Birthday Traditions

On March 23, my big boy turned EIGHT! 8!!!!!!!! I cannot believe how big he’s grown, physically, emotionally, spiritually… When we took him for his annual wellness check up, we discovered he gained 14 pounds in one year! That boy can eat and he is packing on the muscle!

Our family has several fun birthday traditions that I wanted to share today. Some of these have been carried over from my childhood:

  • Handwritten birthday signs/cards. I usually decorate signs the night before, creating ones specific to the birthday person, and hang them in random places around the house. Think bathroom mirrors, doors, etc. My kids always have kind things to say about my artwork, haha! Aiden and Lillian also LOVE to make homemade birthday cards for friends, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
  • Birthday party week! Everyone loves a party! In our family, we usually have a minimum of four celebrations. We celebrate with my side of the family, hubby’s side, friends, and then just the four of us. Aiden’s been having park parties for 7 years now, and it usually includes a piñata! Check out the progression from Aiden’s birthdays when he was younger until now!
Aiden at his 2nd Birthday Party!
Aiden at his 8th Birthday Party!
  • Birthday food! We usually let the birthday boy or girl choose their favorite meal and snacks for each celebration. This year Aiden chose stuffed shells and caesar salad for one meal, and burritos for another. I’ve also been making these super yummy vegan cupcakes for the past 8 years! A tradition that will live on for years to come!
  • Speaking life. Ever since I was a little girl, my Daddy always spoke the things he loved about I and my sisters. Each year as we grew older, he would add another thing he loved about us. A friend of mine calls this “Heart happys,” where each person shares what makes their heart happy about the birthday boy/girl. For example, “Aiden Jo, I love/it makes my heart happy that you are an intentional big brother and cousin. I love how you play and look after your sister and younger cousins.”

What about you, Mama? What are some birthday traditions you’ve created for your family?

The Tortoise and the Hare

Do you remember the fable The Tortoise and the Hare, Mama?

The hare challenges the tortoise to a race one day, overly confident in his speed and ability. He decides at one point that the tortoise is so slow, that he can take a nap and still win the race. More modern versions have him stopping for a snack prior to the nap. All along the tortoise remains steady, one step at a time.

It’s been almost 14 weeks since my misstep resulting in a broken ankle and fibula. In these past few months, my healing and recovery has been a steady, but slow process. I’ve graduated from using a knee scooter, to walking in a boot, to walking with a very pronounced limp, to walking at about 80% capacity. But I’m still not running yet.

At my doctor’s appointment this past Wednesday, the x-ray showed my fibula is still not fully healed. I won’t be running tomorrow, next week, and maybe even next month.

I can’t help but see how this parallels to my walk with the Lord. Some days all I can do is put one foot in front of the other. Opening my Bible, meditating on scripture, praying for my husband and children… These practices sometimes seem mundane, like taking steps. But these are fundamental, and necessary if I want to move forward and make any progress.

I’ve been so tempted to get discouraged and focus on what I have not yet been cleared to do-running and high impact exercises to name a few. But the truth is, taking steps is a big deal for me in this season. It’s not something to be overlooked, but to be celebrated.

I need to remind myself that a few weeks ago I wasn’t able to do what I’m doing now. Fourteen weeks ago I was preparing to go into surgery and couldn’t walk. Seven weeks ago I couldn’t walk without a boot. Three weeks ago, I couldn’t walk as efficiently or as far as I am walking today.

It’s easy for me to focus on where I’m not at yet, but I have to remember where I’ve come from before I can celebrate where I’m heading. Once again, this reminds me of my spiritual journey. I was once dead in my sins. Dead in my transgressions. Thanks to Jesus, He saved me from death and brought me into eternal life!

My journey these past few months has not been fast or glamorous, but much like the daily grind of motherhood has been slow and steady.

Do you remember who wins the race between the tortoise and the hare, Mama? It was the tortoise, who faithfully put one step in front of the other.

My Monthly Visitor and Angry Ovary

I was recently presented with the idea that each ovary can produce a different emotion. I think this is an interesting theory and would have to say that some months I seem more angry and jealous, and others more sad and disheartened. So I have a theory…Perhaps I have an angry/jealous ovary, and a sad/disheartened ovary.

Needless to say, it’s been an interesting few days with this Mama’s sweet daughter having some intense emotions, and navigating the ups and downs of homeschooling. It ain’t easy, that’s for sure.

