Merry Christmess: An Open Letter to the Internet to Back Off My Holidays

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dear Internet,

Yep, you, the whole Internet. Back off my holidays, seriously.

It seems you need a reminder of your role in my life. You are a tool. You are not judge, you do not care most or know best. You are there for me to use and not the other way around.

Internet, you've gone too far. In the past, I've let you question my time management, my parenting skills, my ability to cook, craft, and all things domestic. I've let you crowd my brain with plenty of bah-humbuggery the rest of the year, but now you got me questioning my Christmas, and that's just not cool.

Am I giving enough gifts to my kids? Am I spoiling them? Is it okay to lie to them about Santa? Is it okay to call it an ugly Christmas sweater if there's a nativity on it?!? 

In the last few weeks I've seen red cups become weapons of Christmas destruction, one mom's overflow of gift-giving be set ablaze by commentators, and a multitude of ads trying to manipulate my consumerism into "what's best" for my family. I can't take it anymore!

I'll give you credit for a few good things, sure. There have been toy drives, Christmas wishes, and viral videos of mall Santa's going above-and-beyond their call of duty. You can keep that coming, and in the spirit of the season, please don't feel you need to sensationalize the title of said videos with provocative script by using phrases like "You won't believe..." or "What happens next..." We get it. You want us to watch the video.

But, then what?

Internet, you are nothing without US. Without the doers, the watchers, the be-ers out there among the droves of holiday participators longing for a bright season of hope, you are as valuable as a lump of coal in Scrooge's stocking.

So, let's drop the attacks. Let's lose the judgment. Please stop the insanity of forcing us to feel. 

Christmas is already perfect. 

You only allow us to say "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" if we're being ironic, sarcastic, or fanatic...but that doesn't make it untrue. You don't get it, Internet, and that's okay. You aren't here to inspire us or even educate us. You are here to channel the best of what we are, with the hope of what we want to be. 

And that's up to us.

You can keep your cat videos and your pop-culture memes all you want. I'm just requesting you start to flush out the fear-mongering articles, the guilt-inducing ads, and the hiding-behind-handles commentary attacks that make us all want to set New Year's resolutions against you.

So, here's my effort. Here's my contribution to you. I don't care if one person reads it or it lights up someone's twitter feed. I'm using you in the best way I know how - to let someone stumble upon this and just feel one thing: not alone.

I want to extend a cyber-holiday-hug and let moms know that they're doing Christmas right, even if they forget to make nut-free cookies for their kid's Kindergarten Winter Party or use a bathrobe as a last minute shepherd costume in the church play.

I want to encourage people that this season of high emotion includes a roller-coaster of feelings that can dip down into despair, but still hang onto the hope of a new day ahead - that grief and sorrow are also normal this time of year, just rarely okay to talk about.

And, I want to exclaim tidings of great joy for all people, that thousands of years ago a tiny human came into the world when things were a total wreck (hate, terrorism, genocide) and a glimmer of eternal hope was offered to our unworthy souls that transcends all emotion and reason.

Internet, please stop making a mess of Christmas. The world is not worse off than it ever has been. The world is not less safe. The world is not less saved. 

Jesus is actually the reason for all seasons. Regardless of what season you find us in (alone or popular, rich or poor) I regret to inform you that what you have to say just doesn't matter.

You are nothing without us. And we are nothing without Jesus.

So, Merry Christmas, Internet. Peace be with you.


Big Love for Wee Sprout: Nature's Little Squeeze Reusable Food Pouches

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sometimes I stumble across a product I love so much, that I track down the manufacturer and let them know I would hug them in person if I could.  Wee Sprout is one of those companies!

I never get paid to endorse any products that I mention on my blog, so you can rest assured that this mama is giving you honest feedback on items I truly use and love.

Do you have a picky eater in your family?

My daughter, Daphne, would live on cereal and spaghetti if I let her. It's like pulling teeth from a fish to get her to take a bite of veggies or fruit.  BUT, she loves those Go-go Fruit pouches!? I was paying way too much for them in the store, trying my best to find coupons or buy in bulk when it suddenly struck me, There must be a better way!

There is! Wee Sprout makes three different sizes of food pouches that are dishwasher safe, freezable, and totally reusable. You can fill it with smoothie, pudding, applesauce, or any one of your own concoctions so you can sneak-some-healthy into your kiddo's day!

As you can see - Daphne's a fan! I love to blend up some bananas with a couple tablespoons of apple juice and freeze them for her lunches. By the time it thaws out, she has a yummy banana smoothie ready to slurp down. (Just be sure to let the preschool teacher know not to throw it away after lunchtime!)

I rinse mine out with warm, soapy water, then toss it in the top rack of my dishwasher for a thorough cleaning. They are super durable, easy to use, and saves me a TON of money too!

Additionally, Wee Sprout is a family owned company right here in Tennessee! I was thrilled to contact the owner and let her know how much I loved the product, and I feel great supporting small business that promotes healthy living for kids and clearly keeps real life, busy mamas in mind when designing their products.

These little squeezes would make GREAT stocking stuffers for kids, wonderful baby shower presents, or an awesome gift for the mom-friend you love to play-date with!

Squeeze your little ones and buy them Nature's Little Squeeze today! You can know you are supporting small business and healthy living too!

Fearfully Made: How Do I Live With Fear?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Motherhood comes with many things.  Love, awe, gratitude, patience, and selflessness.  These are the wonderful things I've grown in (sometimes begrudgingly) since I first set eyes on my own offspring.

But, something else that comes with motherhood is worry...and lots of it.  As my children grow, so do my fears.

It starts off small, checking on them while they are napping to make sure they're breathing; knowing where my phone and the nearest ice pack is at all times as they learn to climb; praying for them at school as they start to develop beyond my grasp.  And on and on.  Many of these things seem within my control, many of these worries are calmed by the illusion that I have the power to prevent them if I plan enough, work hard, and pay enough attention to detail.

Then I get on Facebook, or Instagram, or watch the news at all.  Turns out just about anything can kill us at any time.  I've seen reports about the dangers of flip flops for heaven's sake!  Articles about how babies get injured from this or that seem to inundate my newsfeed at all times.  Child abductions and horrible diseases become part of my regular checklist in praying for protection for my family.

And I am afraid.

Are these fears reality?  Am I crazy to be anxious about every little thing?  Is it okay to NOT worry about something, or does that make me an uncaring mother???

We can work ourselves up to the point of worrying about worrying and suddenly all the mothers I know are flooded with more anxiety than a chihuahua on Redbull!  WHAT GIVES?!

I can't take it anymore.  I am tired of being afraid.  I am over letting my joy be stolen by worry for things I do not have control over.  I am done with feeling the burden of fear when it is not mine to carry.

Psalm 139:14 (NIV) 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

The word "fearfully" here does NOT mean that I live in fear of the world around me.  The word actually reflects fear in the sense of respect and reverence (i.e. "fear of the Lord") and a healthy acknowledgement of HIS sovereignty.  We were made to hand over our fears to God - in full acceptance that His works are wonderful and we revere His divine wisdom to act in His perfect will.  

1 John 4:18 reminds us that "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..."so I can rest in God's perfect love for me, reflect that in my life through faith and action, and rid myself of the fears in this world.

We can't worry about everything.  We just can't.  (Trust me, I've tried.)  It's exhausting and impossible and futile.  But, we worship a God who has no need for worry.  Not only can He take on all our cares and concerns, but He extinguishes them and can help us steer clear of them in the future.

My big secret to driving out fear?  Focus on His perfect love.  

When I feel the lies creeping up on me (you know the ones:  You're not good enough.  You're ruining your children. You don't deserve this.) I take a deep breath and pray to the God who made me to hand Him my insecurities.  

