Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Beauty Regime (Pre vs. Post Children)

Did you know that I have the cutest friends on planet earth?! Well, there you go. This new friend of mine is no exception. Meet Diane from an adorable little place called Dollops of Diane.  She is a Boston area stay-at-home mom with three kiddos, a ridiculous gift of planning, and an intense love for all the finer things in life (mainly Diet Pepsi, peanut butter cups, and white wine). See, definitely my kinda gal!  She grabbed my attention on facebook with her hilarious wit and hysterical status updates. See what I mean HERE.  Today she brings us her beauty regime (or lack there of). I, for one, can totally relate. Without further adou. . .

While getting ready this morning my mind was racing with all the things I had to remember to pack in the preschoolers back pack, mentally finding the library books that were overdue, and willing the laundry to fold itself. I was so distracted by planning out the day that I couldn’t remember if I brushed my teeth or not. I looked at the toothbrush – had I just put it down there? I ran my tongue across my teeth – did they feel clean? So I did the sure fire test and felt the toothbrush – wet, okay I brushed. Heaven forbid that I brush twice in one day. Who has time for that? Pre-Kids I used to whiten my teeth. Now I can’t even remember if they’ve been brushed.

I then looked in the mirror and noticed my face was seeing the effects of fall in New England. God only knows how long my chin looked dry and flaky like that but I grabbed the nearby Johnson’s Baby Lotion and applied it liberally to my entire face. Pre-kids I never would have dreamed of rubbing baby lotion all over me but who has time for fancy facial moisturizers anymore? Plus, this way my face gets to smell like a baby’s bottom all day. Oh wait…that’s not a good thing.

I recently realized that I also go through twice as much deodorant now because I can NEVER remember if I put it on or not. Better to double up than be stinky at story time, right?

Pre-kids I used to paint my finger nails. I would liberally apply coats and then spend drying time leisurely watching trashy television. Now I spend my time painting my 5 year old’s nails while she watches Dora and criticizes my technique.

Pre-kids I used to ponder if I should wear my hair curly (natural state) or straighten it. Now I literally laugh out loud at the thought of straightening it. I think I *may* have straightened it once since we had our oldest (five years ago!). Half the time I don’t even bother to put mousse in it and I just pull it back wet in a ponytail. Straightening it would take about 45 minutes. I can’t even imagine having 45 minutes to myself and if I did I certainly wouldn’t be using it to straighten my hair. I would use it to eat cookie dough covered in frosting.

What about you? What changes have you made to your get ready routine since kids? Oh, and please don’t say none. That would just make me feel bad!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Boys Will Be Joys

Raising a little dude is loads harder than I expected. I've learned that I need to think like a caveman most days. As women, we have thousands of emotional states. Boys on the other hand, tend to feel one of three things at any given time: mad, sad, or happy. Trying to elaborate any of these emotional states seems pointless. Their issues are never that complicated. He wants to eat, poop, or run.  On a really bad day he wants his toy back after some other kid took it from him. He doesn’t want to stare out the window and have lengthy discussions about the meaning of life, as I often wished that he did. I'm slowly learning a thing or two about these simple creatures I call "sons". I'll share a few morsels of helpful info that I've come to know as truth about raising little men. 

Watch his body not his mouth. Again, like adult men, the clues to how your son is doing will show up first in his body language. Jumping up and down with six-inch vertical leaps is the natural state of being and is good. Slumped shoulders are bad. Yelling is good. Quiet needs attention.

When in doubt, hug. Boys will often have a much harder time than girls verbalizing their problems. My 5-year-old son will sometimes burst out into tears after seemingly trivial events. I know there is something deeper going on, but I am not going to get it out of him, at least not at that moment. So the solution is physical not verbal. I spend a lot of time just hugging my boys. I usually have no idea why. But as a default cure-all, it seems to work wonders. A minute later they are all patched up and ready to rumble again.

Yes, it really is all about poop. Girls seem to potty train 6 to 9 months before boys, but once boys make it onto the throne, there is no stopping them. Moving their bowels is pretty much the highlight of their day (at least at our house it is!), and they are going to want to talk about it. Bathroom time is a participatory sport. My five-year-old likes to head to the bathroom just as the family is sitting down to dinner, sometimes during dinner. It’s the first time he has been still long enough to realize he has to go. And he wants me to come with him, not just to assist in the wipe but to have a leisurely conversation about the status of his poop. As much as I found this inconvenient at first, now I just go with it. Quality time is quality time, folks.

Batman lives forever. Boys, even at a young age, realize the importance of super powers. They want to be good and believe in the existence of ultimate good in the world. Boys sort out their identities in relation to the mythical characters they hear about. My son is obsessed with Batman and Iron Man. He wears a full costume, even to Wal-Mart or to the park. What amazes me even more than his dedication to the superhero is how the people respond to his outfit, proclaiming, “Batman!” as he enters the store. He'll nod his head just slightly, acknowledging his public before moving onto the important work at hand, like going to kindergarten.

Pointless physical activity is perfect. My boys will spend an entire morning moving dirt from one side of the backyard to the other side of the backyard using only a spoon as a shovel. They insist that they are treasure hunting or burying super villians or something else incredibley ridiculous.  What they are really doing is wearing each other out. I certainly will never complain about that!

Winning does matter, but less than you think. Boys — perhaps even more than girls — put themselves under extreme pressure to perform in school, in sports, and in social situations. They talk about it less, so the sting of failure can run even more deeply than with girls. With boys it’s important to emphasize the lessons to be gained from failure, instead of trying to win at all costs. Too often in our culture, boys are pushed to become one-dimensional robots. Goodness isn’t about winning at youth soccer or having the most friends or being the smartest kid in class; it’s also about being kind. That’s something as a mom that you can particularly help your son understand.

