Those First Years

This post was sponsored by WaterWipes as part of an Ambassador Program for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review.

I’ve been through that first year with a little one three times. Thanks to WaterWipes, I’ve spent a little time thinking back on those first years. Each of my sons’ first years had lots in common, but they were also so different for me AND for them.

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The first “first year” was full of new things for all of us. Every milestone was a first for our son, but also for us as parents. The first feeding, first diaper change, first time getting peed on during a diaper change – and that was just the first day! I remember lots of exhaustion, but I also remember being in awe of this little person and the fact that he was ours.

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The responsibility was weighty, but it also brought my husband and I together as a team like nothing before it. We were raising this little man and we couldn’t do it without one another. Marriage united us, but parenting together that first year elevated our teamwork to a whole new level. Of all the firsts – foods and words and steps – being parents together for the first time might have been my favorite part.

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The second “first year,” with our second son, was a whole new world. With a two-year-old holding much of our attention, this little one learned to fall asleep on his own much faster and had built in entertainment AND competition from his older brother. We had joyful firsts, but we also had challenging firsts – our first experience with reflux and a teething nursing baby – YIKES! Where my husband and I solidified our unity during our first son’s first year, with #2, I was learning how to be a stay-at-home mom. And I started a blog. This blog. That first year of blogging is a whole different story…

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There was a longer gap between the second and third child, so I almost felt like I was starting over! Our third son’s first year was a little stressful as it involved moving to a new city, job change, and homeschool. When I think back on it now, though, our third little boy brought so much joy and laughter during that first year. Our oldest son was too young to remember when his middle brother was a baby, so both him and our middle son were fascinated by all the new things their youngest brother was doing! Remember that awe I talked about with our first son? I could see it on the faces of our older two boys when the littlest started to crawl, took on the stairs (way too early), and started forming words.

2015 Three Boys Bridge

How can it be ten years since that first year? When I think back on it all, it can be a blur, but it’s been a beautiful, messy, wonderful blur of life with these boys of ours. These memories helped me realize that it didn’t matter where we were or what we had during those first years. What mattered was this family and realizing those boys needed and loved us more than anything else. And we love them even more.

I’m thankful that WaterWipes is taking the time to discuss, celebrate, and bring transparency to baby’s first year. Take a look at this fabulous video from WaterWipes and moms just like you and me:

This is just another reason I love WaterWipes. Their product is pure and perfect for the first years that we are remembering and celebrating here! Whether you’re in that first year or down the parenting road a ways, WaterWipes can keep you and your kids clean in the simplest, purest way (99.9% pure Irish water and 0.1% grapefruit seed extract).

Let’s talk about the first year! Favorite memories? Craziest moments?

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In Case Your Kids Want to Talk About the Election…

I have never wanted to NOT talk about an election more than this one, but because of the nature of our overly-connected, social media world, that seems to be ALL people are talking about right now. I’m thankful to have a four-year-old at home with me all day who wants to talk about Legos and coloring and Star Wars, but it’s different with the older kids. They hear things at school. They see political commercials. They overhear conversations between adults. They have questions.

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While I don’t want to talk about the election, I am raising American citizens and I am also raising Christian young men. I put aside my distraught feelings for a while to write out a plan for talking to our children about the election through the eyes of my faith. You can read my thoughts over on the Tommy Nelson blog today.

Yes, I feel great despair about the direction of our country, but I also look to my children and to Jesus and find hope. Let us speak words of life to our children and lift up words of prayer to our God:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. -1 Timothy 2:1-4

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Life Is Tough, But So Are You

This post contains affiliate links. I received the tee to review for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

I have a problem when life sends tough stuff my way. I tend to focus on the tough stuff and not on the way through it. I wallow. I worry. I complain. Life is tough, and I don’t like it.