When I feel the worries crashing down on me (all the what ifs! What if there's a shooter at school?  What if it's not just the chicken pox? What if, what if, what if...) I read the Scripture or sing a worship song and refocus my thoughts to truths that are steadfast regardless of what the day holds.

We live in a fearful world that's ready to amplify our worries if we let it.  But we serve a God who created the universe, and nothing is too major for Him.  

Yes, there are terrible tragedies that many of us will encounter in this life.  It sucks.  I hate it.  I do not belittle pain or grief or turmoil that we each experience.  But, my hope is that we can encourage one another to not let those fears control our minds, hearts, spirits, or actions.  

So, when you see that fear pop up in your newsfeed today - stop it in its tracks!  Text someone an encouraging word.  Hug your kid.  Kiss your husband.  High five a friend.  Take a deep breath and drive out that fear with the perfect love God has for you right now in this time and place.  

And take joy in the thought that you are wonderfully made. 


Heaven Sent: Why I Love Earth Mama Angel Baby

Friday, November 6, 2015

I recently wrote a post all about breastfeeding, where I mentioned how much I love Earth Mama Angel Baby's Natural Nipple Butter.  Since then, I've gotten to try out some more of their products and mamas, let me tell you - this stuff is heaven sent!
It's rare for me to blatantly endorse products, I save my soapbox for only things I truly love.  So, while this is only my opinion, I hope you take my review here as an honest mama's thumbs up for the following products! (I don't sell these or make any money off of this, I promise!)

I'll even send a FREE SAMPLE and $1-Off coupon
to the first 5 people who EMAIL ME,
subject line: HEAVEN SENT!

Natural Nipple Butter: This stuff is awesome - as I've already told you how it is fantastic to prevent cracked, sore nipples when breastfeeding.  But, did you know it could also be used for chapped lips, backup diaper cream, drool rash, or even as breast pump lube?  Woohoo!  I'm all for the multi-purposing of this product, and I love that it is safe for mom and baby.  Be one of the first five people to email me and you'll get a free sample!

Organic Milkmaid Tea:  Fall is here and winter is on the way - warm up your insides with this yummy tea and help your milk production at the same time!  If you are a tea lover, you'll love this.  The fennel seed gives it a slightly licorice-y flavor, which I personally like, and it would probably make a good iced tea as well if that's your preference.  While I don't exclusively use organic products, it's wonderful to know this tea is super safe for my milk production.  This sweet sipper is USDA Certified 100% Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified and Certified Kosher. I like to sip it in the morning and afternoon...and maybe with a cookie or two (shh, don't tell.)
Booby Tubes: Got ouchie tatas? You mamas gotta try these!  At first I was a bit skeptical how something gel-free could be comforting, but once I stuck these puppies in the freezer and used them after a feeding - ahhh, serious relief!  What I love most about them is that they can be used either cold (to reduce swelling or tenderness) OR hot (to promote let-down and milk flow and also prevent clogged ducts)! Again safe for mama and baby, they are natural and made with a 100% organic cotton shell and filled with all-natural flax seed.
A Little Something for Baby: My FAVORITE by far! Mamas, if you don't get this at a baby shower - buy it yourself!  This little kit is perfect to welcome a new little one into the world.  I've used mine on baby Vivian and I'm excited to take it with us over the holidays while we travel (the products are perfect for on-the-go!)  The bath products have a delicious, vanilla-orange scent that will make you want to nibble your baby all the more.  Vivi was calm and relaxed as I bathed her and lotioned her and I was thrilled to see her diaper rash disappear after a few uses of the bottom balm.  I also used the baby oil on a couple spots she developed cradle cap and it made it much easier to remove.  This kit is perfect for a gift too, so I'm thinking Santa might be putting another one in baby Viv's stocking this year!

Let me know if you have any questions about these products!  I don't sell them at all - but I'll give you my honest opinion!  You can find all these and more on the Earth Mama Angel Baby website and almost anywhere that sells baby products. Be sure to email me for a coupon!

Motherhood: It's Okay To Be Good At Other Things

Thursday, October 29, 2015

"I'm not good at this," I thought to myself as I gripped the steering wheel, cringing, and biting my tongue from yelling at my daughter in the back seat.

"I'm good at many things.  But, I am not good at motherhood.  This sucks."

me. tired. and my beauties.
Yes, even I suffer from the dreaded cloud of total insecurity when it comes to parenting.  Me, the gal who has her Masters in "relationships", who's written countless articles on what it means to be a mama, who wears the title "Parenting Expert" granted from and of course has the blissful Facebook and Instagram photos to prove how seamless life can look from the outside.  Aren't I supposed to know what I'm doing???

Ever feel super crummy like everyone else has it all together and your parenting world is spinning out of control?  Me too.   

The day had started off so well.  I got Matilda off to school on time.  Daphne and I made actual breakfast together (eggs and everything) and sat and read storybooks until my vision blurred.  I suggested we go to the library for some free fun, and that's when the day started to crumble.

The library was closed.  I called around and find out every library in a 15 mile radius was closed. The baby started crying. Daphne was whining and disappointed. I fumbled for change in my purse as I suggested we go ease our strife with a drink from Sonic.  She was thrilled, until we got there, and as soon as I handed her the grape slushie she declared she didn't want it, and her whining turned to grouchiness so fierce that even Oscar would have been ashamed.

By the time I got home, I was covered in grape slushie, spit-up, and a whole lot of frustration.  I put my kid in her room, threw her some pop-tarts, hit the play button on the DVD player and walked out.  We needed a moment apart, and I found myself huddled on the couch taking deep breaths and once again bewildered at the fact that someone so small and sweet can rouse me into such a frenzy that I want to punch a hole in the wall!

Children are demanding, irrational, LOUD, unpredictable little humans whose selective hearing and sporadic obedience is enough to bring any adult to their knees.  They drive me crazy.  They wear me out. And yes, I love them with the depth of love that is greater than my life and stronger than a hundred horses...but, man, it can be rough some days.

Can I get an AMEN?

This week I've talked to at least three other moms who did stupid things just like me, who got down on herself, who felt all alone in the guilt that we should have done better, who question whether they are truly the best person for the job and get to wear this insane title called Mom.

We are all surviving this parenthood thing, shoving our guilt out of the way most of the time to just get the next task done.  It's hard and it can strangle your spirit if you let it.  But, this guilt is full of lies and I'm determined to steer this ship towards honest and calm harbors.

Amidst my anger and frustration, a small voice echoed inside me.  "You know it's okay to be good at other things too, right?"  Hmm.  I hadn't thought much about it.  But, if this was any other job, I'd be able to shake off the terrible moment of the day and move on to a task I was better at.

Reality is, we are going to be terrible at this mom-thing sometimes.  We have ugly moments and frustrating times, just like any other facet of our life.  And sometimes it's okay to cry and be good at something else in that moment.  It's okay.  I promise.  Your kid won't disown you.

I can do many things well.  We all can.  Truly. Those other parts of us are still alive and well even if we don't exercise those muscles every day.  They shape us into the kind of parents we are and sometimes we have to go out of our way to stir them up and make use of them.

Nothing else in life is 24/7 like parenthood, we're just going to be bad at it more often than probably anything else.  That's just the truth (and simple math). Those weak moments?  Those pop-tarts-for-lunch-watch-your-dvd kind of days?  They are going to happen and they happen to everyone.

Motherhood is not what you do.  It's who you are.  So yeah, I'm gonna do some stupid things now and then and I'm gonna do the wrong thing at times, sure...but, who I am?  Who I am is far going to exceed in the race of filling my kids up with the right stuff.