Clothes matter. I know there are way more options for dressing little girls than little boys, so the tendency might be to just throw jeans and a t-shirt on your son and forget about it. But you better make sure they are the right jeans and the right t-shirt. The only consistent battle I have had with my sons so far is over what they wear on their feet. Shoes, in kindergarten are a fashion statement, so it seems.  They want to look cool; they want to be comfortable (pants that are tight but not too tight, warm and yet breathable). I do draw the line with clothes that have already been worn two days in a row, but I don’t discount the importance of fashion to my kindergartener.

Bedtime is sacred. Because boys are so active, it’s hard to get them to sit still. The best time of day is the ten minutes before they go to sleep. Crawl into bed with them, read books, and hold them while they fall off to sleep. There is nothing sweeter than lying next to your overactive son while his body goes limp next to you, and he ever so faintly begins to snore. These are the moments I live for. 

Well there you have it. That's all I know so far. I've only been at this gig for 5 years and sometimes I find myself more and more confused as days go by. Boys are simple, yet still a mystery to me. As a mom, I find it's our life mission to try to figure them out. Not in a means to control or manipulate, but as a way to understand their heart and their passion. Loving these little boys is the greatest joy in my life. Dirty, boisterous, exhausting, confusing and amazing creatures that consistently bring a bit of sunshine to my cloudy days. Boys will be joys, indeed.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Things I've Learned This Week

I like big books and I cannot lie. There is just something about this season that makes me want to start a fire and curl up with a looooooong book. 

My dog officially weighs more than both my boys put together. It's time for her to lay off the hotdogs (her fave).

I often worry that mankind is going to start World War III soley because we enjoy trilogies.

Let’s give thanks we live in a country where political disagreements are expressed with poorly spelled Facebook posts instead of missiles.

It's that time of year again when my "fat pants" just become "pants".

You know what's more annoying than cops? People who buy old refurbished cop cars and keep the spotlight attached. You guys drive me crazy.

“You will never have this day with your children again, tomorrow they’ll be a little older than they were today. This day is a gift, breathe and notice, smell and touch them; study their faces and little feet and pay attention. Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today, mama. It will be over before you know it." -Jen Hatmaker

I think falling in/being in/falling out of love has been pretty well documented. Why aren’t there more songs about being hungry?

We've reached the phase of childhood when the older brother is trying to control the younger. Every moment of every day. I cannot wait until the younger outgrows the older and takes his revenge. I'm probably going to enjoy it more than I should.

I hate when people see me at Walmart & are like "Hey what are you doing here?" I'm like, "Oh you know, recruiting people for the next circus act".

If we all end up in prison one day for illegal music downloads, I can only hope that they divide us by music genres.

It's a nightly wrestle of whether I should stay up and write or catch up on the sleep I've been lacking since motherhood began. Writing always wins. I'll sleep when they're 20, right?

It’s not easy to go from sloppin’ mac n’ cheese and nuggets in sweats to chit chattin’ in trendy cocktail attire all in one evening.

I honestly think my son's last words on earth will be, "I wonder what this button does?"

The golden rule in my house is... If it's funny, you're not in trouble. I think the boys are starting to catch on.

If I were a bathroom tile salesman, my pitch would be "Think of how great this will look in the background of your Facebook pics."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Simplifying Life: A Quick Decision

This will be the shortest "possessions" post yet. Today is Thanksgiving, and in keeping with the whole gratefulness theme, I want to make sure and spend just about every ounce of my time and energy on what's most important today. . .my family.

I've done a little thinking today about our possessions. We have too many options. I am hit bluntly with this truth every time I put dinner in front of my kids and they look at me with a scrunched up nose and whine, "We don't waaaaaant this! Can I have something else?"  Because they have always had options. If they don't feel like spaghetti, mom can make grilled cheese or eggs and toast. I can get upset at their sense of entitlement, but I'm just as guilty of it myself. My husband will ask me what I want for take-out and name off at least three fast food/restaurants and I will scrunch up my nose at all of them. With food so easily available and aplenty, we abuse our options by taking them for granted. Now I know I've got off on a food tangent, and that isn't necessarily "possessions", but bare with me. We do it with our stuff too. We walk in and out of closets morning after morning frowning and fretting about having nothing to wear. In all reality, the contents of our closets could probably clothe a small village in Nicaragua. Most families there only have enough clothing to wear while they wash the one other dirty pair. They know the value of their stuff and they don't take it for granted. How can you when it's literally all you have?

The same goes for toys. My boys have UNGODLY amounts of options when it comes to things to play with and yet they drive me crazy every time we stop by Wal-Mart and they see something else that they "just gotta have!". It's pathetic. We are working through this perspective and I feel some days we are making huge strides with them in the "being thankful for what we have means not asking for more" talks, but we still have constant relapses. They are learning, as am I with my stuff (books, DVDs, jewelry, shoes, etc) that enough is enough.

So I've made a quick decision today and it's not that huge, but it may make a huge impact. I'm downsizing our wardrobes. I'm not just giving away things that no longer fit or we don't like as much anymore. No, I'm going through our closets and narrowing our options down. I'm getting rid of all clothing except what would last us about one month. At first, that seems like we would still have a lot of clothes. You're right. But at the moment, I'm staring at my son's clothes and realizing that I could easily clothe every child a the city rescue mission and then some with just what is piled on his floor. There is no need to have that many shirts, that many pairs of pants. Why does any five-year-old boy need 9 pairs of shoes?! Really?   So there it is. . .choosing 30 outfits for each child for each season and we're donating the rest. I'll be doing this in my closet too. That is my mission this week. Heaven help me.

