Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why is my daughter crying?

The Girl-Child is....sensitive. 
Like, really, really sensitive.
As in, she cries.....a lot.
She melts into tears at least once a day, and these are not your typical, toddler tantrums. She is genuinely hurt. They are real tears and there is a real process of getting through the hurt feelings. It starts with a sniffle and before you know it she is all in. 
Inspired by a Tumblr feed that I saw recently, I decided to take some photos of these moments. After all, they are just as much a part of her personality as the funny and cute photos that everyone wants to see.  All of these pictures were taken within the last 2 months. The reasons in the captions are real, even when they seem impossible.

 We won't let her drink the egg dye:
 I gave her toys to play with in the sprinklers:
 Still crying (20 minutes later) so I moved her to a towel:
 I gave her the banana that she asked for.
 Daddy left without her:
 A full 10 minutes later:
 She can't get her baby doll into her toy stroller:
 I said "Time to go watch brother play baseball!"
 She took the straw out of her cup so no slushie comes out when she sucks it:
 Even though she has 2 necklaces, she wants mine:
 I want her to play on the playground, she wants to be held:

I wish that I had a camera with me for each and every crying fit. Then again, if I did, this post would be way too long. 
The point is, everything with kids is a phase. Laugh at the tough ones, you'll get through it...
and try not to think about what the adolescent years will be like!!

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

10 Great Date Night Conversation Starters

In my popular post 10 Rules For Dating Your Husband, I suggest that your date night conversations should not be about your kids, home, finances, or basically any other "married people business." If you want to delve into all of those things, check out how we did our family goal-setting meeting by clicking here.
Don't know what to talk about? Yeah, it can be rough sometimes. If you Google "Conversation Starters for Dating" you will find lots of lists that are intended for non-married people. You probably already know your husband's favorite color or movie so those get-to-know-you questions won't be very useful to you. So here are a few good conversation starters for married folks to get the ball rolling. You can bring the list with you if you forget, or just try to remember a few, in case the conversation drops off.
  1. What is your dream vacation?
  2. What is your ideal retirement location?
  3. Tell me about your favorite childhood memory.
  4. What is the best meal you have ever had?
  5. What is your opinion about [insert current event]?
  6. Tell me an embarrassing or funny story that I've never heard.
  7. What are some fun activities we should do on future dates?
  8. What are you most looking forward to this year?
  9. If you could stop working today, what would you do?
  10. What is at the top of your "Bucket List"?
I have found that our very best date night conversations involved talking about happy memories or "planning" a hypothetical future (dream vacations, retirement, etc). Some of our worst date night conversations have been when we focused on the negative (Tell me about what is bugging you at work?) or tried to get too serious (How can we increase our savings? How are we ever going to pay for college?)
Keep it light, keep it fun, and enjoy dating your husband!!

Want to learn how to have fun as friends and how to have the fruitful marriage that God intended for you? I strongly recommend the book Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll. We read through this with our church small group and it is, to date, the best marriage study that we have done. We often find ourselves saying things like "Remember _____ from Real Marriage?" or "I'm so glad we learned ________ from Real Marriage!" We have seen the impact that it has made on our friends as well.
The first half of the book is about the friendship between you and your spouse and the second half is about sex (and they definitely do not dance around the real issues of sex in marriage!) To top it off, one of the appendices has an awesome list of questions to ask your spouse to help get to know them on a deeper level!