Who I am is greater than just the sum of my parts - the writer, the wife, the cook, the laundry lady, the maid, the gal who loves Jesus and needs Him every day...they all add up to an honest person my kids get to interact with on a daily basis, and with the grace of God I am more than I could ever have been if I tried to do this thing all by myself.  Parenthood is an act of faith, no doubt.

We're gonna make it, mamas.  You are good.  You are good at many things.  You are a good mama, even when you are more normal than you'd like to be. You are not alone.

The Three Words I Never Thought I'd Say

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I know they say to never say never, but I really never thought I'd be saying these next three words:

I miss school.

I know, I know, I know.  It's ridiculous.  I'm only out of school for a couple months and instead of reveling in the fact that I'm free of homework, don't have to read hundreds of pages, or trying to shuffle my schedule to take part in a group project, I'm kinda sorta sad that I don't have class.

This is what you call transition.

I was just getting used to the fact of being labeled "student" again, and now I'm not. There I was, constantly under the burden of learning and engaging and regurgitating information, formulating ways to apply it in personal and professional settings, looking for approval from peers, supervisors, and the daunting grades that would post on my student profile, and suddenly I'm back to the "real world" with no scale for knowing exactly how I'm doing.  Whew.  

I gotta confess:  I loved it.  

There's no grading system for motherhood or extra credit for laundry.  There's no supervisor patting me on the back for staying up late with a kid who is throwing up or defrosting dinner on time.  It was nice to have an area of my life that was so entirely structured.

I liked knowing what was expected of me (syllabus), I liked engaging in deep conversations over topics I'm passionate about (classmates), I liked receiving praise for hard work I poured into projects that took time and energy (grades), and I liked gaining the encouragement from those who are far more advanced in the field than I am (professors).  Grad school was a wonderful little bubble for me to travel to and live in for a short time, and like most things in life - it passed by all too quickly.

What transitions are you experiencing lately?

Transitions have a way of making us appreciate the past.  Every milestone I meet in life comes with both grief and celebration, leaving me with that pit in my stomach that both longs for an encore of what has been and the anticipation of what is to come.

Just because you want something to happen doesn't mean you're going to like it all the time.

That's the grand illusion of transition.  We expect that if we have been waiting and wanting something to happen that when it does, we should only ever be grateful and thrilled that it did.  

But, too often I forget that honest feelings don't void gratitude.

Maybe you're not just out of grad school and missing the camaraderie of the classroom...but, perhaps you can relate to one of these:

When you get married, you miss being single.
When you break up with someone, you miss being a couple.
When you have a baby, you miss life before children.
When you send your kid to school, you miss them needing you all day.
When you start a new job, you miss the freedom of familiarity.
When you move away from home, you miss your family.

You get it.  Transitions in life aren't easy, even when you welcome them with open arms.  As a new mother with a new degree and a husband with a new job, I know I'm feeling transition in multiple areas of my life right now.  I'm so grateful we have an unchanging God who always knows which direction is up!
James 1:17 (NIV)
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Create for a Cause: Why You Should Start Crafting it Forward

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Love crafting?  Love kids?  Then you are going to fall in love with Crafting it Forward, a new organization that delivers happiness in a box and helps you spread love to others one simple craft at a time.

Save with pardymama and start spreading the love!
Email and give CODE: $10off/PARDYMAMA to save today!!!

Crafting it Forward delivers new boxes of super fantastic, DIY craft supplies straight to your doorstep. You make the craft with your kiddos and as stated on the Crafting it Forward website:  "memories are made, creativity is cultivated, and love is spread...because once the craft is enjoyed, it's passed on to a children’s hospital or  senior center to be enjoyed all over again. Together, we are crafting with purpose."

My oldest two daughters (ages 5 and 4) were super excited to get our Crafting it Forward box.  We had a rainy afternoon to chill inside, and this activity filled the afternoon with excitement and creativity.

I'm not a "crafter".  I can't stress enough how uncoordinated I am when it comes to creating with my hands.  You might be rolling your eyes at me, but I assure you that my creativity hits its limit with writing.  I was relieved to see that this box of DIY fun came with simple instructions even I could follow with no problem!

To be honest, I was a little concerned that my girls might be upset to "repackage" the craft they just created.  I didn't want them to think that I didn't value it, or that it wasn't worth keeping.  But, when I explained that it was headed to another place to help brighten someone else's day, they were entirely on board.  Not only was the craft a lesson in creativity, but it was an opportunity to teach my girls about generosity and service.

Ready to Craft it Forward???  A subscription would make a wonderful Christmas gift for your child or a young family you know.  You can choose to subscribe to the crafting box each month, and you can also sponsor a child with illness to receive a crafting box to enjoy for himself or herself.

Save with pardymama and start spreading the love!
Email and give CODE: $10off/PARDYMAMA to save today!!!

Check out their website and share the link with a friend today.  Together we can start putting smiles on the faces of others far and wide!

Breastfeeding: What I Wish I Knew

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Breastfeeding is awesome...when it's going smoothly.

But for many women, breastfeeding is a total enigma right up until they nearly give up.  It's weird, daunting, wonderful, and rarely without challenges.  While I'm here to sing the praises of nursing your infant, I can also tell you that it's TOTALLY OKAY to get freaked out by this "natural" part of motherhood.

I'm blessed to be successfully breastfeeding for the third time, and we're well into a rhythm of pumping and nursing.  But, even with lactation classes, friends' and sisters' wisdom from their experiences, and reading up on "what to expect"...there were still things I didn't discover about breastfeeding until I did it myself.

Here are five things about breastfeeding that I didn't have a clue about until I did it:

1.  Hurt so good.

I had heard that "it doesn't hurt if you're doing it right", which is incredibly discouraging and very misleading.  While that is generally true for breastfeeding regularly and consistently - it is not necessarily true for the first couple weeks!

Reality is, your body has been through hormone-mania and you thought the pain portion was over since labor ended, right?  Your nipples are not used to being exposed to air and getting constantly tugged at, so yeah - it's gonna hurt.  Many women opt to use nipple shields in the first few weeks to help minimize the pain while still breaking in the skin of the nipple.  (A nipple shield is a malleable plastic guard that covers the nipple while still allowing milk to pass through when nursing.)

I bit the bullet and was able to tough my way through it (granted, I was still on pain killers from my c-section) but I won't sugarcoat it - my eyes would well up with tears the first week or so every time the baby latched on.

Two things that helped:  1. Gel packs (specifically made for breastfeeding by Lansinoh) that you keep in the fridge and place on the nipple after feeding, and 2. Nipple cream/butter/balm.  I would recommend "Boob ease", Lansinoh's lanolin, or Earth Mama Angel Baby's nipple butter.  Be liberal!  And know that the BEST remedy for breastfeeding pain is to KEEP will get easier.

2. Milk ducts in a row.

Up until I actually saw it coming out of my own breast, I had no idea that there were like a dozen little holes in the nipple that expressed milk.  I guess I had figured my breast would mimic a baby bottle and therefore only have one tiny outlet for milk.  Not the case!

These teensy little pinholes in the tip of your nipple are each individual milk ducts that deliver nutrition to your infant.  While I had heard the term "milk duct" I didn't understand that there are several in each nipple and any one of them could get clogged for various reasons.

A clogged duct is not uncommon, and usually solved by nursing consistently, but if you see a duct get swollen or red or crusty, be sure and ask your doctor or lactation consultant before it worsens.  Best to keep all your ducts in a row! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

3. Let Down for what?

The term "let down" was a huge mystery to me.  I thought that it basically meant when the baby latched on, my breasts would let the milk out, end of story.  Wellll, turns out depending on your milk production, "let down" can happen just about any time.