I also thought I'd mention, as well as "options", we in America take for granted all of life's conveniences. We take for granted that just last week, I was able to fly from Oklahoma City to Managua, Nicaragua in a matter of 5 hours. That's AMAZING and something to thank God for. A hundred years ago, it took 30 YEARS to get from one side of the country to another! (Okay, maybe that's an embellishment, but only a slight one!) We constantly gripe about how quickly things load on our iphones, how long it takes for McDonald's to give us our food in the drive-thru, and how long we have to wait at stoplights. We're getting ridiculous, people! Everything is AMAZING, and nobody is happy! Truly! Louis C.K. covered this topic in his recent interview on Conan O'Brien. Check it out here! I promise, you will be nodding your head in agreement the ENTIRE TIME!
You're welcome, friends. :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Raising Thankful Little Monsters

I'm not going to lie. I have two VERY spoiled, entitled brats at home. They yearn for more, though they have so much. They gripe and complain about what they do have and expect everything handed to them. They are, of course, only 3 and 5, but that's no excuse. What's even more inexcusable is that WE have TAUGHT THEM THIS. That's right. . .if children become what they see, then we must have been really bad models of gratefulness in their lives, or else we've demanded way too little of them.

We see it every day. Tweens walking around with cell phones, my three-year-old sitting in the grocery cart watching an episode of Scooby Doo on my iphone as we shop, kids everywhere pushing their plates of food away and demanding something else because this is not what they wanted. Aren't there still starving children in Africa? Actually, there are starving children within 10 miles of you. Shame on us for letting this behavior continue.

Because I've wrestled with my own little monster's ungratefulness for far too long, and because I know that in our day and age in the NOW generation, we are all in the same struggle together. How do we instill a sense of thankfulness in the lives of our children? How do we reverse the Entitlement Curse that is upon us? I've asked God for direction in this, and this is what He's told me:

READ. What kid doesn't like an exciting story? I've found that reading about the lives of other people is an easy way of letting my kids "see" into circumstances outside of the normal American culture. When they read about other people with far less than they have, it opens up conversations as to "why" they don't have as much. It can also help them to realize that not everyone is as fortunate as they are. Stories about missionaries or even some bible stories are very good for this.

TAKE A MISSION TRIP......Around the block. You don't have to travel far to find people in need. Although taking a family mission trip overseas is awesome, there are those in poverty so much closer to you. Deciding to serve as a family, even with toddlers at the City Rescue Mission or Jesus House or soup kitchen will put your little ones in contact with others that struggle with even getting a meal to eat everyday. This is a great way to start the conversations about how much we have and how we are called to serve those with even less.

POWER OF WORDS.  I'm realizing lately the potency of our words. They can heal or destroy. Simply verbalizing the need to be grateful will help to start training their minds early. Remind them to say thank you for every little thing. At bedtime, develop a ritual before they sleep of recalling things throughout their day that they can thank God for. It may only be a "Thank God for my Grandma and my new potty chair", but at least they are getting into the habit of recognizing where even the littlest of blessings come from.

SING PRAISES EVERYDAY.  One thing my kiddos love to do is dance around the kitchen in the morning shaking their little booties to some Lady Gaga or Michael Jackson. Recently though, in recognizing the power of memorization and words, I've started putting on praise and worship music to sing and dance to. They are not as crazy about it, but are already starting to memorize lines and ask questions about the songs. It's an amazing thing to explain to my toddlers that we can sing to Jesus about how much we love him and how much we are thankful for everything He's given to us.

MODEL THANKFULNESS. Let them hear how grateful you are for every single thing that you see as a "gift" in your life. Saying these grateful phases out loud like, "I'm so thankful that God gave me such a sweet little boy", "I'm so grateful for your Daddy because he's such a hard worker", or "I'm so thankful that I get to spend my day with you." demonstrates to your kiddo the kind of things that they should also be thankful for. As well, they should see us being good stewards of all of the things God has entrusted to us.

It may take a while to reverse the cycle of entitlement if we've enabled it for so long. It's our duty, however to raise little monsters who see the beauty in their lives and recognize who the giver of all good gifts is. Let's all make it a point to point to Jesus this "Thankful" season.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

When In Doubt, Dance It Out!

"I won't tell you that I love you, kiss or hug you, cause I'm bluffin' with my muffin, I'm not lying, I'm just stunnin' with my love-glue-gunnin'. . ." Pardon me while I tune out my toddlers and bust a quick move in my kitchen as I whip up some mac-and-cheese for dinner. Sexy, I know.  

I know you all do it too. And so does one of my new besties, Ms. Leanne Penny!! Sit up straight and give her your full attention as she dazzles you with a little ditty she likes to call, "When In Doubt, Dance It Out!". I know you'll adore her rawness and wit as much as I do! 

Everyone has a portion of their day where they’re just trying to survive. For some people it’s the morning, for some people it’s the post lunch slump, but for me it’s the hours between 3:00 - 5:15. When naps are over, I’ve exhausted all my creative energy, organizational skills and patience. When all I can do is dole out goldfish crackers and stare at the clock until my husband comes home.

Incidentally the staring at the clock business just makes everything worse.

Sure I could pop in a movie, but usually it fails to fully distract my kids and they just end up under my feet in the kitchen while I grumble and try to get dinner ready.

Why, oh Why are they so interested in messing with my perfectly organized spice drawer? And what is so interesting about breaking into the dishwasher and trying to jump on the door like it’s a trampoline?

There is only one remedy for this portion of the day and Lady Gaga said it best when she said: Just dance, gonna be okay, da-da-doo

So when I feel like I can’t take it anymore I do what Meredith and Christina (Grey’s Anatomy reference) taught me and dance it out, yo.

The kids love it when Mom gets silly and I usually end up wearing myself out swinging them around, doing dips and jumps all over the living room dance floor.