I’m really thankful God is growing me in this area and doesn’t allow me to stay in that place for long. Life IS tough, but so am I. I didn’t always think this way. Strong and tough were not labels I would have always claimed. That has changed over the past fifteen years because I’ve been through moments that required strength I didn’t even know I had. Rather than focus on the fear, worry, or discouragement I felt in those tough moments, I choose to focus on the toughness inside of me that carried me through and brought me out a better person on the other side.

What are those tough moments in your life that uncovered your strength?

For me, three particular times of my life come to mind. These are all very positive events in my life, but they each required (or still require) all the toughness I could pull together.

  • Childbirth
  • Motherhood
  • Running a marathon

Childbirth and running a marathon tested my body beyond what I ever imagined, but they also maxed out my mental toughness. I have so much joy associated with the memories of giving birth to our boys and crossing that marathon finish line, but I also knew that I could do just about anything if I could make it through those exhausting feats.

Motherhood is a whole different kind of tough and this is where I needed (and still need) the biggest mental adjustment. It is also where I need the strength of God inside me most. Raising children is no joke, people, but it is some of the most important work I will do. My children will make mistakes, butt heads with me, and need the same lessons taught to them many times. We’re all sinners and life together is messy. When it gets tough, I need to not feel defeated or discouraged, but rather repeat to myself: “This is tough, but so are you.”

Now I have the shirt to remind me:

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When I don’t have the toughness I need, I know God is there to strengthen me and to surround me with family and friends that will hold me up and call out that strength. We need to be those people for each other.

I know so many people going through hard things – illnesses, divorce, natural disasters, job loss, etc. I wish I could give each of you a great big hug, pray with you, then remind you that you are just as tough as those circumstances. Let’s be done with despair and defeat and worry. I’m ready to embrace my toughness with a smile.

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The new “Life Is…” t-shirt line from Cents of Style captures all of life perfectly. Life is tough, but it is also beautiful, sweet, grand, and an adventure. However you see life or WANT to see life, one of shirts will speak to you!

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The “Life Is” collection launches today with a fabulous sale! Pick your favorite shirt and use the code LIFEIS1 at checkout to get it for just $15.95 with free shipping! That is a huge steal for these gorgeous, high quality tees.

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How do you see life? How do you want to embrace this life? Grab a shirt today to claim that vision!

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Think About Their Eyes!

This post was sponsored by Think About Your Eyes as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. All thoughts and opinions are completely my own.

I remember our oldest son mentioning a few times here and there that he couldn’t see a clock that was far away, but he didn’t talk about it that much, so I didn’t do anything about it. As someone who has never had vision problems, it didn’t occur to me that he might be having trouble beyond what he said.

At his first yearly checkup at our pediatrician after the first mention of difficulty seeing, he was still able to pass the vision test, so I thought we were all good. We were also homeschooling at the time, so he wasn’t sitting in a classroom struggling to see things written on the board. As the next year went on, however, I heard him say, “I can’t see that,” more and more often. By the next year’s physical, it was confirmed that we needed to see an eye doctor.

As I said, I don’t wear glasses or contacts, so this was new territory for me. Thankfully, my husband has worn glasses since childhood, so he has been able to give Big J advice and support from another glasses-wearer. He was nine-years-old when he had his first eye doctor appointment and we found out he was quite far-sighted. A prescription was given and glasses were ordered.

I will never forget our oldest son’s reaction when he first put on those glasses. He could suddenly see so many things he had never seen before – the individual leaves on a tree, our kitchen clock from far away, and much more. He was so excited and I was so emotional! I thought glasses might bum him out a little, but it was the exact opposite – it was all joy!

Big J Glasses

All of this happened right before he started going to school and I am so grateful for that timing! As we’re starting a new school year, I know that he is not impeded by poor vision in the classroom. No child should worry about their education suffering because they cannot see. And eye doctor appointments are not only for kids with glasses or contacts as 50% of parents believe. That’s why this new program, Think About Your Eyes, is so important!