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Negativity Fast: A Recap

^^^I was like this for awhile there^^^
My thoughts and words were so caught in a web of negativity that I couldn't even see it anymore. I had a complaint for everything, and those that I didn't voice I would dwell on mentally. We have all been there I think. You just get in a funk and you can't get out of it. 
Well, I was complaining about a friend that is always so negative on Facebook. I was saying that I was going to delete her if I saw one more status about how bad things are in her life. Then I realized, Facebook statuses aside, that I myself have grown into such a negative person lately. I hate to see myself in that way and I really hate to examine how I had been feeling. The truth was, and is, that my greatest spiritual struggle is with negative thinking. In my opinion, our thoughts are so much more difficult to control than our actions. A thought happens instantly, and so to bring it under control is a very different battle. Yet the Bible is clear on this. 
"...take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ."
2 Corinthians 10:5 
"...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think on such things."
Philippians 4:8
The key is to figure out how. How do I take every thought captive to Christ? How do I think only of that which is lovely? I think that the real trick, the real secret, is to admit to myself and to God that I can't do it. I simply can't. The beautiful thing is that admitting that I can't is exactly what He wants me to do so that He can start working in my life. So I did that daily. I stopped trying to do it on my own and I gave it over to Him.
 I decided that I needed to devote some time to focus on this particular area of my life. I decided to begin on a Monday and for seven days I would avoid saying anything negative out loud. You might be wondering why I fasted from saying anything negative when my real struggle is with thinking negatively. The reason is, as I said, that behavior is much easier to control than thoughts are. I knew that purposely controlling my tongue would bring my attention to how often I think negative thoughts. It would take a great deal of reliance on God to go a whole week without saying negative words and I could use all of those opportunities to grow in my thought life as well. Essentially, I was practicing "taking every thought captive" by taking my words captive.
In the seven days, I failed many times. Imagine taking every single negative word out of your interactions with your husband and children. It is a challenge to say the least. If you have ever tried to eliminate a bad habit, you know that you will be tested so much harder during those times. My family went through some serious struggles the very same week that I was avoiding negativity. Each time a negative sentence slipped out of my mouth I was tempted to give up. I would quickly think I just cannot do this, it's impossible, this is just the way I am! I had to continue to remind myself that God does not want me to excuse my behavior, He wants to change me and grow me into someone that is like Jesus. 
I challenge you to try giving up negativity for a time. Maybe a day is a good start, maybe you will go for a week. Overall, even though I cannot say that I made it a whole week without negativity, the time that I devoted to focusing on this issue was fruitful. It gave me a greater awareness and began the process of eliminating negativity for good.
I highly recommend the book Every Thought Captive by Jerusha Clark.
It addresses many areas in which women fall prey to unhealthy, ungodly thought patterns and shares great wisdom in how to defeat those thought patterns which separate us from an abundant life in Christ. Check it out!

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Calendars! Budgets! Plans! Oh My!

It is no secret that the MommyJustine family is a busy group of folks. Aside from the typical, day-to-day bustle of a family of four, we have church activities, tee ball, and volunteer obligations nearly every day of the week. We also try to be purposeful about fitting in quality time as a family, time to connect as a couple, and one-on-one time with our kids. Several weeks ago, all of that collided into a mess of cranky kids, stressed parents, and a general lack of productivity and happiness. At the same time, I read a Girlfriends In God daily devotional that stated "Don't mistake busyness for productivity." That hit me hard. I realized that I had been running and rushing day in and day out and wasn't accomplishing nearly any of my goals. Worse than that, I wasn't even sure what my family's goals were anymore. It was time for a "family meeting." Since my kids are little, the family at the meeting consisted of myself and the Fella. It was such a refreshing, rejuvenating time! It was exactly the jump start that our family needed to get back on track!

Ideally, we would like to have a big meeting like this once every three months. We plan to stay on track by having a short weekly recap each Sunday night to talk through the previous week's accomplishments and set backs and to get on the same page for the upcoming week. I would love to share with you the way we accomplished such a beneficial meeting, and I hope that someone else will find it as useful as we did!

Set aside an evening when you will have at least a few hours to devote solely for the meeting. Plan it in advance so that both you and your spouse are in the right mind set for such an extensive conversation. Have your meeting in a clean, comfortable space (we spread everything out on our bed). Get a babysitter if you need to, although we just put our kids to bed early that night. Pray about your time together ahead of time and then again as you begin. I think that an important part of this prayer is to ask the Lord to make you of one mind in your decision making and to guide your communication so that it is effective and loving.

What you need:

  • a calendar
  • a notebook
  • your budget or a basic expense list
  • a computer

STEP 1: Goal Setting/Talk Time
This is the part where you will need a notebook. Write each area of your families life at the top of it's own sheet of paper, followed by your goals. Example:
Our Marriage
Short Term Goal
Long Term Goal
What we can do right now to accomplish those goals.
Changes to be made/Method of making changes.

Although your categories may be different, we established goals in the following categories:

  • Our Marriage
  • Our Parenting
  • Our Finances
  • Our Ministry
  • Our Schedule
This part of the conversation took up the bulk of our evening. There were many areas where each of us needed to share present concerns that had not previously been voiced. We needed to share our individual visions for our family and then discern how to make those individual desires a unified purpose. This was the time that we needed grace the most, and I will admit that at times it became emotional as we wrestled with difficult choices and each of us compromised.

STEP 2: Plan of action
This will take up somewhat less of your time than your goal setting did. This is where you pull out your calendar and make changes or additions to what is already there based on your new goals. Add in family time or dates as needed to meet the goals in your parenting and marriage categories. Get on the same page with one another's schedule. The Fella added all of my calendar items to his phone, and I did the same. You will want to draw up a basic plan for a new budget if you have altered your family's financial goals. We also used this time to schedule and book our summer vacations online and talk about a basic budget for new baby items, back to school shopping and even Christmas.