You will especially experience let down if you either 1. Hear your baby cry, 2. Haven't fed your baby in a while, or 3. Forgot to wear nursing pads, are wearing a white shirt, have an important meeting with a male coworker, and forgot to bring a sweater!

Let down basically means you are filling up with milk right then and there and unless you feed immediately, you will leak.  It can be a sudden, tingly sensation in your breasts, and if you are ready to nurse then you will feel relief.  But, if you are filling up with milk at an inopportune moment, it can be quite uncomfortable and you will have to awkwardly "hug" your breasts by crossing your arms and applying some pressure that can help suppress the flow until it stops.

4.  All or Nothing

This is pretty straight forward, but also really important.  I had no idea that when one breast was expressing milk the other would too!  Some women don't have this issue, and if the milk supply is somewhat low it can rarely happen.  But, regardless of production, you have no control over letting the milk out or not.

When the baby is nursing on one side, your body just knows to let the milk out, but if you experience let down while nursing (which is what generally happens each time) then your other breast will start expressing milk even if your baby isn't latched on to that side.  In other words, it's all or nothing.  Either both breasts are ready to go, or neither are.  Of course, if you have emptied out one side by either pumping or nursing, then your other side is still full and needing to release milk somewhat soon.

5.  Made to Order

Did you know your milk is made exactly and exclusively for your baby?  Your body takes in information from the baby's saliva every time they nurse, then specifically churns out the nutrients the baby's body needs.  Crazy, right?!  When I learned this, it surpassed all my "I-know-breast-is-best" knowledge and just blew my mind how God had created my body for this experience.

I mean, we all know that breastfeeding is free, healthy, builds immunity, and can even boost infant intelligence, but in a recent study reviewed in an article by Science News, now there is evidence showing that these nutrients are perfectly designed just for your infant:
Part of the immunity that breast milk imparts, it seems, may depend in part on a mixture of milk and baby saliva flowing upstream. This backwash may actually cause a mother’s body to create made-to-order immune factors that are delivered back to the baby in milk, some scientists think.  Full Article HERE.

I want to encourage every new mama to try out breastfeeding, but please hear me out that I'm well aware there are times and circumstances that this isn't an ideal option for everyone.  Absolutely ONLY YOU know what is best for your baby (though I hope you get the input and support of friends, doctors and lactation consultants if necessary).  But, if you choose to hop on the breastfeeding train - welcome!

I hope these tips have shed some light on a superpower you didn't know you necessarily had.  After all, a nursing cover is just a superhero cape worn in front! 

C-Sections Are Easy...and Other Lies

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I've heard it once, I've heard it too many times..."C-sections are the easy way out."

original photo by Mathieu Photography of Daphne's birth

Now, I'm not one to get a megaphone and stand on a soapbox, but there are times and places when the record needs to be set straight and that is one of those comments I just can't bite my tongue if I hear it.

I've had three c-sections now (two unplanned, one scheduled) and I'm here to pull back the curtain on the topic and debunk some common myths about cesarean sections once and for all.

Since most women don't plan for a c-section, many are fearful and undereducated when the time comes to get one if the need arises.  With nearly a third of all births ending in surgery today, it still shocks me how much is left unknown to the mother prior to entering the OR.  Since it's so rarely anticipated, many mothers-to-be don't feel the need to understand what might happen if they need a c-section, often leading to disappointment and fear if their birth plan leads down that road.

If you are pregnant, I hope this list not only stirs up some good questions for you to consider, but I hope it helps shed some light on a very confusing topic that can feel too controversial to ask questions about (after all, if you are asking questions about c-sections, how serious can you be about planning a natural, drug-free birth?  Right?  Rubbish.)

Here we go.

1.  C-sections are the easy way out.

Let me dispel this myth in one sentence:  There is no easy way to get a human body out of a human body. 

I labored for 20 hours before my first c-section and it didn't make me any more of a hero than when I waited patiently for "my turn" this last birth.  They don't install a zipper to easily access the baby the next time - so, even if you've had a cesarean in the past and know what to expect, there is still a new scar and a long recovery to regain feeling and control of those stomach muscles that have just been cut through.

While it might take a shorter amount of time to get the baby out, a c-section (usually) has a much longer recovery with different hurdles to overcome than a vaginal delivery.  (Note, I didn't say harder, just different - every birth and every woman is different!)  But, I will tell you that having your body cut in half to remove a human is not easier than pushing a St. Bernard through a pinhole.  Neither are short of a miracle.

2.  You can't do skin-to-skin.

False.  I was the first person to hold my baby girl as soon as she was safely out of my body.  The doctor placed her directly on my bare chest and I immediately got to snuggle her up since my hands were free to move (even if I did have an IV in and a pulse monitor on my finger).

With my first two c-sections, my husband got to do skin-to-skin with the babies before I did.  The hospital we were at only offered it like that and we didn't know to ask any different at the time.  But, as I learned more, I knew to ask about it this last birth and was able to experience the "first hold" for myself (magic!)

Skin-to-skin is beautiful and healthy, and I would absolutely encourage it regardless of your birth plan.

3.  You don't bleed as much.

Sorry to say, this is not so.  In fact, during the c-section you lose much more blood than in a vaginal delivery.  But, many women believe that's where the bleeding stops - in the OR.  False.

While the placenta is removed in the surgery, there is still plenty of blood and tissue that needs to be shed after the birth.  Just as in a vaginal delivery, this makes its way out naturally and blesses you (ha) with a period that can last 6-8 weeks after the birth.  So, buy those Hummer-size pads for overnight protection and stock up - you're gonna need them no matter how this baby comes out.

4.  Resuming sex will be easy.

This is another myth that many women aren't asking enough questions about.  Look, clearly you were sexually active prior to the pregnancy, so why are you shy about asking your doctor about resuming sex after you've been given the green light (around 6 weeks, same as with a vaginal delivery).  Truth be told, your body has been through trauma so any activity (whether walking, kayaking, or having sex) is going to feel different at first.

Your hormones have crashed after birth and might be going haywire (which could cause night sweats, vaginal dryness, and other uncomfortable sensations) and if you are breastfeeding your skin is going to be super dry.  All this to say, tread lightly and patiently.

Your sex life will resume, but not without its setbacks.  Talk to your husband about your physical limitations and set your expectations accordingly.  Be liberal with lubrication, take a deep breath, and know that the more honest you are up front, the easier it will be to help get your intimacy back on track.  However painful it may be in the beginning, rest assured that your body is still healing and this frustrating phase is only temporary.

5.  C-sections aren't natural.

Name me one thing that is natural about experiencing a miracle?  The myth isn't that c-sections are natural, the myth is that childbirth in any form is.

By definition, a miracle is supernatural.  True, your body can't inform itself to be prepared for surgery.  No, labor may not precede every birth.  But, when you hold a new creature in your arms for the first time and witness their first breath and cries and feel your heart melt at the sight of them, there is no denying that all the preparation in the universe couldn't have come close to readying you for this moment.

No miracle is natural, so the shock and exhilaration of being part of one is going to feel extraordinary regardless of the means it took to experience it.

No doubt there is a lot of confusing information about childbirth floating around the internet.  It can be hard to wade through the fact and fiction and prepare yourself for what to really expect.  The best thing I can tell you is to try and learn from others' stories and do your best to learn the facts of multiple scenarios.  While a c-section might be the last thing on your mind, it also might be necessary when the time comes and the more information you are armed with up front, the less scary or disappointing it can be.

Don't let the joy of a miracle be stolen by the fear of the unknown.  Have more questions about c-sections?  Comment below or hit me up at

Cozy Mama GIVEAWAY!!!

Friday, October 2, 2015

I woke up this morning to chilly, rainy weather.  It's FALL, people!  Time to curl up with a cup of coffee and a book and be COZY!

