are you part of the 25%?

In 8 days at the beach I bet I've talked to 20 people face to face, if I include the cashier at the grocery store.  Seriously, it might be more like 15, and that's counting the lady whose bathing suit I complimented.  I'm a social introvert, so getting away and being with few people other than my immediate family is my cup of tea.  Solitude recharges me.

But of those 15 people I've talked to, 4 of them (around 25%) have included some mention of "not living the life they expected."  I find this really significant.  I'm not off on a church retreat or a mission trip or a girls weekend.  I'm at the beach, with my family, building sandcastles and making small talk with the people splashing in the waves nearby.  No round table "tell me something interesting about yourself" conversations.  And yet this really personal theme has risen up out of 1/4 of the conversations I've had with people I only know casually.

"This isn't how I thought my life would look."

"I can't believe this is my life."

"I never thought I'd walk through times like these."

No one was complaining, really.  No one was crying or hanging their head in shame.  But no one was celebrating, either.

I'm writing today because I figured that if my stats are right, 25% of you might need to read something about this "my life isn't going how I thought it would" thing.  So here goes:

First things first: you're not alone.  I'm willing to bet that none of you, as young women, said, "When I grow up, I'm going to struggle with my weight.  No -- make that infertility.  Actually, I'll probably grow up to be depressed and my husband will be a closet drinker." We don't plan this stuff.

Maybe you're like a mom like me, and the day-to-day challenges of parenthood are simply wearing you out.  Maybe you're single when you thought you'd be married with a family, or maybe your marriage is crumbling.  Maybe you're caring for a parent with cancer, maybe your husband left you for someone else, or maybe you got blindsided with the news that someone you love is struggling with substance abuse.  Whatever it is, your suffering is preparing you for ministry.  It's true.  I know it.  From your trials will come a splendid byproduct: the ability to get in the trenches and pull someone else up.  And when that day comes, you're actually going to be excited to share your story, because you'll feel the Holy Spirit using you for His glory.  Which is what it's all about.  Expanding the Kingdom.

There's much more to be said about suffering -- how it produces endurance and enriches faith, and we can talk about that another time -- but for today, if you're in that 25%, take comfort in knowing that you are being groomed.  Groomed for ministry.  Groomed for service.  Groomed to love.  So get up!  Stand at the ready!  Your suffering will soon be the salve that soothes someone else's ache.

...God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4
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I am here right now.

Oh what I'd give to bottle up this peace, this calm, this still heart and relaxed countenance that I inherit when I'm here, this ability to just sit and be, this willingness to unplug and this ability to unwind and fret not.  The me I know I'm made to be comes out when I'm here -- a me that doesn't worry and doesn't angst and doesn't hurry.  I like me better here and I want to take me home like this and my fingers are crossed that I can make it happen.  Even if just a little bit.

Somewhere between morning swims and afternoon naps I've found a few goodies I think are worth sharing.  Click through and see if you agree.

How to talk to your daughter about her body.

From Shauna Niequist, post vacation.

For eyes that see the joy.

Concrete truths.  Because I need reminding.

And a good exercise for when you have a few minutes.  This is from Thanksgiving, but it's just right as summer winds down.

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recent Pintories (pinterest victories), part 2

Three more Pins I tried -- with success.  Part 1 is here.

Lemon & Rosemary Chicken Bake.  It took all of 5 minutes to put this together, and every single person in our family liked this.  Pretty enough to serve to company, too.

Q-tip painting.  This kept 4 kids between the ages of 2 and 7 busy for about 20 minutes.  I'd call that a win.  The website has two free printables: a castle and this tree.

Nerf Gun Ninjas
We're in the dog days of summer.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  If you have a boy who has a Nerf gun, get a half-dozen balloons next time you're at the grocery store and set them up in a big room (a room without any precious knick knacks) and let him take aim at these ninjas.  No joke, this kept my crew busy for the better part of a rainy afternoon.

