is a whole lot of fun to be had at home too!

5 Fun Summer Activities with a 1-Year Old

1. Go to a baseball game

I get it, MLB games can be expensive, especially when your little one might not be the most focused on the game. But, the nice thing about going with a little one is they won’t mind if you don’t get the best seats; it is more about the experience. They will love the people, the lights, the colors. I would also take advantage of going to the ball park before they turn 2, so you don’t need to buy them a ticket! We recently took Hudson to his first game at Yankee Stadium. He had a blast. A major tip if you choose to take young kids to a game is to check and see if they give out “first game” certificates. Someone informed us about this at the game. We went to the guest services office and within seconds Hudson had a personalized certificate. This was an amazing souvenir that was totally free! I believe a lot of stadiums give out these certificates, so be sure to ask or research it for the specific stadium you will be attending. We are located in Los Angeles, so I am linking here Dodger Stadium’s policy. Based on the website, it looks like you need to email a request for the certificate beforehand!

2. Picnic at the Park

Take advantage of the nice weather and instead of the same old lunch routine with food flying from the high chair, take it out to a park. Some of you reading this may be thinking I am so sick of the park! And I get that feeling too, so maybe this summer you could try some new and exciting parks that you have not been to. You can make an outing and adventure out of it. Parks that have wildlife and ponds are always a plus because it adds an extra layer of interest. If you are local to the South Bay Area, Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach and Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach are two parks we recently went to. Both of these parks have a pond with turtles, ducks and coy fish.

3. Visit a Farmer’s Market

Here in Southern California there are tons of farmer’s markets. This is a great outing with a one-year old. Hudson loves sampling the fruit with me! This can be a fun way to get your kids excited about trying different kinds of foods they might not be used to. Take a look at the different markets in your area and try to find one that is especially kid-friendly. I love going to the farmer’s market in Manhattan Beach because it very much catered to little ones. There is a train ride that runs every week at the market. It is just $2 and it is a fun activity for Hudson. There is also a balloon man and face painting!

4. Beach, Pool, Splash Pad

The beach with a newborn was not always the most enjoyable experience for me, but this summer, the beach is much more relaxing and fun. Hudson is so happy when we are at the beach. Sand toys are already a huge hit with him. He doesn’t really use them correctly, but he loves holding the shovel and different tools. The pool and splash pad are two other fun water activities. You can sign your toddler up for a swim lesson or you can find a pool and just spend some time getting them used to the water. At this age, I am not even sure it is worth spending money on swim lessons. We have a pool, so I am planning on spending some time with him in the pool getting him to enjoy the water. We just went into the pool for the first time this summer and we used the Swimways Baby Spring Float. It worked well and he seemed to really enjoy it. Taking a visit to a splash pad is another fun way to get your little one enjoying water. For us, Hudson is still not walking, but the splash pad will be especially fun when he can walk on his own.

5. Try a Local Class with Kid Pass

When you get tired of the typical park days, it can be fun to give your toddler a new experience. I recently discovered Kid Pass, which is very similar to the Class Pass model, but geared specifically towards kids and families. You can do a free month trial and get 5 credits to use at the different classes and facilities they offer. I just tried it for the first time yesterday and it was awesome. We went to a Gymboree class and Hudson had the best time. Not to mention, it was totally free! He got to interact with babies his age and he got to release lots of energy. Not to mention, it was fun for me and he was entirely entertained and happy for a full hour. Kid Pass is a great way to try classes out without a huge investment or risk. It is a great resource to get tangible ideas of things to do to get out of the house.

And if that doesn’t satisfy, here are a few other things we plan to do this summer: visit daddy at work, visit other family members we don’t typically see as much, take a train ride to San Diego, Knott’s Berry Farm (AAA has a discounted rate and kids are free under three), visit the zoo, visit the aquarium, visit a children’s museum, make ice cream at home, take a nature hike, attend free summer concerts, and play dates with our MOMS Club (check out my post this coming Saturday for more about MOMS Club).

