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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What I’m Listening To

Hey Mamas! Have you read any good books lately? I love, love, LOVE reading! Reading fiction at the end of my day (or during nap time) is my favorite way to unwind and give me some self care.

My preference to read is fiction, but this year I really wanted to challenge myself to grow more as a mom, wife, and in my walk with Jesus. I’ve rediscovered the beauty of audiobooks. I love that I can be washing dishes, doing laundry, or driving around and be soaking in some goodness.

Do you have the Hoopla app, Mama? I just have to share the good news, it’s free and with your library card you have access to so many good reads, or listens. 🙂

I just finished listening to “Becoming Mom Strong,” by Heidi St. John. Wow! First of all, Heidi is a mom of 7, so pretty much a rockstar. I love how she weaves in humorous stories of her children and herself to keep it real. Heidi has scripture to sharpen and challenge the Mamas to be strong and courageous as we are in the battle of our lives, fighting for our kids spiritually. Each chapter ends with “prayer points,” recapping what was talked about and guiding Mamas how to pray for themselves and their kiddos. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!

I am currently listening to, “Parenting Scripts,” co-authored by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. These ladies also wrote, “Triggers,” which I have not yet read or listened to. I’d recommend going with “Triggers,” first, as it seems like this book lays the foundation, but they can both be read separately. “Parenting Scripts,” is rocking my world a bit. Each chapter contains different potential scenarios that occur in most homes. The authors encourage parents to take time away from these repetitive situations and ask the Holy Spirit to guide them in rewriting a new, positive, scripture based script for the future. What I love about this book is the women recognize and say repeatedly that each individual family is unique and will have different scripts for the same scenarios. And that’s how it’s supposed to be! God is a Creative God and made each family special with their own personalities. I am not done with this book yet, but give it 5 out of 5 stars already!

What have you been reading or listening to lately, Mama? Do you prefer to read a physical book or listen? Share in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Free VPK in Palm Beach County

Hey Mamas! Did you know that in Palm Beach County they offer FREE VPK for children the year before they enter kindergarten? Actually, if you live anywhere in the state of Florida, and your child turns 4 years old prior to September 1, they are eligible to participate in this program!

What does VPK stand for? Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten.

How many hours a day is my child in school? Each school is slightly different, but they will be in school for 540 hours total. Usually, it’s three hours a day, but some places offer extended days or an extra half hour. Anything over the 540 hours (3 hours per day) is paid for by the parent.

What are the steps? I’m so glad you asked!

  1. Register at this website here. First you need to form an account, then log in and fill out forms. You can do this as early as January 1.
  2. Wait and look daily for the voucher! It should take no more than 10 days for it to arrive in your email inbox.
  3. While you wait, tour the schools in your area! Google which schools accept the VPK voucher and go see which one is the best fit for your family/time schedule.
  4. Once you have chosen your school, ask them when their enrollment opens to the public. Some schools fill up QUICK. Like, within the first half hour of the first day that they open enrollment. I would get a gauge on how quickly spots of filled up in the past for your school of choice, and plan on being there accordingly. The school my son went to had open enrollment as early as mid-February last year!
  5. Have your voucher and paperwork ready to go!

Here’s some questions to ask when touring schools:

  1. What sets your school apart from others in the area?
  2. How do you prepare children for kindergarten?
  3. What is an example of the students’ daily schedule?
  4. What are the start and finish times each day?
  5. How long is recess?
  6. What is the snack policy?
  7. What is the discipline policy?

Some questions to ask once you have chosen the school:

  1. What is the date and time of open enrollment?
  2. How many spots/classes do you have available and how quickly have they filled in the past?
  3. What documents do I need to bring (in addition to the voucher) the day I sign my child up?

Do you have a child that participated in VPK, Mama? My son went to an awesome school last year called Church In The Gardens! I was so pleased with our experience there. Do you have any tips for other Mamas? Share below, I’d love to hear from you!