So, I'm having a GIVEAWAY for all cozy mamas out there!  

I'm giving away a signed copy of my new book, For All Maternity, along with a super-cozy, gray chevron stroller blanket from Pottery Barn Kids!  I'm also including some of my favorite baby items including gift cards for nursing pillows and covers, Pampers to-go pack and more!!!

Check out this STASH I've got for you, valued at over $200!!!



Yep, that's it! And you have 4 weeks to share as many posts as you like!

Better yet, follow me on any social media platform to get a BONUS ENTRY (Like the PARDYMAMA FACEBOOK PAGE, and follow @pardymama on Instagram and Twitter!)

The giveaway is open until the winner is announced on OCTOBER 30, you have LOTS of time to spread the word and enter multiple times!!!

Guest Blog: Mothering In The Trenches by Lindsey Smallwood

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Today's post is brought to you by my friend Lindsey Smallwood.  Lindsey has two kids under two, and I've TOTALLY been there and love what she has to say about motherhood.  Check out her other work in her profile below.

“Oh, hang in there, you’re in the trenches.”  

Inevitably I seem to hear this phrase at least once a week when I’m out in public with my sons, ages 2 and 1. Whether it’s following some kind of meltdown after not getting a snack at their desired moment or when they start heading in two different directions toward danger at the playground, there are a lot of sympathetic nods and “I’ve been there” smiles. And while an “in-the-trenches” war analogy seems a little over the top, I will admit that this season is challenging in ways I never expected before motherhood.

If it’s not stopping my toddler from snacking on deer poop at the playground or trying to put away laundry while the baby takes it out again, it’s some other exercise in keeping little people alive and accomplishing small tasks at the same time.  It’s messy and exhausting and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I have found a few things that make this whole experience a little easier.

1)   Buckets. Buckets. Buckets.  
You guys, it’s buckets for weeks around here. We have baskets for toys and bins for puzzles and boxes for diapers and wipes. The clothes are in baskets - not folded, mind you, but they’re in there. The mail has a basket, the snacks have a basket, even the toilet paper has a basket. Why the basket mania, you ask? Because with two kids under two, nothing stays in the same place very long. I am picking things up all the live long day. And whoever advocated that there be a place for everything and everything in it’s place knew what they were talking about because it feels so good to put things back where they belong. Baskets have the added bonus of hiding what’s inside them so yay – just toss it in and no one knows that there are forty unread magazines under my side table. Just a pretty basket. Or twelve. 

2)   Family dinner is not my number 1 priority.  
An older mom mentor of mine helped walked me through this one. I feel like ever since our first session of pre-marital counseling we’ve been drilled with the idea that having dinner together as a family is the most important thing you can do. And while it is a great time to reconnect with my husband, family dinner with two under two really isn’t a thing. They’re dropping food on the floor and asking for more fruit and spilling their milk. It’s lively and exciting and no conversation happens whatsoever. So lots of nights, I feed the little guys before my husband gets home and then once we get them to bed, we can have an at-home date night, just the two of us. When they’re a little older, we’ll make this a goal again but for now, as long as everyone goes to bed fed, I call it a win.

3)   I have a mom-uniform.  
The year after my first son was born, I just wasn’t sure what to wear. I was used to dressing professionally for work, but dresses and heels seemed like overkill for life with little ones. For awhile, I lived a lot of days in yoga pants. But sometime after the birth of my second son, I discovered what a difference it made in my feelings about myself and my to-do list when I took the time to dress well. For me, that means 3 pairs of well-fitting pants, a handful of tailored tops in bright colors, and simple jewelry I can wear with most outfits. I spend no time thinking about my outfit most mornings, and love knowing that whatever I pick fits and looks good.

4)   My diaper bag is a survival kit.  
Seriously. Find me in case of emergency. I’ve got a change of clothes for everyone, snacks, assorted medications and toiletries, books, games, toys, sunscreen, baby wipes, water bottles, and oh yeah, diapers. I tried really hard in the beginning, I had this cute little diaper bag and I only took a handful of items with me but I’ve surrendered to the giant monster bag that probably would get raised eyes as an airplane carryon and I happily tote around everything we will ever need in it.

5)   There are all kinds of moms in my life.  
This is what’s carrying me through. There’s the grandma in my Bible study who tells me stories of how she did things in her day. There’s the fellow mom of toddlers who I meet at the park to have real talk with. There’s the mom friend from book club who has stories about soccer teams and read-a-thons and is gently preparing me for the seasons to come. There’s the mom of teenagers who makes dinner for us sometimes and cuddles my babies because hers are all lanky and awkward. There’s my mom, who loves my boys even more than I do and is always ready with an encouraging word.  All this mom-love reminds me that these years and this role is so short, always changing and a beautiful gift that I want to savor as long I can.

Even when they’re coloring with my lipstick.

Lindsey Smallwood hopes to leave a legacy of good relationships and bad dance moves. A former pastor and teacher, these days Lindsey works, writes and raises her babies in Boulder, Colorado. Read more by Lindsey at her blog or connect with her on Facebook at or Twitter @lindseysmallw

Five Reasons To Have A Birth Plan

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Let me start off by saying (and meaning) this:  There's no wrong way to have a baby.
Photo from Daphne's birth by Mathieu Photography

My goal for giving birth has always been "walk away with a healthy baby that's mine".  If that's how my story ended, I knew I would be grateful and satisfied.  This didn't mean that everything would go how I wanted it to go, and it certainly didn't mean the baby would be delivered according to my plan (or anyone else's for that matter).

So, why have a birth plan?

Before my first baby was born, I over-educated myself into the illusion of security, learning as much as possible about nearly every birth-scenario so I could spare myself any surprises day-of.  But, babies don't read your plans or your minds, and when the time comes there is bound to be surprises whether you have prepared at all or not!

My first two daughters were spontaneous labors that went on for hours and hours drug-free, followed by an epidural, and ending in a c-section.  My third daughter's birth was a planned c-section, and while everything went according to schedule, I was glad to have thought through the day ahead of time.

Why spend all the energy and time thinking you are a hippie-mama going drug-free only to find out when push comes to shove (literally) that you turn out to be an epidural-getting drama queen?  Why sort through calming verses and meditations for soothing your anxiety and pain when you know you'll have an IV drip and get a c-section?

Here's why:

1. A Birth Plan helps YOU know what you want.  

You might not even know what your expectations are until you start to jot them down on paper.  You may have a vision (haphazard as it may be) for what the day looks like and still not realize that you have joy or disappointment hinging on small things like "wearing my favorite chapstick" when you are at the peak of a contraction.  A birth plan can help you sort through what's reasonable (dim lights) and what's preposterous (a tranquil haven that stays a perfect 70 degrees and silent with only the glow of a lavender scented candle to warm the setting).  It can help you weed through your ideals (drug free and natural) as well as your limitations and tolerance for what's acceptable (  Bottomline, you can't expect others to know what you'll need in your best/worst hour when you haven't taken the time to think through it yourself.

2. A Birth Plan helps OTHERS know what you want.

Even your beloved husband is scratching his head as to how he can best help you in your moment of dire need.  If you don't know by now that your husband can't read your mind, then I really hate to break it to you that your doctors and nurses can't either.  Even if you are planning a home birth with a doula or midwife, they are going to have questions about your comfort and pain management along the way.  If you are having a scheduled c-section, you'll still need to convey your opinions adamantly regarding things like cord cutting, skin-to-skin, and pain killer options.  Maybe you know what you want and you can easily inform those around you with the command of a drill sergeant.  But, for those of us not giving birth to robots, it will make it much easier in the long run if you have talked through your expectations ahead of time and how you prioritize those ideas.