I’m a terribly unskilled dancer and there is something about letting my inner crazy out that puts my body in sync with my soul.

Anyone remember what they called the “Elaine dance” on Seinfeld? That’s right.. a “full body dry heave.” I’m pretty sure my dancing looks something like that, mixed with a flailing flying squirrel. If you saw this dance party business I’m not sure if you’d want to commit me or be my friend.

But no matter, as my kids and I groove to the beat and giggle together I’m somehow reminded of what matters and what doesn’t. My stress and frustration gets shaken off as we boogie down.

A picked up living room at 4:15? Doesn’t matter! We’re not done playing yet.

Goldfish on the floor of the dining room? Doesn’t matter! They will do way worse at dinner, that pot of chili will be all over the wall soon!

You just can’t stay crabby when you’re jamming with a one year old on your beige Berber carpet. Cutting a rug on the proverbial rug if you know what I mean.

Sure now my 3 year old requests to watch the Gagnam Style music video 7 times a day but it’s kind of funny and totally worth the sanity that it brings to the worst part of the day.

Sometimes the silly dance party saves my life.

7 Penny Family Approved Dance Jams

Gagnam Style (PSY) Call me Maybe (Carly Rae Jespen) Life’s a Happy Song (From Muppets soundtrack) Just the Way you Are (Bruno Mars) Lady Gaga (Just Dance) Dynamite (Taio Cruz)
Rhythm of Love (Plain White T’s)

Before you all rush off to load your iPods with family friendly jams, make sure you stop on over to HER BLOG and take a look around. She's not only hysterical and insightful, but she's traveled a hard road and I find myself constantly encouraged and inspired by her strong spirit and ability to see past the "yuck" of life and focus on the joy. You can also connect with her VIA FACEBOOK HERE.  I just adore her, as will you! 

What are your family dance jams? What saves your life in the worst part of your day?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Simplifying Life: The "Good News" About My Stuff

I'm a purging failure. There, I said it. If admission is the first step to success, then hopefully I'm a tad closer to my goal. In all reality, I'm so very far from where I was hoping to be in this phase of my fast. You see, the challenge was to give away 7 possessions EVERY SINGLE DAY for 4 weeks. That is a total of 210 items purged from my house. As of today, I have only bitten off a fraction of that total. I am so far behind. That is why I have decided to extend this fast until the end of the month. I'm giving myself two more weeks to get this excess show on the road!

I have a plan for the next two weeks and will try to stay mission-minded. Here are the details:

Clean out my walk-in closet. (There could be a few trolls living in there sewing extra clothes at night for all I know. Every time I walk in, there seems to be more clothes than before!)

Massive Toy Purge of the Boy's Toys (With Christmas around the corner, half their stash needs to GO, and pronto!)

Tackle the Garage (Those of you with babies, get ready! I have some reconciling to do with myself about the fact that I won't be having another itty bitty one anytime soon and will be finally parting with loads of baby gear!)

Bookshelf (Can I just say, my heart hurts thinking about all the books that I know need to find new homes? I treasure them. . .)

I have to say that my perspective on things/possessions has vastly changed this last week. In traveling to a third-world country and seeing with my own eyes people who only have the clothes on their back and the bare essentials for living, I've realized that I "own" way too much. I could give so much more to those in need if only I would stop binging on unimportant things. I have gathered and collected my entire life, yet still seemed unfulfilled. Yet the poorest of poor in Nicaragua have bright, smiling faces and are so very thankful for every little thing that they have. The next time I step into my closet and think I have nothing to wear, I will remember the faces of so many who would kill to have more than one option a day.

Another thing that I've learned from my travels is the sheer joy in giving. I guess I've always thought to myself, "It's just one pair of shoes..." or "It's just a few dollars that I can offer to the homeless man..." or "What can donating my stuff and time really communicate to those in need?". I think as Christians, we focus so much on trying to "evangelize" the poor when the first bit of "good news" that they need is tangible help.  Jen Hatmaker writes in her book:

Sometimes the best way to bring good news to the poor is to bring actual good news to the poor.  It appears a good way to bring relief to the oppressed is to bring real relief to the oppressed.  It's almost like Jesus meant what He said.  When you're desperate, usually the best news you can receive is food, water, shelter.  These provisions communicate God's presence infinitely more than a tract or Christian performance in the park  They convey, "God loves you so dearly, He sent people to your rescue.

A haze somehow surrounds the Christian life sometimes. So much threatens to distract us from the main point. People get caught up with the details and complications and rules, but when Jesus was pressed about what was important, He said, "Love God and love people. That's pretty much it."  And we get to be a part of that love in the form of "stuff". We have so much. Let's learn to give it away.

I'm claiming a "do-over" and continuing this fast until I get it right. Pray that God brings the right people to mind as I seek to bless others with my abundance this week. Now, off the the closet I go!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gaining a Third-World Perspective

So many people have asked questions about our recent trip to Nicaragua. We are still reeling from the impact that it made on us and trying to recoup from our travels. What a week we had! I have to say, we will never be the same. We met so many new friends, saw some BEAUTIFUL countryside, learned we know NOTHING of the Spanish language, and did a whole lot of "giving back".  The "third-world perspective" that we gained in just a matter of 7 days is something that we've brought home with us and are still mulling over. THANKFUL and BLESSED are a gross understatement of what we feel about our life after seeing so much poverty and need. But also PRIVILEGED to be able to go and help out a country that we have quickly come to love. Because I can't possibly put into adequate words what I feel, I will do my best to describe what we experienced in pictures. Here are the highlights:

This is the town of San Juan del Sur, where we stayed. It's a quaint fishing village and small tourist stop 20 minutes from the border of Costa Rica. The entire town itself is only 5 blocks by 10 blocks. EVERYONE knows everyone else. That's what we found most endearing about it. After only a few days, we were already running into people that we've previously met before. Everyone was so friendly and there was even a small expat community (made up mostly of Americans) that have settled and made SJDS "home".