Like I said, I know, nothing revolutionary, but if you are feeling overwhelmed with how to occupy a very active and energized one-year old this summer, I hope this can give you a little inspiration. Also, remember, you are not a camp counselor. Don’t feel crazy pressure to have every second of every day planned. Part of the fun of summer is freedom and rest. Make sure there is also a lot of free and restful days. Happy summer!

6 More Lessons in the First Year of Motherhood

Happy 1st Birthday to our sweet Hudson Boy! I cannot believe a whole year has gone by! These past couple days I have been very sentimental as I have thought back to what we were doing exactly a year ago. We were waiting. And waiting and waiting. We went into the hospital Wednesday evening after my water broke. We literally walked up to the check-in counter, and I was crying. I felt so overwhelmed and nervous and no one seemed to care that I literally was standing in a puddle of amniotic fluid! Was this normal? I was expecting to be rushed to a hospital bed. I was expecting urgency. This is important people. I am about to have a baby! But, it was quite the opposite. No rushing, no urgency. Just me, crying, as I stood in a puddle. After eventually being situated into our room, the real waiting began. Like 43 hours of waiting. Those long hours were filled with pocking and prodding, lots of jello and bone broth, prayers, and an epidural that finally allowed for sleep. There were some anxious moments in those hours, especially when we were getting close to the second day of waiting and Hudson’s heart rate began to drop. I can still hear the nurse’s voice when she shakily said my name. My heart has never dropped so low. She delivered the news that I needed a C-section in the most heart-stopping, terrifying way. I literally thought the worst case scenario was happening the way she looked at me and said my name. I could handle a C-section. At that point, it didn’t even matter. Did we type it up into our neat and tidy birth plan? Nope, but most of what we had in there didn’t happen. The C was the least of my worries, all I wanted was my Hudson Boy. Finally, Friday at 4:11 pm, Hudson was born. And let me tell you, our world shifted in the best possible way. As I type this, I literally am crying because when I think about this moment it truly brings me to my knees in thankfulness to God. What a good, good Father. I remember lying numb in that OR just praying. I remember hearing his first cries and the warmth of my own tears flowing down my face. It no longer mattered that things didn’t go as planned or that my tummy will forever have a scar, none of it mattered because our sweet boy was finally here.

I tell this story because as I wrote about when Hudson turned 6-months, one of my first lessons was learning to be okay when things do not go as planned. You can read those first 6 lessons here. This lesson is only more true now. I am daily reminded that I am not the one in control. While this is a really hard lesson for someone like me that has a heart gripped to control and self-reliance, I am beginning, emphasis on beginning here, to not only let go of control, but develop the ability to laugh when things don’t go the way we planned. I immediately think about the Proverbs 31 woman.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

-Proverbs 31:25

Before becoming a mother, I read that verse and thought it sounded nice, but it didn’t fully sink in or connect with me. It makes so much more sense to me now. I picture her house being a mess, her toddler throwing a tantrum, her clothes stained in spit up; and despite it all, I picture her laughing with a confidence and peace that can only be explained through the presence of the Holy Spirit. I am not there yet, but I desire to be and I do believe the Lord is continuing to do a work in my heart to eventually get me to this point. While I am not there, I think back to the way I handled situations in the first few months. My heart rate probably stayed at 110 all day long. The littlest peep or cry from Hudson put me into a downward spiral. Man, was I gripped by an anxiety I have never felt before. There was definitely not a lot of laughing happening, but there certainly were a lot of tears and fear. Just yesterday, in Costco, as we were shopping for food for his birthday party, I was reminded of the work the Lord is doing within me. Hudson spilled half of his water all over himself and on the floor beneath the cart. His pants were soaked and he slowly began to get more fussy as he wanted to be out of that cart. Kelli 9-months ago would have lost it! She would of panicked and made up lies about how the cashier probably thinks I am not a very good mom. But instead, it didn’t affect me. Wet pants? Who cares, we will change it when we get home. A little fussing? Who cares, babies make noise. A bit of a mess on the floor? A casual sorry will be enough. It will be okay. The world is not ending. This may seem like a small thing to you, but let me tell you, this is huge. This confidence, this growth, it amazes me. So, if you were anything like me and are currently in those early months where everything is new and scary and anxiety-inducing, I really hope these words can encourage you. It is incredible what the Lord can do in a year. Hold on. It gets better.