Small Yes’s and Small No’s

Where did the first month of 2020 go, Mamas? I feel like it breezed on by, quickly!

I’ve been doing some reflecting on 2019 and what I want 2020 to look like. A big goal for 2020 is to pay off any remaining debt we have, and we are SO CLOSE, I can just taste it! I am finding it’s best for me to focus on one goal and go after it HARD.

Our goals can be met, but the daily choices we make play a big part in that. My sister shared with me a recent sermon from Journey Church (shout out to them!). The speaker challenged the people that small “yes’s” and small “no’s” will lead you closer to where you want to be.

You want to lose some weight? Saying “no” to eating after dinner time once, gives you more power to say “no” the next night, and the next. Saying “yes” to exercising when you want to sleep in, makes it easier to say “yes” when future alarm clocks go off.

This Mama loves a break from cooking once a week. Really, it’s the cleaning part, not the cooking part that I want a break from! 🙂 We used to eat out a few times a month at Chipotle, Blaze Pizza, or some fast casual restaurant where our family can eat off it twice and it’s super affordable. For the month of January, I challenged myself and my family to refrain from eating out.

And Mama, it was CHALLENGING! I said a lot of small no’s and what felt like some big NO’s when I really wanted something to treat myself and my family. This has greatly impacted our family budget for the better! And helped us work towards the big goal of paying off that debt!

Do you have a big goal for the year? What are some small “no’s” and “yes’s” you can do daily, Mama? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanksgiving Place Card Craft

Most Fridays I host a toddler art class at my house. It’s a super fun way to get my Lil to interact with kiddos her age and practice the art of sharing and painting all at the same time. I typically do a read aloud and pair it with a project I’ve found on Pinterest.

Ever since doing a handprint paint project, Lillian is determined to paint her hands (and arms, imagine evening gloves up to her elbows painted on!) Every. Single. Art class. So let’s just say most of her paintings end up with handprints, not at all resembling the cutesie craft I am aiming for. Following directions is a skill we are working on! Haha.

My son, however is five years old. So he does the craft on the weekends and his turn out very well done, I must say. I fell in love, love, love with my son’s fist pumpkin patch! I thought, why not turn this into something to create for Thanksgiving? Here’s a few ideas for making placecards for Thanksgiving day.

1. The Pumpkin Fist

Supplies needed: Orange paint, paintbrush, cardstock paper or construction paper, brown and green markers

Instructions: Precut the paper, I would half or quarter each piece depending on how large your child’s fist is. Fold each cut piece in  half. Have your child form a fist. Paint the fist with orange paint using a paintbrush. Guide their fist onto the paper. Repeat these steps until you have completed the amount of place cards needed. Allow the pumpkins to dry. When dry, add a brown stem, green leaves, and name of individuals using the markers.

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2. The Handprint Turkey

Supplies needed: Orange, brown, green, red, and yellow paint, paintbrushes, cardstock/construction paper, a black marker.

Instructions: Precut the paper, I would half or quarter each piece depending on how large your child’s hand is. Fold each cut piece in  half. Holding your child’s hand face up, paint the palm and thumb with brown paint. Paint each of the four remaining fingers a different color, allowing your child to choose. Guide your child to make a handprint on each piece of cardstock paper. Repeat the steps, adding more paint as needed to make the prints. Allow the turkeys to dry. When dry, use the marker to draw legs, feet, eyes (if desired), and the name of each individual that will be in attendance for Thanksgiving.

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I hope you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving, Mama!

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Mother’s Day and Holy Moments

Happy belated Mother’s Day, Mama! I hope you and yours had a blessed one. I have lots of blog post ideas running through my head, but so little time to write! I am currently watching my daughter Lillian through a window as she is in Physical Therapy to fine tune her balance and walking.

Easter and Mother’s Day passed in a blur. We are in the process of creating new traditions with our children as our families expand. Sharing the holidays is a rhythm we are finding.