3. A Birth Plan helps BABY remain the focus.

This seems counterintuitive.  How can a paper all about your expectations help keep the focus on your newborn?  Because the less everyone has to worry about wondering what you want and need, the more they can channel their skills and energy to that screaming creature who just entered into the universe.  If you can include choices about the baby on your birth plan as well, you can put your mind at ease knowing your birth plan can be easily referenced for your choices instead of trying to remember in the middle of it all if you chose salve-on-the-eyes for the baby or whether you wanted to postpone the Vitamin K shot.  A LOT happens just minutes after the birth, and you don't want the burden of "having to think" placed on your or your husband's brain.  Free it up so you can fully embrace the bliss of staring at that new little bundle of joy you just brought into the world.

4.  A Birth Plan helps HUSBANDS understand.

Sure, hubbies are included in #2.  But, more than just understanding your expectations, husbands have been (most likely) taking a crash course in all-things-baby since you announced the pregnancy.  Birth is SCARY - and that's totally normal.  It's a terrifying roller coaster of emotion to usher another human into the world, and your brain isn't meant to fully comprehend sentences like "What do you want to do with the placenta?" when you are just barely grasping the fact you took part in the creation of life.  A birth plan can help a husband truly take part in the process of labor and delivery, knowing how best his time and energy is spent in the midst of the wild ride.

5.  A Birth Plan helps MOTHERS in the future.

This blog is a perfect example!  Here I am, dishing about my own experiences, hoping to reach an audience of new mamas understand that their birth stories are important - no matter how the scenario plays out.  It's an opportunity to get to know why we think what we think about birth, share it with others, and help them understand their own journey.  Looking back across my three birth stories, I can compare them to the plans I had anticipated and grow from the story that ultimately came out of it.  It rarely goes how we think it will, right?  But, healing from disrupted plans can help us curb disappointments and turn them into lessons of hope for others.

When you are about to have a baby, it's easy to feel like the only person on the planet that's ever felt that way.  The more we can hold our expectations in our hands and learn to understand them, the easier it can be to let them go if the need arises.  After all, learning to adjust and adapt to the unpredictable will serve you well once that baby arrives (however that may be)!

Babies, Babies, Babies

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is when you learn about something new and then all of a sudden it seems to pop up everywhere.  Never is this more true than for pregnant women and new mothers.

Once you become pregnant, the whole world starts having babies.  You notice "Baby On Board" signs in traffic, you can't help but glance at a woman's growing belly across the aisle in Target, and suddenly you find yourself judging everyone's name as if it's a genuine possibility for your offspring.  Everything has to do with babies, and more and more birth announcements show up on your Facebook newsfeed than you ever thought possible.

I'm not immune to this anomaly.  I know of at least 8 babies that have been born in the last six weeks, with more pregnant friends still awaiting their turn.  (Seriously, what was happening last Fall, people?  Did they put something in the water?)

If you aren't pregnant yourself, chances are good that you know someone who is or have had a baby somewhat recently.  So, I'm embracing this phase and gonna be talking a LOT about babies in the upcoming posts.  Breastfeeding, c-sections, body image, and more. (Comment below on what YOU'D like to hear about!)  It's a wonderfully terrifying time of life that continues to bewilder me with purpose and pride.

I wear a lot of hats.  I'm a wife, a writer, and a marriage counselor, with personal interests in cooking, films, and puppetry. (Okay, not that last one.  I was just throwing in a curve ball to see if you were awake.  If you didn't catch it, go pour yourself another cup of coffee and hug someone.)

But, of all the titles I hold, mother is my favorite by far.

With so many mothers in the world, there still seems to be a lack of honest stories being shared about real women experiencing it.  I find myself cringing with insecurity all too often, wondering if I'm doing enough or doing it right instead of just enjoying the act of doing it at all.  

As my life shifts and changes, as my heart grows to allow for the capacity to love yet more for this newest baby in my life, I want to remind all you mamas out there that HEY - we're doing this thing called motherhood, and we're not alone.  

In a world where we can be inundated with babies and growing bellies all around us, let's not forget that behind each little creature is a mother who is trying to keep it all together.

You're not alone, mama, let's chat.

Hallelujah Again: Victory Over Unemployment

Friday, September 25, 2015

Two years ago today I announced that our job search was over and Josh had accepted a new position after nearly 4 months of unemployment. (See the TimeHop pic below!)

Well, today I'm thrilled to announce the exact same great news!

It's weird, right?  Spooky and wonderful, honestly.  My husband's contract was not renewed at the school he worked at due to budgetary reasons back in July, so we've been unemployed for the last three months.

It is with great pride that I tell you he's accepted a position as Marketing and Business Development Coordinator at a local engineering firm!  He starts October 12th, and prayers as he transitions to this new position would be greatly appreciated.

As I read back over my post about his new job from 2 years ago, God reminded me how His truth is timeless.  Here is an excerpt from that post that rings completely (albeit, eerily) true again today.  Thank you for celebrating this news with us!

From September 25, 2013...

And here's where I get real honest with you.  Here's the part where you are feeling all "oh, how nice that worked out for you" and I'm about to blow that thought right out of the water for, just keep reading.

The night before we got the job, God told me something.  He said, plain and simply, "You know that if he gets this job it doesn't solve your problems, right?  Only I can do that."  I kind of brushed that off and said another prayer for the job, and then I BEGGED God for the job and then I thanked God and still said "but, please God, seriously, please let him get this job".  I didn't quite let what God told me sink in all the way.  I wanted Josh to get that job.  It would be problem solved, and so my heart and mind were set on that.

Then, he got the job.  And, I felt relief.  I felt joy.  But...I didn't feel any more secure than I had the day before.  In fact, neither Josh nor I jumped up and down like we had in the past when much smaller victories were won (You got a call baaaack!!!!  You got an interviewwwww!!!)  Not this time.  This time was different.

Josh got the job.  Hallelujah.  But, that's not the victory here.  The victory - the moral to the story - is the three and a half freaking months that came before the job.  The miracle is the survival, the journey, the long road of impatience and questions and doubting.  The loving marriage that sustained the waves of tumultuous worry.  The food on the table brought by friends.  The cards of encouragement and support sent by loved ones.  The pride found in working a blue-collar job.  The strength of a family cared for by a community and body of Christ.  THAT'S OUR VICTORY.

I never could have guessed it.  Even a few weeks ago I could have told you what this blog post could have looked like - a long and relentless bragging about my husband and how awesome he is and how good God is for rewarding his efforts.  No.  Not at all.  Don't get me wrong - Josh is my hero - but, we're giving credit where credit is surely due, and that goes entirely to Jesus.

Here's something else - Satan hates it when we give Jesus the credit.  And today, just as we were eager to awake with feelings of assurance and celebration, we were spiritually attacked from all sides as Satan did his best to steal our joy and distract us from the goodness of God.  I'm really being honest here, gang.  Today was ROUGH.  Even my daughters were stressed out and overly emotional and the littlest things seemed like the end of the universe in our home.  Each one of us was in a terrible mood, annoyed and frustrated, irrationally snappy and completely out of sorts.

We literally had to stop in the middle of our morning and pray aloud in our living room to just invite the Holy Spirit to be present with us, to help us focus on His peace and faithfulness, and to not let anything distract us from the beauty of the moment and the assurance of God's goodness.

But, here we are.  We are here to CELEBRATE and let you know that God IS good.  Wholly good.  And the job is wonderful...but, it is merely a facet in the structure that is our lives as they should be lived out according to God's will.  We are grateful - but, not fooled by the false sense of security that money and benefits offer in this world.  We are humbled, and we are sincerely blessed by the long three and a half months where our faith was stretched far beyond the boundaries of our liking.