 Much of the country is ridden with extreme poverty. Despite the beauty that surrounds the bay, there are families and individuals living in desperate situations. We went to visit a family that a friend of ours is helping build a new home for. Most of the homes look like the one here; wood pallets and sheet metal pressed together to try to keep the heat and rain out. No electricity or running water is found in some of the poorest "barrios".

The people all week are what truly made me fall in love with the country. So many in need and in despair on a daily basis, yet all of them HAPPY and CONTENT with their life. They know how to hold on to each other, develop friendships that last lifetimes, and have a magnificent time playing soccer on the beach every night at sunset. It became a nightly ritual of ours to sit outside at dusk in the sand and enjoy the beauty of the people and the landscape.

During the days that we weren't doing "mission work", we explored this new culture. We found out in a quick minute that all the Spanish that we'd studied in highschool didn't quite cut it with the locals. But being immersed in a place where most didn't speak English, we learned to improvise. I can say our "charades" abilities came in handy, and we actually picked up the language a little quicker than expected. FOODS were the first thing that we tried to memorize. Priorities, you know! There were numerous "mercados" and street vendors selling fresh produce that were delicious and homegrown.

On our 3rd day there, we were hanging out with some locals when all of the sudden, one of our friends recieved a call that there had been an earthquake off the coast of Guatemala (a country to the north) and that the entire city was on a "Tsunami Alert". The sirens blared and everyone was told to evacuate to higher ground for precautionary measures. We retreated to a resort overlooking the bay, as you can see here to the left. After about 3 hours of freaking out, we began to wonder if this was some conspiracy that happened every Tuesday to get the tourists to spend more money at the bars. Luckily, no tsunami and we were eventually allowed to return to the bay area.

We were lucky enough to get to do an amazing hike to the statue of Jesus. It is one of only three in the world that sits at the top of the mountain overlooking SJDS bay. After about a 40 min. hike STRAIGHT UP, we finally made it and the views were breathtaking. Mountains, volcanos, blue ocean waves and rainforests as far as the eye could see. We couldn't take enough pictures, but I won't bore you with them all. Here is a photo of my honey, admiring the view.

On our way back down the mountain and onto the beach, we had one of the most amazing views of the sunset.  I cannot convey to you the magnificence of the sunsets in Nicaragua. We'd heard the rumors, but got to experience them first hand. Apparently, everyone who lives there, doesn't take them for granted. People flock to the beaches night after night to watch them as if it were their favorite television program. Soooo much better than any show I can think of!

Here is a photo of me and the hubby on our first night at dusk. We had just gotten to know some of the families who call San Juan del Sur home and they were gushing about the beauty of Nicaragua. We had so much fun getting to know them and their "missions" that they feel called to in SJDS. So many people are here doing such good for the community. There is such a spirit of humanity amongst the expat community. One that I've yet to witness anywhere else in the world. They truly understand and live out the petition to "Love your neighbor as yourself". We are eternally grateful for their generosity this week.

Another amazing thing that we were able to do was get aquainted with a local woman who has recieved a calling from God to feed the community. In a small town called Rivas, a young woman named Anita came across the town's "garbage dump" and discovered hundreds of kids and their families that spent every single day rummaging around in the trash for anything to sell or to eat. Her heart ached for their poverty, so she decided to start feeding as many as she could. What started out as a small act of kindness has led to a ministry of feeding almost 100 children, 7 days a week! Some days, all by herself! This is more than likely, the only meal that these children will eat all day. We were able to come help serve dinner one night alongside her and just to witness her heart for these kids, her hope to educate them and help them break the cycle of poverty was inspiring. You can find out more about this awesome ministry and get involved HERE at Bethel Mission Rivas.

Something else extraordinary happened this week.  I met a celebrity! (Okay, maybe I'm just saying that because I know it will embarrass her!) But this little lady to my right is the main reason why we decided to visit Nicaragua in the first place. The hubs and I settled in to watch a t.v. show called House Hunter's International and saw an episode about a husband and wife and their four children who decided to leave their comfortable lives in behind in the States to pursue a life of simplification and "giving back". We watched as they found a brand new life in a third-world country and realized that we were also feeling the call to "give back" and simplify. We'd never even heard of San Juan del Sur, but watching the show, we felt the call to go and check it out for ourselves. As fate would have it, I was randomly connected to Miss Julie and we hit it off immediately as she is ALSO a mom blogger!  What a pleasure it was to get to know her this week and serve with her. Her amazing blog is one that I ADORE and I know you will too! Check Out Her Website HERE and get connected with her and Her Community of Moms HERE.  I'm so honored to call her "mi amiga".

And there you have it! We had the most life-impacting week in Nicaragua and we are forever changed by what we saw. We are overcome with thankfulness, overwhelmed by love for a people that only months ago, we never knew existed, and completely inspired by what God was able to teach us this week about love and generosity. Words don't do it justice. Photos can only capture a moment in time. But the emotions. . . .the stirring that we felt by what we experienced this week are engrained on our hearts. Thank you, Nicaragua, for attempting to teach us more about ourselves. . .and about life and love. We shall never be the same.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dump and Flush

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that most of us are not big fans of public restrooms.  There’s the whole ick factor of a peed- upon seat or a toilet bowl full of skid marks, and there’s also the embarrassment that goes along with doing your business in the presence of others.  Sometimes you get the little old lady playing a symphony of farts in the stall next to you, and sometimes you don’t realize the lock is broken on your stall door until someone barges right in on you mid-stream.  However, none of this quite compares to the awkwardness that can result from a single person restroom.