Ever since an early age, I’ve sensed my daughter is very linked to my cycle. It makes me a bit wary of what’s to come when her own cycle begins.

There’s been some intense moments in our days. I wouldn’t say intense days, as in the 24 hour span, the moments only last maybe 15-30 minutes… but those minutes have left me feeling so drained and wiped that it takes everything within me to muster up the strength to push through. And then I’m reminded that I shouldn’t have been doing this thing called motherhood and homeschooling and wifing on my own strength to begin with.

It’s these times of the month that force me to take a hard look in the mirror and not blame my sin on my time of month, but instead face it, recognize it, confess it, and ask for forgiveness.

It’s very similar to my current situation. Eight and a half weeks ago I broke my fibula and ankle. Seven weeks ago I had surgery. The atrophy that has occurred in my right leg and calf muscle as a result of not walking on it is extreme. 

The same occurs with my spiritual muscles. When I am inactive in prayer, being still before the Lord and seeking His voice, and reading His Word… I get weak. I think I can run, but I can’t.

I’m learning to walk again, literally. Currently I’m in a boot and it’s baby steps. I have to listen to my body and slow it down, still remember to ice and elevate, and not push it too hard. 

At the time of my monthly visitor, I’m reminded I need to have a heart check—and often. When my kiddos are struggling to regulate their emotions and I fall into the temptation of yelling or being unkind with my words… I’m in serious need of some physical therapy. The Holy Spirit is the Ultimate Physical Therapist, willing to help strengthen my muscles so I can run again. 

Psalms 94:18-19 says, “when I said, “my foot is slipping,” your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

Whether you’ve fallen playing soccer with your son, or fallen short in your everyday life, turn to Jesus, Mama! He’s there to support you with His love and bring joy to your soul!

This Thanksgiving I Am Thankful For…

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the infinite wisdom of the Abba Father. 

In His infinite wisdom, the Lord said, “no” when we put an offer on a house this past summer. 

I questioned, “Why?” as this has been one of my desires to be a home owner and share my hospitality with others. 

In His infinite wisdom, He knew that I would not have my job I’ve had for almost five years come mid-November.

In His infinite wisdom, He foresaw a car accident where someone would pursue legal action. 

In His infinite wisdom, He knew that having an asset of a home would not be to our benefit. 

In His infinite wisdom, the Lord has not allowed us to conceive while we have been trying for a third baby the past few months.

In His infinite wisdom, He foresaw the accident that would occur on Monday, November 22, 2021. An accident where I fractured my ankle in two places and fibula. An accident that would result in a surgery that will take place on December 1, 2021. 

In His infinite wisdom, the Lord is all knowing. He knows better than me, and His plans are higher than my ways. 

I am thankful for the opportunities in this season to bear fruit in challenging circumstances. I am thankful for a community of friends and family who have surrounded us with prayer and support. What are you thankful for, Mama?

The Blessing of Obedience

On September 21, my husband Derek was in a very bad car accident. Praise God, he and the other person walked away with no major injuries. My Babes was only sore, and it was truly a miracle!

To be honest, my first response was not the best. I was very distressed about our better vehicle being the one that was totaled. That night I kept reaching out in my bed, crying thankful tears that my sweet Babes was still with me! Big picture is the Lord was gracious as He protected my husband and the other man that day.

We had originally planned to leave for our annual trip to Georgia in early October. That trip was postponed while we navigated our vehicle situation.

Insurance forms were filled out. The “Fam Cam” was towed. Insurance gave us an estimate. We countered back and were grateful when they considered the cost of inflation, resulting in a higher settlement than what they first offered. In the midst of all of this, we were helping our kiddos process this big change.

Lillian kept reminding my husband daily to “stay safe” as he would leave for work. Both kiddos would say in a sad voice multiple times a day, “The Fam Cam is GONE!”

In the meantime, a family from church allowed us to use their spare vehicle so we did not have to be a one-car family. This was a unexpected blessing and we are truly grateful.

We needed a new vehicle and were a bit on a time crunch, as we had already rescheduled our postponed vacation to Georgia for a departure date of November 9.

I kept hearing the Lord telling me to, “Be still,” and “Wait.” The devotions my children did even had this verse from Psalms several days in a row, “He says, Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10.

I questioned the Lord, telling Him, “That doesn’t make ANY SENSE! How can I be still and not look for a vehicle that we need?”

So for a month, I waited. I would occasionally look online and get discouraged by the costs and mileage of used cars. When I would question and pray about it, the Lord reminded me of the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar in Genesis 16. Sarah thought she had to help God out and tried going after a good thing instead of waiting for the better thing. I kept hearing the same message, “Be still and WAIT.”