Thank you, thank you, thank you - to each of you who prayed for us, supported us, encouraged us, and fought the good fight through the victory of the wait.

God is using us here.  God has big plans for us.  God is good - really - all the time.

We're so grateful to celebrate God's goodness with you!

Guest Blog: My First Mom-Friend by Rachel Oliver

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Today's post is brought to you by my friend, Rachel.  Check her work in her profile links below!

For the first year of motherhood, I worked part-time. My life was very much immersed in being mom, wife and employee, and I found a great deal of personal satisfaction and even community from my days spent in the office.

Then I left the workforce to stay home full-time, and my life became very isolated.

I had imagined all the fun things my daughter and I would do once I was home full-time, but the reality of her age and our newly-shrunk budget left me home and bored all too often.

Thanks to Netflix and naptime, I caught up on all my favorite television shows and quickly began looking for more. I cried through Army Wives, and found myself becoming jealous of the women depicted with close friends who lived right next door. All of my friends worked or lived 30+ minutes away, making daily or even weekly gatherings a challenge.

That’s when Liz moved in two doors down. With fiery red hair and an outgoing personality, not to mention the fact that she didn’t know another living soul in Denver, we became fast friends.
Our daughters are 10 months apart in age and, while we found activities that they might like, we really enjoyed finding excursions that gave us opportunity to grow our friendship.  We spent time at the indoor mall play area during the cold winter months, would go for early morning stroller walks as the weather warmed, not to mention just popping over for a quick chat or to borrow a  serving of applesauce.

Just shy of a year after moving in, Liz and her family packed up and moved away. Okay, only 20 miles away and we still see each other at least weekly.

But what I learned from the first friend I made as a mom with a mom, was huge.

I learned to step out of my comfort zone. I may have been lonely as a stay-at-home mom but it wasn’t enough to compel me to try new things until Liz came along and invited me to go and do. And even then, sometimes I just wanted to stay home in my PJs; and sometimes that’s just what I did. But when I let go of my reservations, I found that spending time with a friend was refreshing to my soul (not to mention how much better my attitude became).

I learned that to best help my daughter become a good friend, I needed to model healthy friendships to her. My daughter may have only been a year old when Liz and I first met, but the habits I am forming now, including and especially in regards to friendship, will speak to my future relationships and in turn, to hers.

I learned to offer grace to other moms – and to myself. Mom friendships are beautiful and unique, a special type of comradery. They also include distinct challenges: sick kids, meltdowns, and blowouts affect schedules while time together is full of interruptions and the distractions of a wayward toddler. That’s also why they work; moms get other moms.

I learned that mom-friendships are worth getting out of PJs for. Whether I have to walk next door or drive 30 minutes away, friendships with other moms are worth pursuing and being available for.

I’ve been blessed to have many friends over the course of my life: childhood friends, college friends, work friends. Adding mom friends has been a special blessing. By offering grace to each and grace to ourselves, mom-friendships have helped me through life’s good things and hard things, and have made me a better mom, better woman and a better friend.

So what about you – where do you find mom friends?

I'm Rachel. 
Mom to one, trying for two, stuck with a couple crazy dogs and loved by a fabulous guy. I'm a stay-at-home-but-rarely-home mom with a knack for saying "yes" too quickly, especially when it comes to outside commitments and Diet Mountain Dew. 
I blog at rachel+reagan
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Everyday Wisdom Magazine OUT TODAY

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I am thrilled to tell you about a new publication that comes out TODAY called Everyday Wisdom!

It hits stands today at Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and a variety of grocery stores.  You can also purchase it online if you click here!

I am blessed to have contributed a few articles about hope, dealing with difficult people, and not judging others based on their appearances. I also have the joy of offering a special excerpt from my book, For All Maternity in this special issue.

It's a beautiful magazine with no ads that you'd be proud to display on your coffee table at home for years to come.  Since it's a quarterly magazine, it's something to collect and share or give as a special gift to someone who loves encouraging words from a Biblical perspective.

This is not your average magazine.  (And I don't make a dime off it if you purchase it.)  I'm genuinely endorsing Everyday Wisdom because I believe in the beauty and truth it can bring into your home.  I know you will find it uplifting and a great resource for Scripture-based advice for many areas of life. Go check it out!

You Know You're a Mother When...

Monday, September 21, 2015

With three children under six, my motherhood currently trumps other aspects of my identity.  I'm cool with this.  I welcome it, truly.  I know that there have been days when the other hats that I wear (wife, counselor, student, sister, friend, writer, etc.) eclipse my parenting, and these moments will come again as my seasons cycle frequently and with much overlap.

a smothered mother is the very best kind
Right now, as I nag my 4-year-old to stop throwing crackers as I type and sort through which burp rag is salvageable until I get a chance to do laundry again, I'm embracing the role that challenges and fulfills me the most:  motherhood.

Maybe you can relate!

You know you're a mother when...

reapplying deodorant constitutes "getting ready for the day"

supper is the bane of your existence

you have more My Little Pony songs stuck in your head than Taylor Swift tunes

Target's Cartwheel app offers you the highest appreciation of your day 

you feel a deep level of success after using the Nosefrida on your infant

running out of paper plates is your recurring nightmare (when you actually get to sleep)

you haven't finished a fresh cup of coffee in one sitting since college

it's not creepy at all to sit and stare at your sleeping child while a million things could get done

you only take selfies when you can't get your kid to sit still enough for the photo you want of them

you have contemplated what it would be like if Handy Manny and Bob the Builder ever met

your dining room table looks more like a Michael's craft store than a Martha Stewart catalog 

locking the bathroom door brings equal amounts of guilt and relief

you've prayed about naps/bedtime/quiet as fervently as if it could prevent global disasters

your [overworked] vacuum understands your daily disdain as well as anyone 

you've said "Please stop _____" at least 800 times today

nothing grosses you out anymore

you have a love/hate relationship with TimeHop which usually leads to weepiness no matter what

you're exhausted, smelly, weepy, happy, frustrated (no, these aren't the seven dwarfs) and wouldn't trade in your life for anything else in the whole world (if you don't feel this way, just wait until about 8pm when the children are asleep and your heart swells up with that crazy love only a mother knows!)

So, I'm 35

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Today I turn 35.  Or, as I like to tell people, "If you need advice on being 29, just ask me, I've been 29 for years now." [insert obligatory laugh track here]

I don't understand time.  I hate it, actually, and it makes no sense to me that yesterday I was in one phase of life and today I'm in another.  Yesterday I could check a different box on an assessment form and today I'm upgraded to the 35-40 margin of a census.  Sigh.  Time is dumb.  Time is a temporary restriction reserved to this planet, and my soul is restless in its grip.

But, the getting older part...that I like.  Society might tell me to pick up a wrinkle cream and start cutting back on sugar, sure.  Media compels me to worry about things like retirement funds and cholesterol, fine.  But, as my physical body reminds me I'm no teenager, my mind and spirit charge full-throttle ahead in anticipation of what I have yet to know in this life.

My teenage years were heaped in wonder, doubt, and naivet√©.  My twenties were full of adventure and wrought with insecurity. My thirties are officially halfway over and so far it's been a roller coaster of decisions, milestones, and deep rooting.

Most of all, I have found incredible joy in learning what I do not know.  Getting a Masters degree, while a great accomplishment, reminded me that there are realms and realms of introspection and revelation awaiting me as I grow as a person.  I am in awe of anticipating what's left to discover about myself and how God will shape and use that in my time on this earth.

To say this last year has been exceptional would be an understatement in my book.  It's not that long ago that I would have laughed in your face if you told me I would have published a book, received my Masters, and had a baby all in one year! (Yes, I'm exhausted.) With these milestones under my belt, one can't help but reflect and project with some concern "Um, what now, God?"