I’m sure y’all know just what I mean too.  You’re waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting to get into the loo, and when the person in there FINALLY emerges, he/she has dropped a MASSIVEstink bomb in the joint.  We’re talkin’ a poo delivery so big that it would likely result in a poop coma afterwards and require all future bathroom visitors to wear a gas mask upon entering.  It is then that you’re forced to decide if you can hold your breath and get in and out of there as fast as humanly possible or if you should just cross your legs and wait for a less polluted peeing environment.

And if you do decide to bite the bullet and enter at your own risk, you then take the chance of someone waiting for you to get out and automatically assuming that YOU are the one responsible for the stench of death.  Then what do you do?  Do you try like heck not to make eye contact and beeline outta there?  Or do you address the elephant in the room and defend yourself?

I was faced with this very same dilemma just this week.  It was during one of the bi-weekly visits to Mother's Day Out in which I was early (shocking, I know) and confronted with the prospect of taking time to go pee before I picked up the little monster.  Upon my arrival, I noticed someone before me had completely tainted any bit of clean air that had once existed in the single person restroom.  I somehow managed to choke my way through a rather unpleasant situation, only to find someone else waiting to use the same contaminated potty that I’d just been tortured to use.  However, I was not about to be blamed for it, so I just came right out and said, “I am NOT the one responsible for the smell of booty in there.“  Of course I’ll never know whether or not the other mom actually believed me, but I felt that I owed it to my reputation to at least try to stick up for myself.

So what have we learned from this little rant here today?  1. It’s important to practice holding your breath for long periods of time.  2. Carry room deodorizer with you at all times.  3. If you absolutelyMUST make a deposit to a public porcelain bank, dump and flush repeatedly!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Simplifying Life: Doing It Scared OR Possessions 3.0

 I have a few confessions to make. First, I'm writing this post early because as you read this I am sitting somewhere in a beautiful fishing village in Nicaragua more than likely overwhelmed by how blessed I truly am in life. I don't see how anyone can travel to a third-world country and NOT feel a little overwhelmed by how differently we live at home compared to so many around the world. I've been this overwhelmed before when I visited Africa and will never be the same. I expect the same thing is happening this week. The second confession goes with the first.  I'll admit I'm writing this post a week in advance because who knows if I will have any Internet connection or way to communicate with you fine people while I am there. Aren't you all feeling special that I thought of you in advance? Well. . .you should be. And since I just realized that I told you that I have a "few" confessions to make and a "few" technically means more than TWO, I will confess this last thing, but only if you'll promise not to spread it around. My third confession:  I AM SCARED.

I have no idea what kind of revelations God has planned for me this week. I just know that my husband and I have been planning and praying for this trip since May and we know God has led us here for a purpose. Neither one of us ever had any intentions of traveling to Nicaragua. Quite frankly, we didn't even know it was a third-world country, that there was lots of need there, or that God was even calling us to ministry in this way, but here we are. God seems to be moving pretty epically in my life lately, and I expect this trip to be nothing less. So as you read this, if you could pray a little prayer for me, that would be fabulous. Cause I can just imagine that today, as I probably sit on the beach eating breakfast and staring out at the sunrise, that God is doing so pretty intense stirring inside me. Especially in the area of "possessions". Nothing snaps you back into reality like realizing that you have sooooo much more than everyone else around you. I know I'm feeling that this week and it scares me to death how that feeling is going to change me to the core. It's an exciting and overwhelming fear, and I know that it will do nothing short of confirm that this place of fasting that I've been in for the last three months has placed me in the center of God's will for my life. I know that, but it doesn't make the fear go away. So, with those confessions, I will leave you with an excerpt from Jen Hatmaker's book, "7", and maybe it will speak to you as it did me.

"I'm two and a half months into 7, and I'm noticing some things. God historically moves epically in my life.  I don't have subtle seasons of change.  Our rhythm works like this:  I experience a maddening tension I can or can't exactly put my finger on, and then BAM.  God kicks me in the teeth and things change. 

7 is becoming epically transformative. Tension led me here; now God is making a mess of things.  I sense God preparing us for change.  My sensitivity of a thirteen-year-old boy.  I feel raw and less and less attached to my stuff.  Scripture is pouncing in my brain like a panther.  It's like when I first got glasses and I couldn't get over how clear everything was. And I walked weird because my perception was altered.  I kept shouting, "Look at all the leaves!  I can see every leaf on the tree!" like it was a miracle after having been impaired for so long.  

I have no idea what this means, but my hands are opening.  I know my next phase of life is not going to look the same. 

I'm scared. Hmmm. When I first typed that, I accidentally spelled sacred.  Perhaps those have always been flip sides of a coin.  Like my friend says, "Obedience isn't a lack of fear. It's just doing it scared.""

Won't you leave me a comment if you are praying for me this week? It would mean the world to me! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I'm a Mean Mom