The past couple years we’ve done brunch with my in laws out at a restaurant. This year we hosted in our home, and can I get an amen that eating at home with kids is the way to go? The struggle of having little ones sit still for 1.5 hours out at a restaurant is real. We’ve enjoyed hosting as my MIL graciously cooks brunch and brings it to our home. The kids loving playing with their uncles and interacting with the family in their environment. Then later on in the day, after my youngest has napped, we head over to my moms to swim and eat. What a blessing to have a day off from cooking! I usually help bake an item for each family session, and am so thankful to indulge in some deliciousness I did not have to prepare.

Lets rewind (who remembers VHS?) back to Easter. Due to little ones and early bed time the past two years we have not attended the Good Friday service at our church. We’ve tried to be intentional about reading the story of Jesus’ beautiful sacrifice in our home along with creating sacred space of not running around like little chicks. We had multiple Easter egg hunts at Awanas, school, and family…trying to keep the focus on what Easter is about. What activities did you do for Easter?

It was tradition in the Urso home to get a new Easter dress every year, usually accompanied by big bows and gloves and frilly socks. Confession:this year I was too tired and didnt wash my hair or shave my legs. Shout out to maxi dresses to cover the hairy beasts! Years ago I was challenged when listening to a podcast that when I go to church, it’s  not about what I gain but about what I give. It was a privilege to serve in walker room at our church on Easter morning. My eyes often tear up in those precious moments with the little ones as we read the story or color.

The day before Easter, I went for a run and had a holy moment in the kitchen. I was sweaty, chowing down on carrots and guac and simply listening to a song on my iPhone with headphones. It was in that moment that I sensed the presence of God so strongly. Most of the times I encounter that presence it’s not in a corporate setting, but in the mundane of a car ride, run, or the normal day to day.

I love that Jesus is not put off by sweaty runny clothes. I don’t have to be in my best Easter dress to enter the presence of the Holy One, he accepts us all just as we are.

What did you do to celebrate Easter and Mother’s Day, Mama? Have you encountered any holy moments lately?

 

Confident for the Kingdom

“Well (insert classmate’s name here) didn’t raise his hand in school today. Even though he’s four I know more than him because I always raise my hand in school. AND I’ve been to school two times.”    -Aiden Jo, four years old, after his third day of VPK.

One thing my son does not lack is good self esteem. I’m not quite sure if he was born that way, OR if all the words of affirmation he’s received over the course of his life have helped shape him to be the confident young man he is.

His above statement led into a conversation of how we all might forget things every now and then. I gently reminded my son that he forgot which table to sit at that morning when he first walked into school.

This Mama is a firm believer in humility. After all, Michah 6:8 calls us to “do what is right, love mercy, and walk humbly.” The Bible is full of verses on the art of being humble. And let’s be real, no one likes a braggart.

We often have to give our sure-of-himself-son a dose of reality. For example, one day he stated that he was a better piano player than his daddy. His Daddy who was classically trained in piano for 15 years. Aiden is very passionate about music, but hasn’t quite caught up to his Daddy on this one, yet.

As parents, we exemplify humility to our children. Yet, we also strive to raise children to be confident in who God created them to be. This will result in them becomming kingdom movers and shakers

What if our children didn’t suffer from pride or false humility, but went through life fearless, hopeful, and courageous? What if they were bold in their gifts and talents, not second-guessing themselves or comparing their abilities to others?

As Mamas, let’s practice encouragement. Build up your child with your words. Call them into greatness.

I don’t know about you, but I desire to raise children that are confident for the Kingdom.

How do you build your child’s confidence, Mama? What gifts and talents do you see in them at an early age?

Saturday at the Simke’s

I love, love, love SATURDAYS! Mostly because it’s time for I, my Babes, and our kids to just be present and enjoy each other’s presence. We aren’t rushing through breakfast, hurriedly getting dressed, and dashing to the car.

On Saturdays, we take it easy.

On Saturdays, we usually do a variety of the same things.

We typically we make a big breakfast. Today’s menu included yummy vegan blueberry pancakes.