STEP 3: Weekly Planning (to be repeated each Sunday night)
We looked at our monthly family calendar and added any appointments, practices and meetings to a separate weekly calendar. We then added any "to-do's" attempting to space them out throughout the week so that we don't have to rush to do everything on Saturday and can devote more of our weekends to family time. Based on what the week looked like, we then agreed on meals for each day. Our hope is that by planning our meals around what we have going on, we will be less likely to make a quick decision to run through a drive-thru on a busy evening. For example, on Thursdays, I have some volunteer work in the afternoons and the Fella has Student Ministry in the evenings. By planning a simple meal like grilled cheese, we ensure that I will have time to prepare it and he will have time to eat it.

I know that this type of planning meeting will look different for every couple and every family. I am only sharing it because it was such a blessing for us and created such an atmosphere of peace within our home. Knowing what your are doing, when you are doing it, and why you are doing it is so freeing!

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

The 2nd Trimester: This is what I know

Everyone asks for pregnancy updates and photos. I am sad to say that the title picture in this blog post is the only belly pic that I have taken to 18 weeks gestation. I am 22 weeks along as of this posting.
With my other two pregnancies, I took photos weekly starting at about 8 weeks. It's not that I am less excited about this baby, I am just darn busy. Too darn busy to hunt down the Fella, persuade him to take a picture, pose, and then persuade him to take it 4 more times because my arm looks fat or my eyes are squinty. 
As far as updates, this pregnancy has been so blessedly uneventful that I don't feel like I have much to say. No hyperemesis gravida, no major discomforts. The big news, the only "event" of the pregnancy so far, came about two weeks ago, when we learned that we are having our second baby girl! We are so overjoyed at this news! I will concede that my "mother's intuition" was totally off on this one. I was absolutely positive that this baby was a boy. So positive, in fact, that I cornered the Fella the night before the ultrasound and forced him to finalize a boy's name with me. Ha! Imagine my surprise when the tech typed "girl" on the money shot!
The Facebook announcement:

As I'm reading back over my post The 1st Trimester: A Survival Story  I realize that although there is nothing to "survive" right now, I do have some tried-and-true opinions that have made things easier.
So here's what I know:
  • The chiropractor is a must! Find a good one (preferably one certified in the Webster Technique and/or one that specializes in prenatal chiropractic care). Don't wait until things start to ache. I had nearly debilitating sciatica with my second pregnancy, and so I started visiting the chiropractor weekly at 12 weeks during this pregnancy. I have only felt twinges of sciatica this time, as opposed to the severe pain I was in by this point in my last pregnancy. Even if you aren't having any aches or pains, chiropractic care during pregnancy is noted to help the baby's position during labor and delivery and make the birthing process shorter and easier. 
  • Eat tons of protein. While your body can do a lot to build your baby without your help, it absolutely cannot do so without protein. Guess what? If you don't take in enough protein in your diet during pregnancy, your body will "steal" it from your muscles. This is why many pregnant mamas feel tired, weak, and flabby during pregnancy. You can gain the recommended amount of weight (or less!) and still end your pregnancy with little muscle tone simply because of your protein intake. I never really knew the importance of protein with my first two pregnancies and I credit this dietary change with how great I feel this time around!
  • Trust no one. your doctor/midwife. No matter how many times you have done this, everyone has advice. Most of it is bull. Sorry to the know-it-alls of the world (including myself). Oh, and Google is not a substitute for your provider's advice and knowledge. Google any possible pregnancy question and you will undoubtedly get contradictory answers, all of which will sound perfectly credible. And don't even get me started on those online message boards....
  •  Eat high fiber foods daily. You know why. If I have to tell you are not a pregnant woman or a mother. Yeah, it's an unpleasant topic. But staying...ahem...regular will help you feel more comfortable in so many ways.
  • Last but most important: Live your life. I will hop onto my soap box here and say it. I absolutely cannot stand hearing phrases like "I can't do that, I'm pregnant" and "I'm going to stop ______ while I'm pregnant." or "You can't expect me to ______ while pregnant." Unless you are filling in these blanks with smoke crack or do Jager bombs or go bungee jumping, pretty much whatever the [safe] activity is, if you could do it before you were pregnant, you can do it now. House work, yard work, car washing, road trips, vacations, camping, water-park-going, the list goes on and on. Please don't send me hate mail detailing your high risk pregnancy. I'm not talking about the exceptional situations here. I am talking about the typical, low-risk pregnancy. Go ahead, live your life like you lived it before. 40 weeks is a long time to live in a bubble. Just sayin'.

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