You probably knew this about me, but I am a horribly mean person. Especially to small children. I should probably start painting my face green and grow a nasty wart on the end of my nose. That way my outside would match my inside and my children would stop being so shocked at my cruelty. I won't let my son taste the Pinesol floor cleaner, despite the fact that it is bright yellow and smells like lemon candy. Mean, right? I keep telling Stinker it's poison, doesn't taste good and will make him sick, but he knows I'm lying. It's obviously a delicious beverage that I am hogging for myself. (Sort of like the vodka.) 
 I also won't make my son a star-shaped turkey sandwich, because we're having lunch at a friend's house today. His brother had sandwiches made for him. Never mind that he is going to school and will not be home for lunch. Never mind that HE gets to go play with friends today. No, I am a very mean, non-sandwich-making horror. Also, I am no longer his best friend. Que triste. 
I won't buy Mr. Grouchy Pants another new iPod game. Nor will I give him my iTunes password. The fact that I have bought three new variations of "Angry Birds" in the past three days is not relevant. They were obviously not entertaining enough. And the fact that he just had a birthday and acquired WAY too many new toys to occupy his time? Again, completely irrelevant. My suggestion that he learn to be thankful for what he has and stop being an entitled brat was not appreciated. I'm such a witch. (He didn't say that. He's far too smart. But I am fluent in toddler-look-speak.)
 I woke the preschooler up because it was a school day. Even though he was tired. I also made him get dressed, even though his body was "exhausted and wouldn't work". I withheld hot chocolate (a.k.a. Preschool coffee) until socks and shoes were on. And I MADE. HIM. EAT. BREAKFAST. Even though his stomach was exhausted. Mean is my first, middle and last name. 
 I made the Grouch stay at school and won't take him on today's play date. I also wouldn't let Stinker stay at his brother's class, even though he really wants to. To be fair, that wasn't my fault. The teacher wouldn't let me swap out kids for the day. She's mean too. She must be a mom.
 I made mashed potatoes for dinner last night. Enough said, right? No child likes mashed potatoes. Well, mine did. Until last night. I made cereal for breakfast this morning. No child likes cereal. Today, anyway. And just because they ask for it, doesn't mean they like it, or really mean they want to eat it. Forcing them to eat it is practically a crime. Book me, Danno. 
 I need to wrap this up because it's been at least 20 minutes since I had to say "no" or make a child cry. Can't get behind. May your day be infinitely better than mine is sure to be.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


We must become Amommymous.

We must proudly give up our own names. We can no longer be Michelle; a woman with interests, ambitions or desires of her own. We become Noah's Mom or Micah's Mom, so that all of our interests, ambitions or desires are replaced by those of our children. Yes, we must happily transform ourselves into mindless robots, only capable of doing what we are programmed to do.

We must give up our appearance. We must let ourselves go and use our make-up free visage and food-stained sweatpants as badges of honour. Time and money spent on personal appearance are time and money not spent on our children.

We must abandon the things we used to enjoy. We no longer belong in a bar with our friends; we have to get up early for Gymboree or some other crap exciting activity. We have no business watching HBO, we can't even know about it because we are so busy watching Disney Junior or the Imagination Movers (whatever the heck that is.) We can't blast gangsta rap in the car like we used to because it's been replaced with Veggie Tales Sing-A-Longs. . .BUT THAT'S OKAY because, as good moms, we like all this drivel kid stuff even better.

We must never think of ourselves. The minute we put our own needs ahead of our child's we have committed an act of child abuse. No matter what. We must, like dogs, gratefully accept whatever is left for us after our child's needs have been met.

And if we dare to express ourselves in anyway that deviates from this celebrated amommymity; if we fail to martyr and obliterate ourselves for our children, we are deemed unfit. It is assumed we are bad mothers, undeserving of our sacred, ordained role in life.


I happen to think that sometimes prioritizing your needs is putting your kids' needs first. I think my kids deserve a happy mom who is interesting and appealing to their father. I think my kids deserve to have a mom who is refreshed from having some "me time". I think my kids deserve a mom that isn't filled with resentment but a model of someone who knows how to take care of herself as well as others. I think my kids deserve to get to know the funny, quirky, messed up person their mom is and not have to wait until they are adults.

I think my kids deserve to know that they are not the center of the universe.

Because all of those things are true.

And the rest, this Amommymous? Looks and smells of rubbish to me. And I don't believe it was ever God's plan for parents. 

"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates."  Deut. 6:6-9

This verse has been one that has spoken to me the most clearly lately. The key word being IMPRESS.  An impression is something that you give to someone as they see you being yourself.  Not becoming something that you aren't.  Kids need to see us standing out and being responsible and taking care of ourselves.  It's one of the easiest ways that they learn that it is important to take care of themselves.  We need to consciously impress upon them the necessity of building up themselves as an individual. We do this by example. By making an impression.  Happy parents make better parents. You can't give your little ones joy and peace and freedom and laughter when all you have inside you is restrictions and feelings of entrapment and depression from the weight of giving up all that you are and all that makes you one-of-a-kind.  So this "Amommymous". . .it's going to have to stop. Take a breather with me folks. . .the kids won't become little delinquents in the 30 minutes it takes you to go tanning and grab a Sonic coke in peace. In fact. . .they may need the break from YOU as much as you need it from them!

**This post is a part of a link-up with my new friend, Helene.  Check her out by clicking HERE!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Things I've Learned This Week

If Obama wins, I'm leaving the country. If Romney wins, I'm still leaving the country. This is not a political post.  I just want to travel.  Nicaragua HERE I COME!

Packing for a trip abroad is a lot harder than I thought. Although it could just be because my kids keep sneaking action figures and toilet paper rolls in my bag. "You'll need this, mommy". For all I know, he may be right. . .

Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend, which means it’ll pretty much be dark as soon as you finish your lunch.

The bags under my eyes would be so much cuter if they had designer labels.

When I was little I didn’t care about things like what to wear, my parents dressed me. Looking back at some of my old pictures, it’s obvious that my parents didn’t care either.

You know you're getting old when your year of birth is no longer immediately visible in drop-down menus and you have to start scrolling down.

Halloween is by far the safest day to kill a person and leave them in a chair on your porch.

I’m not cleaning this week. I’m going to tell everyone the cobwebs and dust are part of the Halloween decorations.

I hate it when I pick my child up from school and realize he's wearing navy blue pants and a black shirt. I thought they were both black this morning. SMH. I need to learn to function more properly in the mornings or my son will be labeled the "little hobo boy".

When I die, I want to be cremated and put inside an Etch-a-Sketch.

Taylor Swift waved at a boy yesterday and he didn’t wave back… So she will probably have a new album coming out tomorrow.

Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram have taught us that for every giant technological leap ahead, we will find a way to use it for dumb crap.

Apple pie is a perfectly acceptable midnight snack, right? I mean, I haven't had my quota of fruits today, so it seems fitting that I try to work it in before I head to bed. . .

“Cleaning your house with children in it is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos”.
So true…. which is why my philosophy is to not even try. And to eat Oreos.

Guess what's for dinner when mom doesn't want to go to the store for groceries? ....frozen pizza, Cheeto puffs, and bananas. I think we hit all the food groups, right?

I have decoded toddler language ... "shh" means louder! Who knew?!

**Despite what I may think, God never gives me more than I can handle. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Simplifying Life: Storing Up Treasures or Possessions 2.0

Okay, let's just say this hasn't been the most productive month for me in the fasting process. I've had a TON on my plate as of late. We are in the process of packing for an exciting mission trip to Nicaragua in 3 DAYS and that has pretty much consumed most of my time this last week. Not to mention Halloween. Needless to say, I've gotten very little done in the "dividing and conquering and organizing" of my possessions this week.  I did, however, go through all the boys old shoes and selected 16 pairs to take to Nicaragua with us to give out as we see need. I hear that kids down there NEED shoes. There are a lot of parasites and kiddos are continuously getting sick because they run around barefoot in town and on the beaches. Hopefully, 16 children can benefit from the pairs that we take. I'd like to go through my own shoe collection too, but I'm running out of suitcase space.

And I'll be a little honest. I'm a bit attached to my clutter. Still. I know, you would think we would be over it by now.

I just can't seem to pull myself away from some things. For example, baby stuff. Lordy! My husband "thinks" we are done having children. I beg to differ with him (wink). I would love to try once more for a little girl.  I think the thought of having a daughter makes my husband go mentally insane. (He's probably worried that she will turn out just like her mother!) So back to the stuff. I have somehow managed to hoard a whole garage worth of baby things that could (and should) be used on one more little bundle. Crib, jumparoo, play yard, baby swing, bumbo chair, exer-saucer, the list goes on and on. And on and on. It's probably time to go through it all and give it away to an expecting family who could be blessed by it. I know this in my heart, it's just so hard to give away something that reminds me of a time I hold so dear. Mine aren't babies anymore. Three and five are young, don't get me wrong. But I desperately still crave the days of infancy again. The cuddling and rocking to sleep. Those days have past and holding onto "things" just for memory sake is just taking up much-needed space. So. . . .I shall tear myself apart from these things and take hold of my freedom from too many possessions. It's a bittersweet battle than I'm in currently.

I know next week will probably be a major turning point in this phase of the fast for me. Seeing others in more need than I am used to will put things in perspective for me. Nicaragua is a "third-world country" and they experience poverty like I've never known. How I pray that getting a taste for the simplified life will spark something inside me that I could bring home. I desperately want to be undone. I want to feel compassion like I've never known and no longer feel attached to my "stuff". I want to see it for what it really is.....temporary.  I know longer want to find my happiness in temporal things. I want the joy that I find today and tomorrow and for the rest of my days to be in the things eternal; the things that I can pass on to future generations.

And so. . .I shall continue to declutter. Pray for me. I'm ready for next week. I'm ready for divine revelation. I ready for God to give me a grand new understanding of what it means to be "rich".

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matthew 6:19-21

Want to read more about my fast
from "possessions"? 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I Hope You Stay Awhile

If you are new to the MBP family, this post is for YOU. If you're not, you may want to keep reading anyway just because you love me a lot and I may say something randomly funny and completely irrelevant at any moment.

Monkey Dander.

I've decided that since our little blog community is growing by the minute (thank you all for sharing me on your facebooks and other blogs!), I'd do a little introduction every month and let you know where to find the good stuff. (As if it isn't ALL good stuff, but I digress.)

Without further adou, here are November's Feature Posts:

Secrets of Parenthood: Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me??
The following secrets are morsels that I wished parents would have shared with me before I had children.  I feel as though they may be more important than those petty breathing exercises that you're taught in Lamaze. Nevertheless, they are all facts that I picked up by pure experience.

My Perfect Alibi
One of the unforseen perks of this motherhood gig is the ability to deflect all gross and unladylike behavior. I revel in these magical days when my kid cannot verbally defend himself. Those days are slowly but surely coming to a close as his vocabulary grows every single day. What follows, however, is an account of how one mom, in all her poopy, dirty, tardy glory, can blame any and every unflattering and smelly occurrences on a pint-sized mute.

Hot Moms Drive 
What’s the big deal, you may wonder. Well, I have a confession: I will NEVER drive a minivan. Ever. I’ll ride a bicycle. Take the bus. Hitchhike. Segway. Use my good ole-fashioned “ChevroLegs.” You may be wondering why I feel this way, and it’s pretty simple.....

Wanna Be Sister Wives?
Because I am fascinated by all things deemed “socially wrong” and have a hard time turning down the bounty of jokes such programs offer, I grabbed a bowl of popcorn and a Bible (for research purposes) and settled in for the hour-long ride of the season premiere that I had recorded on DVR.TLC’s hit show follows the boring-while-scandalous lives of a polygamous family.One husband. Four Wives. A crap ton of kids with daddy and multiple-mommy issues....

For those of you who have read and commented on my blog posts for months, thank you so much for being a part of a community that continues to encourage and inspire me! Your thoughts and comments mean the world to me. In fact, I'd just LOVE it if you'd connect with me on a more intimate level. . .say, maybe. . . .FACEBOOK?  
Here's to a fabulous Novemeber!! We've got great things coming up that I can't wait to share!! Stay beautiful, my little Banana Brains!!
Miss Banana Pants