More soon.
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brain dump

One of the reasons I write is because it gives me a place to dump all my mental clutter -- all those things rattling around in my head.  Heaven knows I need to free up all the space I can.

I'm brain dumping today -- and in an effort to refine my POV and write more concise posts, I'm giving myself 5 minutes and writing the first 10 things that come to mind.

1.  I love to bake.  I could bake all day, from sun up to sun down.  Today, it's banana bread.  Last night, it was whole wheat bread.

2.  My kids are 400x happier, sweeter, and more peaceful when they're outside.  We went fishing this morning.  We went biking this afternoon.

3.  I love washing laundry but I hate putting it away.  I believe in teaching kids to put their own clothes away (part for their benefit, part for mine).  :)

4.  I was skeptical of last summer, but it's no scam.  Two free games / kid / day all summer.  Check out the site to see if there's a participating bowling alley near your house.

5.  I need a new laptop in a bad way but I hate to spend money.  It's six years old.  My spacebar is broken (shattered from overuse) and sometimes when I type a word the letters don't come out in order, even if I've typed them properly.  Like "mailbox" can come out "ailboxm."  Part funny, part annoying.  Mostly annoying.

6.  I'm running a half marathon in December and I am so happy about it.  I've done a half-dozen of them in the past 6 years (but only one full).

7.   Taking pictures makes my heart sing, especially when I take a child's picture and I get to surprise the mom with a shot of a special moment that she didn't know was being captured.

8.  Speaking of singing, nothing stirs my soul like music.  Nothing.

9.  My favorite movie of all time is the original version of The Parent Trap.  You've Got Mail is a close second.  Or maybe it's the other way around.

10.  I think I'll start playing the piano again.  Once upon a time I was pretty OK at it, and knowing that #8 is true is good motivation to start twinkling the ivories again.

What about you?  In a writing rut?  Hoping to refine your point of view?  Needing to just get your mind a 'turning a little bit?  Posting a few notes like these might help.

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my recent Pintories (pinterest victories)

OPI Bubble Bath
My Pinterest feed told me that I could improve the state of my dry, cracked heels by first soaking them in a solution of half vinegar / half water for 15-20 minutes, then scrubbing them with a pumice.

The verdict?  It worked.  My feet look as good as they do when I have a professional pedicure.
Note: I've also read to add 1/4 C Listerine to the soak.  I tried that too, with no better results.  What I did notice was some minty smelling feet.  If you're into that, add some Listerine.  If not, skip it.

Also from Pinterest is this marinade for a flank steak -- a lean, readily available cut of beef that can sometimes be tough.  The verdict?  Delicious. The marinade tenderized the beef and the cooking process was simple (you cook the steak in a frying pan and the mess is very minimal).
Finally, I needed a side dish for the flank steak, and this cold quinoa salad was just the ticket.  I subbed black beans for the chickpeas like my sister-in-law does, and it's everything I can do to keep from snitching it from the bowl while it chills before dinner.

More Pintories coming soon.
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Hang around our house long enough and you'll learn that a Saturday morning without bacon is like a day without sunshine.  Despite years of being a bacon-cooking-failure, Jen at Balancing Beauty & Bedlam introduced me to baking bacon in the oven.  No more grease splatters -- perfect bacon every time.  I've tinkered with the recipe a little bit and here is what works for me. 

1.  Line a large jelly roll pan with foil (make sure the seams are folded and pinched well if you have to use two sheets of foil to cover your pan).

2.  Place bacon on the pan in a single layer without overlapping the strips.

3.  Put pan in a cold oven.  Turn the oven on to 375 degrees.  (I know, a photo of uncooked bacon is far from appetizing, but just to give you a visual...) 

4.  When the oven if fully preheated, start to watch the bacon.  Cook to desired crispness and remove from pan.  Place on paper towels to collect the extra grease.  Cleanup is a breeze -- toss the foil in the trash & put the pan back in the cabinet!
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camp is here (and a bunch of photos)

In planning for June - August, the idea of traipsing all over town for summer activities made me feel a little wacky.   Then again, having four kids home for 10 weeks with me as their camp counsellor made weak in the knees.  I needed a solution.  Enter my mom, who came up with a brilliant idea: camp could come to us.  Kids would get the enrichment, we wouldn't have to leave home, AND we'd get to host friends and their families in our home.  Genius, mom.  Genius.