So, I'm 35 and have no idea what's coming.  We have three children, no jobs, 2 Masters degrees, and our knees are somewhat sore from pleading with God to know what's around the corner.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

At 35, I know much much less than I did when I was 20.  Because today I can calmly, confidently say that I know that there's so much I don't know.  I'm not insecure in this fact.  I'm not fearful or frustrated that there are uncertainties all around me.  Because of all the things I don't know, I know full well and better than ever before that my God has got me in His grip.

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.  Proverbs 16:3

I can't tell you what the next 35 days hold, let alone the next 35 years.  But, I have 35 years to look back on as a testament of God's faithfulness and provision for me in this life.  As those days grow, I pray my trust in Him grows as well, allowing the wonders and doubts around me to blossom into His promises.

Thank you for my life, Lord.  Wring it dry with Your use.

Vivian's Birth Story

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Vivian’s birth story is so different than her sisters’.  We knew since Daphne’s birth that if we were blessed with another child the birth would be a scheduled c-section.  After Matilda’s c-section and Daphne’sattempted VBAC that ended in a c-section, I learned that my body was not meant for vaginal delivery.  I had X-rays taken at a chiropractor a couple years ago that showed a curve in some lower vertebrae that would have made natural delivery impossible for me (which I didn’t know until after Daphne was born, otherwise I wouldn’t have attempted the VBAC!)

When my due date for Vivian came back as August 19th, we requested the c-section to be scheduled on August 16th – Josh’s birthday!  While most people don’t want to share their birthday, Josh was ecstatic at the idea and so I prayed my body would nestle that sweet baby until then.  Nearing the birth, our doctor let us know that they don’t usually schedule surgeries on the weekend, but it just so happened that she was going to be on-call for Sunday, August 16th, so she was able to specially schedule us so that we could keep the date (granted, the baby’s well being was the most important thing in the world to us, but we were thrilled that we could keep the double-birthday dream alive!)

This pregnancy was wonderfully uneventful, but not easy for me.  At 34, I physically felt the difference of four years since my last baby.  I was also not in very good shape, so the additional 30ish pounds that I lumbered around with seemed extra taxing. While this pregnancy was planned for, I think I underestimated the toll it would take on my body while also raising 2 kids, finishing grad school, and working part-time at the mall.  Whew!  I did my utmost to appreciate every jab and kick and hiccup in the womb, knowing this temporary discomfort represented a lifetime of joy to come. 

As with my last two pregnancies, people started asking me if my due date was close when I was only about 20 weeks along.  I carry my babies like a beach ball, so my giant belly often bewildered people, as I would tell them how much longer I had to be pregnant.  I will admit that I’ve always found this part of pregnancy frustrating and hilarious.  I also knew that it was pretty much true since my first baby weighed 8lb. 9oz. and my second was 9lb. 5oz.  Chances were good this was no tiny pipsqueak I was carrying!

The week before Vivian’s birth was precious to me.  I savored little moments with the older girls and sat in the nursery praying over my belly, dreaming of how our family was about to change.  My parents made the big drive from Kansas and the night before the birth we got together with my brother’s family (who also live in Nashville) to have dinner together one last time before the big event.  While they celebrated with Mexican food I enjoyed a Smoothie King smoothie to soothe my pre-surgery tummy.  I couldn’t believe the time had finally arrived.

Knowing I was going to go into surgery within hours was nerve-wracking, no doubt.  Knowing I was going to have a baby was like anticipating the ultimate Christmas. It was super weird to know I was going to meet her soon.  Having gone into spontaneous labor with the previous two, this was a welcome change, but it felt as unnatural as it did peaceful.  I was too giddy about meeting her to really be worried about the surgery itself.  I knew that as uncomfortable as I was being pregnant, my pain would only increase post-partum before it got better.  Still, it was a wonderful change to be able to go to sleep (as restless as it was) and wake up to her birthday.

We woke up early and gathered our things.  The older girls were insistent on saying goodbye to us, even if it meant waking them.  So, even though it was just after 6am, we hugged Matilda and Daphne and bid adieu to our house of four Pardys as we headed for the hospital. 

Since it was Sunday, the hospital was nearly silent when we walked in.  We brought chocolate chip muffins for the nursing staff and quietly filled out paperwork as we put on our wristbands and I changed into the lovely (ha) light blue hospital gown. The nurses were extremely kind and each one of them smiled as we shared in the excitement of our baby girl sharing a birthday with her daddy.  We met the anesthesiologist, a few more nurses, and before we knew it the time had come.

I was rolled into the OR at 9:14am.  Josh was in the hall getting “suited up” in his daddy-hazmat suit, eager to join me.  It took 3 tries to insert the spinal block for the surgery (yes, this is as unpleasant as it sounds), but it wasn’t a surprise to me since my previous epidurals took a few tries as well (thanks lower vertebrae!)  Within seconds, my lower half was completely numb.  Josh came in and sat by my head as the curtain went up in front of our view. 

The tugging and pulling and pushing of a c-section are not without discomfort.  It’s one of the strangest sensations I can explain, being totally coherent and knowing you’re being turned inside out just inches away. We had requested a “family centered cesarean”, and as soon as her head emerged, they announced it was time to drop the curtain.  There was no way I could have prepared myself for what came next.

“Her head is out.  Are you ready to meet your girl?” the doctor asked.  I took a deep breath.  For some reason, when I imagined this scenario, it all felt very distant from me.  I thought about it as if from a third person experience, and only saw the baby as a blurry image. 

But, THERE SHE WAS.  Her little head, held in the hands of the doctor, inches in front of me and coming out of my own body.  It was shocking and beautiful and the most exhilarating moment of my life. The curtain and my giant belly blocked the view of anything disgusting (for which I am grateful, as I was a little hesitant if I could handle seeing anything too gruesome) They slowly “walked the baby out” which means they squeezed her slowly through the incision in order to best mimic a vaginal birth and help the infant squeeze out fluids that may have been ingested in the womb (which naturally occurs in a vaginal birth).  At 9:46am, she was out.

They quickly patted her down, cut the cord, and handed her down to me for immediate skin-to-skin.  Vivian was here.  My girl was here.  She was real and sweet and laying against the outside of my body.  I burst into tears.

Vivian Margot Blessing Pardy was here.  I said her name for the first time to someone other than Josh, and the whole staff starting congratulating us.  Everyone was so joyful; it felt like confetti should fall from the ceiling (apart from the fact that my body was totally opened up on the table, so I’m real glad it didn’t).

This was the first time I got to be the first one to hold my new baby.  In the past, they had always handed the baby to Josh for father skin-to-skin time.  But, this time, this hospital offered to let me hold her first and I jumped at the chance.  It was magical, to say the least, and nothing comes close to that feeling.

I was stitched up and Vivian was weighed and measured.  They transferred me to another bed and minutes later I was holding my precious baby again, getting rolled down the hallway to recovery, ready to show my little love to the world that awaited.  We passed by nurses and doctors and I was filled with so much love and joy that it honestly felt like my own little private parade (if I lived in a musical, this is the part where nurses turn into dancers and the doctor bursts into song).  We made it back to our recovery room where we swooned over our new bundle of joy and gathered our thoughts into words that didn’t hold a candle to the fireworks of feelings we held inside. 

Vivian, you are so loved.  We wanted you before we knew you, and we pray and hope your future holds as much joy as your arrival brought. You are our little blessing, and we know you will bless those who enter your presence.  You’ve already blessed me immensely and I can’t wait to get to know who you are and who you’ll become.  (But, feel free to take your time!)

Welcome, sweet girl.

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