August is Eye Exam Awareness Month, so now is the time to prioritize your child’s eye health. I’m partnering with Think About Your Eyes this month because 25% of school-age children have vision problems and I don’t want you to miss them in your child like I almost did with my son! 24% of parents are like me and wait for their child to complain about vision trouble before getting an exam. He didn’t know what “normal” vision was, but one comprehensive eye exam showed us that he needed help. I really wish we would have had his vision checked sooner.

80% of what children learn comes through vision, so getting those eyes checked as school starts up this fall is crucial. You will help ensure there are no visual obstacles to learning and you could prevent more serious complications that could occur from untreated problems.

Check out this video from Think About Your Eyes:

Need some help scheduling those exams? Check out this doctor locator from Think About Your Eyes! They’ve got you covered for making this important task easy on you!

Let’s celebrate Eye Exam Awareness Month by scheduling eye exams for our kids!

Have you had your child’s vision checked lately?

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It’s a Sister Thing

This post contains affiliate links.

My sister and I have not lived in the same place during our adult years. Despite the miles between us, we are closer than ever. Marriage and motherhood have given my sister and I so much to bond over. She is a wonderful aunt to our boys, and her two daughters and my three boys just adore each other! We only live less than three hours apart, so I’m thankful we get to see each other in person several times a year. And phone calls are a must, when we can find a few minutes of quiet!

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Now we’re adding another bonding experience. This fall, my sister and I will do something we’ve never done before: take a sisters-only trip! The trip is about sister time and being able to chat for hours without kids interrupting us (YAY!), but it’s also about another shared interest: running!

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My sister ran my first 5K with me and I had the fun privilege of running with her for her first half marathon last fall. Next up is our sisters trip to run another half marathon together! We’ll also get some fun shopping and relaxing time before and after the race and I CANNOT WAIT!

Sis, if you’re reading this, I am super thankful for you and for the way our relationship has grown better and better over the years. I have a little present for you to celebrate our trip and our friendship. (I just borrowed it for a few minutes for this photo shoot, but it’s all yours!)

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I like to wear reminders of the things that are important to me and I like to give gifts that do the same. This rose gold “Sister” necklace is both meaningful and fashionable – does it get any better?! I know it will look perfect on my gorgeous sister!

Sister Necklace

Cents of Style has so many great necklaces to celebrate the things important to us in their Tribe collection and they are just $11.99 each with free shipping when you use the code TRIBE4 at checkout! Just look at all the amazing choices in this collection:

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At this price, I think I need go order a few more for myself (since the sister one is for my sister!) and as gifts!

What Tribe necklace will you be ordering during this sale? Don’t forget to use the code TRIBE4 and order before this sale ends!

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Why We’re Still Using Wipes In a Diaper-Less House

This post was sponsored by WaterWipes as part of an Ambassador Program for Influence Central. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review.

I really wish I would have know about WaterWipes when we had babies in diapers. With all three babies, we used wipes and detergent with no added fragrances because sensitive skin runs in our family. Our middle son still struggles with sensitive skin and eczema, so we’ve kept to fragrance-free as much as possible.

We’ve been done with diapers in our house for over a year now – HALLELUJAH! We had a bunch of wipes left over and, even without bottoms to wipe, I found myself still using those wipes for everything. Over the baby years, I didn’t even realize how handy and convenient they had become to me for all kinds of messes. Ice cream cones, sticky suckers, marker-covered hands, and more were no match for my stash of wipes!

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Fast forward to several months ago and my introduction to WaterWipes – the timing could not have been better as I was running out of my previous fragrance-free wipes and needed to restock. I’m so glad I didn’t buy more because WaterWipes were just the thing I had been hoping to find over all these years!

WaterWipes are a chemical free baby wipe with just two ingredients: 99.9% pure Irish water and 0.1% grapefruit seed extract. I feel great about using these for all sorts of messes with my family because there are no harmful chemicals! All of the usefulness of baby wipes with none of the extras – what’s not to love?!

Why we're still using wipes in aDiaper-less house

Why do I keep using wipes even though we are diaper-less? One word: convenience. My three boys are always getting dirty and I’ve been known to make a few messes, too. I keep a pack of WaterWipes in the minivan, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, and in my purse, so I am always ready when a mess pops up!