One morning, I pulled out my journal and wrote down what I was asking the Lord for. Specifically, I wanted to pay cash and avoid a car payment, have a larger vehicle as we explore the possibility of expanding our family, have mileage around 50k, tinted windows, and a backup cam.

On the evening of Saturday, October 30th my mother-in-law came over with a list of websites and vehicles she had been diligently looking up. She led us to the site that led us to this amazing 2007 Honda Odyssey with only 51k miles, and around our price range. An extensive CarFax report was available and the van was very well maintained by an older couple. No backup cam, but a sensor in the back that makes a beeping noise when you’re too close. 😉 The dealership was located in Florida City, about an hour and a half away, so we prayed on it and asked the Lord to make it happen if this was what He had for our family.

P.S. My husband’s dream car has always been a Honda Odyssey. 😉

The next day I called the dealership and negotiated a price on the phone prior to making the drive. We had the pleasure of working with a man named Antonio, who was also a believer. He made our experience there a wonderful one!

As we were there, I sensed the Lord telling me, “This is the fruit, the blessing of your obedience in waiting.” The things I prayed for specifically were met, almost to a T.

I was so tempted to rush ahead of the Lord and chase after a good thing, but could have missed out on a better thing.

Have you ever experienced a blessing as a result of obedience, Mama? I’d love to hear from you!

Never Would I Ever

I remember playing the game, “Never have I ever…” back in high school and college. “Never have I ever been to Australia, run a full marathon, eaten…” You fill in the blank.

In my adult life, I’ve often said, “Never would I ever homeschool.” And here I am, into my second year of homeschooling my kiddos. 😉

A little background information on me: my degree is in Elementary Education and I taught at two different Title I public schools for a cumulative of 5 years after graduating college. When I had my first child, we as a family decided I would stay home instead of trading my paycheck in for daycare and doctors visits. I have been teaching for VIPKID for the past 4.5 years since being home.

My son was enrolled in kindergarten at a private school for the 2019-2020 school year. He had a scholarship called Step-Up which covered about 70% of his tuition. My plan was when my youngest, Lillian turned four, I would get a job at a local private school to cover the cost of tuition for both my children.

When the pandemic hit, life changed dramatically for us all.

My son’s school year ended online, and public and private schools were scrambling with how to begin the 2020-2021 school year. Virtual? Mask mandates? Social distancing at lunchtime and recess? Honestly, I was sending my son to school mostly for social purposes. Now that those were being taken away, and that the cost of tuition would still remain the same, we had to reevaluate. (Even 30% was a big committment for us.) We began to make a long list of pros and cons and to pray. Lots and lots of prayers.

Continue with private education or pursue the land of “Never Will I Ever?”

I had this plan that I had been holding tightly to for a long time now. I told this plan to many people over the years. I kept my teacher certificate renewed with the possibility of going back into the classroom one day. The plan as I mentioned earlier was to get a job at a local private school and my kids would attend where I taught.

Here’s the thing with my plans. I like planning. I like filling my family’s social calendar with events. I like setting goals for myself. And there’s nothing wrong with those things.

But, God’s Word says, “The mind of a person plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” -Proverbs 16:9

I began to have conversations with other local Mamas that homeschooled, I met with them and picked their brains. I am so thankful for these conversations and the time they took to share their wisdom with me.

One Mama encouraged me to I ask myself “Why am I doing this? What is my purpose in homeschooling?” She also said, “As you are doing your research I would encourage you to pray about what the Lord would have you do. At least that’s what I’ve done and it’s never steered me wrong.”

Godly wisdom.

Another Mama shared that she asks the Lord for a theme or verse to be her family’s focus for the year. An area that the Lord wants to grow them in as a family.

In the midst of all of this, I as an educator kept seeking all kinds of curriculum, homeschool groups, etc. But most of all I desired clarity.

Is this what the Lord had next for our family? Was I willing to step out in to faith and obedience?

As I prayed, I confessed to the Lord that I didn’t want to be a homeschool martyr mom. I didn’t want to talk about homeschooling as a burden, or something the Lord made me do and choose a bad attitude. If the Lord was calling our family to this, I desired to do it joyfully and for it to be a blessing to our family.

I struggled. I wrestled. I prayed. I surrendered. And boy did I cry. Lots of tears.