Fast forward to mid-June when we'd rallied a precious high school girl who loves art along with a few kids in our neighborhood who love art too.  We called it art camp.  Tonight was week 4.  Watercolor.

In other news, we tried dragon fruit today.  Beautiful to look at, curious to taste.  The looks tells you kiwi, but the flavor... maybe a hint of onion?  Some sweet parts, some vegetable tasting parts.  Gorgeous nonetheless.

And speaking of veggies, I made a delicious butternut squash soup tonight.  It was divine (I thought).  Unfortunately the kids didn't take the bait, but I'm not giving up in my pursuit to make veggies a happy thing around here.  Stay tuned.

It's been a good day.  The older ones played Sorry! for the better part of the afternoon, ate popcorn out of fancy bowls, and sorted things out when one was sure the other was cheating.  The laundry is caught up on and I even got a nice long run in at sunset.   Joy.  Serious joy.  Claiming it.

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a link and a shift

I'm doing a whole lot more reading than I am writing these days, and as a result have another timely post to share that you'll hopefully enjoy as I did.

In other news, I'm feeling a minor blog redesign well as a shift in the types of things I post (but I'm not quite sure where said shift will take me).  More concise, more pictorial -- that part I'm sure of -- but not quite set on the primary topics I'll focus on.  Stay tuned.  And please {pretty please}, chime in if you have any thoughts for me, because writer's block has set in in a major way.

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confidence in motherhood: is it even possible?

Written in response to my blogger friend (and real-life friend) Courtney DeFeo's post "Confidence in Motherhood: Is It Even Possible?"  Someday I'll learn to write short posts. Until then, thanks for hanging in there with me.

No matter our profession, I think we all have days where our confidence wanes and we wonder "Am I doing this right?  Am I the right person for this job?" Motherhood is no exception.   The modern-day myth that we should be uber-confident, "I'm-doing-an-awesome-job-and-I-have-it-all-under-control" women simply isn't realistic.  Just like any other job, there are places where moms feel sure-footed, and there are places where we feel lost at sea. It's normal for our confidence to ebb and flow a little bit.

A little bit is OK, but I have about eight years of journal entries that mention feeling "unconfident" about my job as a stay-at-home mom.  It didn't cripple me, but it popped up almost every day in some form -- feeling like I should be doing something more.  Like being a mom wasn't enough.  I feel like I'm finally on the other side of this strife, and I write today because I believe there are two big reasons why a mom's confidence in her role is something worth fighting for:

1.  Being (and being around) someone with crummy self-confidence is no fun. Your husband doesn't want to come home to a whiny, bedraggled, "this is so hard and I don't think I'm doing a good job" wife.  He just doesn't.  Should you lie and tell him your day was simply fabulous -- that going to the grocery store with a tantrum-throwing 3-year old and baby with a runny nose was better than Disney World?  No.  But the next time you're tempted to rattle off some huge speech about how hard your day was, why not come up with something better to say? Find the good. Sure, being patient with little ones and methodical with discipline and crafty in meal planning can be redundant and exhausting, but it's our job -- and we can either focus on the pros or wallow in the cons. And wallowing in the cons is a sin, so cut it out.

2.  Our attitude toward motherhood (and work, and marriage and everything else) rubs off on our kids.  They hear a fraction of what we tell them, but learn a ton from what we show them.  Even if you come from a long line of worriers or complainers or woe-is-me'ers, quit it.  Decide that you'll be the one who breaks the chain.  Go ahead and pass down the DNA for good hair or straight teeth, but for Pete's sake, stop the train of low self-confidence and self-defamation.