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I’m pretty sure our latest road trip to Colorado would have been a whole lot messier without WaterWipes! We used them on the car ride, for picnic lunches, and on our hikes. It was so handy to have them in my backpack to clean off hands before a mid-hike snack or clean up extra mud.

One more reason to love WaterWipesthis beautiful video on the importance of skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby!

My boys may be growing up fast, but this video has me fondly remembering those newborn skin-to-skin snuggles. Such a sweet time in motherhood! I love the emphasis on purity by WaterWipes, both in love and in the product!

How are you using wipes in your home?

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At Home in the Good Life

I received this necklace for review from Cents of Style. This post contains affiliate links.

I grew up in South Dakota. The same city and state my whole childhood. I loved “my” state.

When it came time to choose a college, however, I needed to spread my wings a little. I didn’t fly too far, just to neighboring Nebraska, where I found my place as a Husker. Lincoln was just supposed to be my college home, but it became much more.

In Lincoln, I found a personal relationship with Jesus. My faith changed and grew and made me a new person in Christ starting my freshman year of college.

In Lincoln, I met my husband. We were both in the Cornhusker Marching Band. He proposed to me in the Sunken Gardens. We got married in Lincoln and made it through some major challenges together in those first few years.

In Lincoln, we bought our first home. Just two months before our first child was born, we found a cute little place to call our own. We moved in record time with the largest moving crew of friends ever just one month before Big J made his arrival.

In Lincoln, all three of our children were born. Three handsome boys joined our family in the span of six years. Each boy was dedicated to the Lord at our church in Lincoln.

We no longer live in Lincoln, but we have found our place here in Nebraska. It truly is the Good Life. While South Dakota will always be my birth state, Nebraska is home.

When I saw the new state necklace design from Cents of Style, featuring the state name and the coordinates of that state’s capitol, I knew immediately it would be a treasure for me.

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Lincoln is the capitol of Nebraska and holds a very special place in my heart, for all the reasons listed above and more.

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I was hesitant to leave Lincoln at first, but we love our new hometown and I can’t imagine living anywhere else but Nebraska. I still love Lincoln and I can hold it and all its wonderful memories close with this beautiful double-bar necklace.

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This new state necklace design- with state name and capitol coordinates – AND the original Cents of Style state necklace are just $11.99 each with free shipping this weekend with the code NEWSTATE at checkout!

Tell me about the state that has captured your heart! Which state necklace will you order and why?

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Ending the School Year Strong!

We did it! We made it through our first non-homeschooling year of school for the boys!

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It was an incredibly successful year of transition for us – not perfect by any means, but full of great learning experiences for education and life. Friends were made. Conflicts arose and were resolved. Homework was forgotten, but not much because that lesson was learned fast! They went on field trips, competed in the spelling bee, brought lunch from home (except for pizza days), celebrated birthdays, and so much more. They had wonderful teachers

We are all very pleased with how the year went and know God was with us every step of the way, as He always is. The kids loved school, but they are also equally ready for a summer break!

Whether your school year has ended yet or not, a lot about how the school year ends for our kids can be impacted by our behavior as parents. The way in which we end a school year can help our children see the big picture of how they grew over the past nine months as well as help them to actually look forward to the next school year, even if summer is all that is on their mind!

I have a few fun ideas for ending the school year strong as a family and you can use them whether your kids were out a few weeks ago or still have a few weeks left! Find three of my favorite ways to end the school year strong over on the Tommy Nelson blog!

How do you celebrate the end of the school year as a family?

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Teaching Kids About the Character of a Jesus-Follower

I received this book to review. I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

So here’s the deal…

I’m not a big fan of what the world thinks a “Christian” looks like these days. If you were to ask a person on the street about the character traits of a Jesus-follower, I’m afraid you would hear words like self-righteous, judgmental, and close-minded. These are ugly words and the furthest thing from the character of Jesus.