Okay that was a lot, but I think all of that is important. Here are 6 more lessons I have learned as mother to sweet Hudson.

1. Don’t Sweat the Small Things

As I have already alluded to, the small things, like water spilled everywhere and crying, do not grip me in the same way they used to. One of the biggest lessons I have learned in this past year is to let go of all the little things. I will drive myself crazy if I try to control everything: naps, floors, attitudes. There are so many things that could go wrong in life, a little sand eaten by Hudson or a spill in a restaurant, are minor concerns. The world will keep spinning. I will still be a good mother.

2. Time Goes Quickly

It is easy to eagerly look ahead and think I can’t wait until fill-in-the-blank. I can’t wait until he doesn’t wake up multiple times in a night. I can’t wait until he can crawl and walk. I can’t wait until he can talk. I can’t wait until he eats solid foods. And the list goes on. Those are all exciting milestones and it is easy to dream about the next stage where things seem easier, but I have learned that things change so quickly and it is so much better to be present and grateful in the season you are in. Things are already moving way too fast. I would love to go back to myself a year ago and tell her: “These next few months are going to be hard, but stay in it, soak it up, watch him sleep as often as you can, and it will get better.” I had too many days where I dreamed of easier times, when I wish I had just accepted the season for what it was.

3. Trust Instincts

I had a lot of my doubts in the first few months. I questioned everything I did. I was too easily swayed by the opinions and advice of others. I would watch one YouTube video and implement one strategy and the next day I would read something completely opposite and try that instead. Early on, external factors were the driving force behind how I mothered. For example, if we were out and Hudson was crying and someone would say “oh, he must be hungry!” I would immediately feel this pressure to nurse him, even though, deep down, I knew hunger wasn’t the issue. I just fed him. My internal mother instinct knew his needs, but I didn’t trust it yet. Now I do, and we are both so much happier because of it.

4. Breastfeeding Can Become a Dear Friend

My relationship with breastfeeding over the course of this year has changed drastically. I used to hate it. I know hate is a strong word, but I really did. I dreaded every couple hours when it was time to nurse again. It felt like rejection and failure all in one. It felt incredibly weird and uncomfortable to me. I am a slow learner. Change is hard for me, it takes me a while to adjust and learn. Those first few months I could not even fathom the possibility of making it to a year of breastfeeding. But here I am, a year later, unsure if I want to give it up quite yet. While I would not gush about it in the same way others have talked about it, it has become part of who I am. It is like sleeping, breathing, running. It is how I start and end my days. While it used to feel weird and uncomfortable, it now only feels natural and familiar. Side note here: while I was able and chose to exclusively breastfeed, this is not for everyone, nor is it always possible for everyone. Fed is always best. This is another thing I really wish I could tell myself a year ago. I was so hard on myself. Every night was a meltdown. I wish I could have told myself that it would be okay. That I would make it, but I also wish I could tell myself breastfeeding is not the goal. I put way too much emphasis on it, and that created a lot of stress for the both of us. Just like any relationship, it can’t be forced. Take it slow. Trust the process. And you might break up and move on, or you might just find a dear, reliable friend.

5. Don’t Compare

It’s the thief of joy. It really is. You will find so much joy especially in those early months if you just focus on your baby and family. I really wish I deleted Instagram in this season. It was more harmful than helpful. My heart could not handle it. Your baby is different. You are different. Don’t compare.

6. Let God Take Over

Let the Lord enter your sleepless nights. Let him enter with you at the grocery store. Let him enter when you don’t have the energy or the words or wisdom. He can fill in all the holes, all the areas of weakness. Let Him takeover. Give him the reigns. Say Lord I can’t do this on my own. Help me! And He will.