I asked the Lord for a sign, for confirmation in His Word. In many different seasons of my life the Lord has always been faithful to speak to me through the Scriptures. I wanted something to look back on and cling tightly to, a landmark of sorts at the beginning of this journey.

I woke up on June 17, 2020 to do my quiet time. (I only know this date because I journaled it!) I asked the Lord to speak to me through His Word. A lot of times I do this, but then I rush forward to reading my Bible and don’t take time to pause and listen. This particular morning, I felt strongly to pause. So I did.

When I closed my eyes, I saw a picture of two oxen and a yoke. I heard the Lord say, “My burden is easy and my yoke is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I needed to be reminded that homeschooling was not something I would do on my own strength, but in His strength!

When I opened my Bible study, the scripture was Proverbs 14:4, “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but increase comes by the strength of an ox.” You can get more insight on this scripture here.

I was stunned, shocked really when I saw that scripture with oxen after I just was told about oxen. Then as I continued on with my study (which I was about 2/3 of the way through) for the day, the woman who wrote the Bible study mentioned for the first time that she homeschooled.

I had the clarity I’d been seeking.

Now, the point of this story isn’t to say that homeschooling has been all rainbows and unicorns (although Lillian does enjoy both of these). We have had some very hard, intense moments, and even days. We’ve also had dance parties in tutus and knight outfits, and lots of intentional time together as a family.

The purpose is not also to say that I think everyone should homeschool, or that this is what we will do forever and ever. We desire to continue to seek the Lord and ask Him for guidance as we enter each school year, saying “What next?”

The purpose of me sharing the beginning of this journey with you is to ask you, “What do you sense the Lord is calling you to do next? Have you asked Him for confirmation and clarity?”

Mama, The Creator of the Universe desires to speak to you and your heart. He has good plans for you and your family, way better than anything you can plan yourself.

Seek Him, get into His Word, and He will lead and guide your steps.

What about you, Mama? What are you doing now, that you once said, ”Never will I ever…?”

Book Review: Love and A Little White Lie

Hey Mamas! This summer had so many good reads by a lot of my favorite authors! If you haven’t read any of Tammy L. Gray’s books yet, check her out here! Here newest book is about to release in just three days!

I love Tammy’s honesty in the dedication. She thought her time as an author had come to an end, but the Lord gave her a story to write! I can relate as there are many times I’ve felt like giving up, and the Lord gives me the endurance to press on.

Love And A Little White Lie was a beautifully written story with characters that were authentic and relatable.

January journeys through her family dynamics and her past with a rawness that draws the reader in. She struggles with being attracted to two different men and wrestles with being agnostic while working at a church.

I loved seeing the transformation in her heart occur in this story! January’s feistiness and the swoony moments make Tammy L. Gray’s newest release a must read!

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Because sometimes it’s more about loving a person through a hard time than it is about forcing a conversion. God was going to do what He wanted to do. Meanwhile, I was convicted to use every part of this amazing ministry to show you His love.”

Not only does the main character fall in love with a man, but she falls in love with THE MAN, Jesus! That Tammy can preach, along with write a good story!

Thank you to the publishing team for this opportunity to read and review this book honestly!

Have you read any of Tammy L. Gray’s books? Which one is your favorite? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Quinoa Bowls

If you live in Palm Beach County and haven’t tried out the fast casual restaurant Anzo, make it a point to do so soon! Their ingredients are fresh and tasty and their falafel is the BEST I’ve tasted! This recipe is inspired by Anzo, which reopens today, May 25! My kids and I have been counting down the days and encourage you to check them out and support this local business!

Ingredients

For the Quinoa base

1 cup of quinoa uncooked

1-1 1/2 cups of lentils uncooked

For the roasted veggies

1 head is broccoli

1 head of cauliflower

2 sweet potatoes

1 package of Brussels sprouts

Olive oil for pan

Garlic salt for seasoning

For the Tomato Salsa

1 package of grape tomatoes

Cilantro

Purple onion

Lemon

Salt

Toppings (optional)

Store-bought hummus (we use the organic Costco brand)

Sliced avocado

Sunflower seeds

Directions:

1. Put one cup of quinoa and two cups of water into a pot and cover on medium high. Bring to a boil and lower immediately after so it doesn’t boil over. Reducing heat to low, allow to cook until all liquid has been absorbed.

2. In a separate pot, put in lentils and fill pot halfway with water. Cook on medium high for about 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender.