This is the world in which we are raising our children. It is more important than ever to teach our kids to be Jesus-followers not just in name, but in everything we do. My character has to speak louder than any label I may claim. And I want the character of my boys to do the same.  

When we look at the life of Jesus, there are so many character traits for us to emulate and teach to our kids. I like to narrow down our focus when the kids are little and build upon it as they grow and mature in their faith.

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I Will Follow Jesus, a bible storybook by Judah and Chelsea Smith, is a great starting point for sharing these character traits of a Jesus-follower with our young kiddos. Every family should choose their own focus, but here are a few we emphasize from an early age:

Loving

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. -1 John 4:18

Jesus loved people. All people. He loved like no one ever has because He is God and God is love. When we look at the two most important commandments given to us by God, they come down to love. Love God. Love people. A Jesus follower is loving.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment.And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -Matthew 22:36-38

Brave

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9

We’ve already talked about the negative view much of the world has of Christians. Living and loving boldly in the name of Jesus takes courage. One day it might look like standing up for a classmate who is getting picked on at recess. Another day it may mean stepping out of your comfort zone to share a bible verse with someone who needs encouragement. We’re not scaling physical mountains, but sharing the love of Jesus in a hostile world most definitely requires bravery. And Jesus is the one who makes us brave!

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect… -1 Peter 3:15

Humble

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. -Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus was the only perfect person to ever walk this earth, yet He was humble, even to the point of death. We live in a world where pride matters and we don’t want our pride hurt. Being a Jesus-follower means leaving our pride at the foot of the cross and walking in humility.

What does humility look like for our kids? Sometimes it means putting others’ needs before our own, which goes hand in hand with loving well. It also means not always having to be “right” all the time. We have some stubborn boys in this house (they might get that from their mama), and they like to be right about things. They also like to correct someone when they are wrong. A humble person knows how to take constructive criticism, as well when to keep their “right” thoughts to themselves. If we as Christians are always pointing out what others are doing wrong, we are exhibiting pride and opening ourselves up to a big fall when someone catches us in sin.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. -Proverbs 16:18

When we look to Jesus and see His grace and mercy to us even when we were still sinners, we can’t help but be humble.

We can talk about all these characteristics to help our children in their walk of faith, but being a Jesus-follower comes down to one thing. We must be willing to follow what Jesus asks of us – no matter the cost, no matter what we look like.

We look at the life of Jesus, as told so well for kids in I Will Follow Jesus, for how to live, but we must also pray and listen for His voice, calling us to do the work He has just for us here on earth. Invite your kids to live out these characteristics, open their heart to the call of Jesus in their life, and follow Him!

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” -Matthew 16:24

I Will Follow Jesus

GIVEAWAY: I’m giving away three copies of I Will Follow Jesus to you lovely people! Just use the widget below to enter!

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Holy Week 101 for Parents and Kids

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

Although we have observed Holy Week in our own way as a family, when I asked my oldest son what he knew about Holy Week, his first question was, “What is Holy Week?” I apparently had never specifically labeled the week with that title, so my question and his response opened up a wonderful conversation about the week leading up to Easter!

Holy Week is extraordinarily significant to Christians and I have always felt strong desire to share all aspects of what Jesus went through in that week with our children. Maybe that is your desire as well. In my post over at Tommy Nelson today, I recorded some of the more relevant questions and answers from the conversation with my son in the hopes that it would be a guide for your own conversation with your child. Think of it as “Holy Week 101!”

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Head over to Tommy Nelson to read the answers to my son’s questions, including:

  • What is Holy Week?
  • What happened to Jesus during Holy Week?
  • What am I supposed to do during Holy Week?

We’ve kept The Story of Easter board book around our house to help introduce the events of this week to our kids at a young age. And we always follow this simple plan with the Jesus Storybook Bible as a family to remember the events leading up to and including Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Do you observe Holy Week as a family? What are some of your favorite traditions?

 

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