Sometimes our feelings are really just bad habits.  That's where I was.  Wondering if I was "doing enough" had simply become part of my daily to-do list, and it eventually became a distraction that stole my joy.  I didn't wallow around in pity all day, but in my own little mind, I couldn't quit wondering if this was "all" I should be doing.

I prayed incessantly that God would take these feelings of inadequacy.  Nothing changed.  I memorized scripture.  Nothing changed.  I reminded myself of the importance of my role and gave myself pep talks.  Nothing changed.  Truthfully, I don't know what caused the shift (probably the prayer), but this feeling of inadequacy has lifted (rejoice!), and below are three things I believe can help foster (and maintain) a healthy level of self-confidence in motherhood.


My confidence as a mom is not unlike my confidence in my physique.  When I'm exercising regularly and eating fairly well, I don't really even notice my body.  I don't look in the mirror to see if my face looks bloated or check to see if my triceps jiggle when I wave. When I'm taking care of myself, I don't think about whether jeans hug my booty too tight.  It's easier to be confident because I know I'm trying.

But when I'm eating junk and and skipping my morning jog, I become really self-conscious.  My mood turns sour, I notice every lump and bump, and I look for my "fat clothes" when I get dressed in the morning. The scale might not have budged from last week when I was taking good care of myself, but my confidence has taken a dramatic turn.

When I'm trying -- when I'm doing things I know are good for my health -- I feel more confident about how I look.

Similarly, I'm confident as a parent when I know I'm trying.  What does this look like?  For me, "trying" might mean something as fundamental as wholeheartedly doing things with our kids, like playing soccer out back, helping our daughter with her piano lesson, or jingling a rattle for the baby.  Other times it means working diligently on planning nutritious meals, keeping up with the laundry, or reading bedtime stories without looking at the clock. It can be as simple as starting my day praying over each child, asking for eyes to see who needs what from me that day.   "Trying" means giving it our all -- doing the best we can, whether it's reading about discipline, being consistent with consequences, or playing a game of hopscotch.  Sometimes I actually say the word out loud to myself when I need a little prod.  "Try."  There's great confidence to be found in working hard. 

{Aside: on the days I feel most confident, I'm trying AND I'm undistracted.  I'm not building Legos and texting.  I'm not walking behind my 2-year old on his tricycle and talking on my phone.  I feel most confident that I'm doing my job well when I don't have an iPhone in my hand.  But that's just me.}

Be with old people.

I get by with a little help from my friends -- especially the older ones.  I have a handful of ladies in my life whose children are grown, and spending time with these women gives me confidence (and refreshment!).  The little things that challenge me on a daily basis -- the temper tantrums, the ear infections, the potty training, the learning to read -- these things become so minor when I'm with moms who have already traveled that road. Being with older moms gives me perspective about my "problems."

When we only surround ourselves with moms who are in our same stage and phase, it's easy to become extra wrapped up in the minuscule things of the moment and miss the big picture.  It's hard to see the forest for the trees.  I'd encourage you to reach out to a few women you respect whose children are older than yours, even if it's just by a few years.  There's great confidence (and wisdom) to be found in spending time with people who have "been there, done that."

Take your job seriously.

Think of your job as a mom like it's a high ranking corporate position.  Asses your specific responsibilities and look at your daily flow.  Define your long range goals for your family and each child, and develop a strategy to reach them.  Evaluate strengths and weaknesses within each person in the "company" and determine how you can strengthen the weaknesses.  Consider what activities within the "organization" can be eliminated (or added) to create greater efficiency or enhance corporate culture.  Think like a CEO.

Reflect on the job you held before becoming a mom (or the job you currently hold).  If you weren't confident in your ability to complete a task, what did you do?  Feel sorry for yourself?  Lay your head on your desk and pout?  Decide your corporation was doomed?  Of course not!  You put on your thinking cap to solve the problem, and asked for help from a veteran.   Motherhood is no different.  Use your mind, be cognisant of which tasks deserve (and get) your attention, and make time to learn from those who have more experience than you.  Treating motherhood like a profession instead of just something you do every day is a great first step in becoming a more confident parent.

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