3. Drain lentils and combine with quinoa, mixing and adding a little garlic salt.

4. While the lentils and quinoa are cooking, prep your veggies. Preheat oven to 375. Spray two cookie sheets with olive oil.

5. Chop sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts after rinsing thoroughly. For Brussels sprouts, cut off tips and half or quarter them. Toss all Brussels sprout leaves onto pan also as these are crunch yummy. Sprinkle with garlic salt.

6. Roast the veggies for about 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through and moving veggies around with a spatula. I like my veggies a little charred, so sometimes leave them in a few minutes longer.

7. While the veggies are roasting, prepare the tomato salsa. Rinse and slice grape tomatoes in half. Dice onion and finely chop cilantro. Mix all together into a bowl with a splash of lemon juice and olive oil. And dash of salt. Taste and season according to your preference.

To assemble the bowls, put the quinoa lentil base at the bottom. Pile on the veggies and tomato salsa. Add avocado, hummus, and sunflower seeds if desired. Enjoy!

This is a great meal to prepare in advance and make in bulk to have for lunches for a few days.

What local businesses are you most looking forward to reopening, Mama?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Stay With Me

Happy Monday, Mamas! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, reading is one of my favorite forms of self-care.

In recent years I’ve discovered that authors have “launch teams” where they select applicants to read their new releases in advance. The responsibilities of the launch team members include writing reviews, and promoting the books on social media prior to release day.

I have the privilege of being on Becky Wade’s launch team for her newest release, Stay With Me. This beauty releases tomorrow, May 5, 2020. You can check out my brief review below.

Gen awakens in a cottage on Sam’s property, with no recollection of how she arrived there. Sam discovers Gen’s secret and from the get-go convinces himself to remain as he has, isolated and alone.

The two characters must work through their past, and attraction to each other causes sparks to fly. Their experiences have shaped them, but can they trust the Lord to guide their future?

This is a must read! Every year, I mark my calendar for Becky Wade’s newest release. And every year, I am so sad when I’ve finished reading her newest book, because they are SO GOOD! Stay With Me is a beautiful story that has the reader searching their heart and staying up past their bedtime!

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

You can purchase Stay With Me on amazon, bookbub, Barnes & Noble, christianbooks.com, Books-A-Million, and a few other places I might have forgotten! 😉

This particular book is one of my favorites by Becky. If you haven’t checked out this author, I highly encourage you to!

What books are you reading, Mama?

Bonus: Check out some of my favorite quotes from Stay With Me!

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My Thankful Song: Stirring up Gratitude

In May 2013, my Babes and I returned to the U.S. after an eleven month journey called the World Race.

August 2013, we packed our bags once again and moved from Florida to Georgia where I landed a second grade teaching position and my Babes an internship with Adventures in Missions.

Shortly after moving, we discovered I was pregnant. After having no income for one year. After moving away from our family once again. After moving to a city where traffic was horrendous on my daily drive to and from work.

I struggled daily to find contentment, to find something to be thankful for. The Georgia gray skies were depressing. As my belly grew daily, I found it hard to fit behind the wheel of Whitey Tighty, my afternoon 1997 Corolla on the cool winter mornings. My classroom was the trailer that was farthest away from the school, and more importantly the bathroom. And the day we went to move into our apartment, we discovered they gave it away to someone else.

I felt strongly that I needed to do something to help stir up gratefulness in my own heart. One morning on my drive to work, I created a thankful song. It’s so simple, but any time I would feel the gray skies pressing in, I would sing this silly song. It helped change my focus to the blessings in my life.

After all, the Lord provided a beautiful home for us to live in. After being sad about the distance between my family and I, God provided family and community in a unique way. After all, the Lord had provided the job and a new scenic route to school that didn’t include as much traffic. After all, the Lord provided the blessing of a firstborn son.

A friend of mine who lives in Georgia texted me a few days ago and reminded me of my thankful song. I have sung it through many seasons over the years, and the tune is a little quirky and silly.

I was reminded of the importance of stirring up gratitude in this very unusual season of quarantine. I am sure that this is not what many of us hoped for or anticipated for 2020. Mamas, it’s ok to be honest with God about our disappointments. Surrender them to him and then take a moment to be thankful for your blessings.

Thank you God for a place to live.

Thank you God for the food that you provide.

Thank you God for my job at VIPKID.

Thank you God for my healthy familyyyyyyyyy.

(The last line I usually stretch out quite a bit.)

How are you stirring up gratitude in this season, Mamas?

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalm 100:4