An active outdoor family outing is also included in our Sabbath regime.

Last weekend we did our first family run/bike ride/carriage ride. I am so proud of my Aiden Jo for riding his bike 3 miles! What a champ. Lil enjoyed lounging as she cruised along.

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Most summer weekends include swimming at the pool.

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All Saturdays include naps. Ahhhh naps. During Lil’s nap time today, Daddy and I fell asleep on the couch while Aiden played in his room quietly.

Our family is very musical. I happen to have the talent of music appreciation, while Babes and the kiddos jam. We enjoy worshipping together. Today’s band attire was simply bottoms…with lots of laundry on stage.

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We read a LOT on Saturdays (and every day). This is my personal favorite way to unwind, and the love has passed along to both my children.

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Good food is a must for our foodie family. This Saturday’s lunch was leftover lentil soup and a Vega/açai smoothie. Chipotle for dinner, to be followed by the best vegan cookies ever.

My favorite way to end a Saturday is on the couch chatting with my Babes.

How do you and your family like to spend your Saturdays, Mama?

 

 

What’s In Your Labor Bag? (Pregnancy Series Part 3)

Deciding where you give birth is an important and personal decision. Whether at your home, birthing center, or hospital, you need to be prepared with a labor bag! Here’s my top ten things to have in your labor bag, with some bonus items.

  1. Snacks: Can you imagine running a marathon and never eating or hydrating yourself? My labors from start to finish were an average of 14.5 hours. I am so thankful I had some nutrition to keep me going! While I didn’t want to eat a huge meal, I did snack a lot and often, especially early on to give me energy. I found having nuts, bars, smoothies, honey sticks, banana and peanut butter and other high protein goodies on hand to be helpful. Technically you aren’t allowed to eat or drink once you enter the hospital, so make sure you fuel up before you leave home! Having a few munchies packed in your bag can be helpful for the ride if your destination is away from home.
  2. Drinks: Drink up, Mama! You need to stay hydrated for yourself and baby! Water in a bottle with a straw was easy access for me to sip in between contractions. I also craved Coconut water in labor!
  3. Essential Oils: I love me some calming lavender. Putting a few drops in the diffuser helped soothe the environment and made it smell yummy! Clary sage is known to help induce labor, so be cautious in using this essential oil until its close to your due date!
  4. Tunes and Headphones: I got in the birthing zone pretty quickly with both babies…and stayed there for the majority of my labor. Having some good tunes to listen to helped me focus. I love, love, love Childbirth in the Glory soundtrack! This is a series of instrumental music and speaking life over Mama, baby, and the birthing process. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, do it right now! I listened to it the week before I gave birth and wish I had it sooner.
  5. Clothing for Mama: Comfy clothes for Mama during the early stages of labor. But let’s keep it real, those clothes get stripped off quickly when it gets intense. I liked wearing a bathing suit top for my first birth when I used a birthing tub. Nursing bras, flip flops for shower, and a cute comfortable outfit to go home in. Key word here is comfort. You aren’t going to squeeze back into your pre pregnancy clothes right away, so keep things loose and airy.
  6. Robe: This item of clothing gets it own category. I didn’t have a robe with my first birth, and I wish I did! I walked around with a blanket wrapped around me, so silly! I bought this super cute robe from TJMaxx and continue to use it. This is great for immediately after giving birth, because you can keep baby skin to skin without you or baby getting chilled.                                      IMG_4860.jpeg
  7. Big Undies/Depends and Pads: Let’s be real, Mama. Your female part down there goes through trauma while giving birth. It needs to heal, and can’t do that with tight panties or a thong. I purchased undies a size larger than I would normally wear, along with (ahem) depends. I am not ashamed to admit it. You will bleed after giving birth Mama, as your body just did something so miraculous, you brought a baby into the world! From my experience, I wore depends the first couple days and then switched to pads with the bigger undies until the bleeding stopped around 4-6 weeks post pardum.
  8. Baby stuff: Baby clothes, newborn diapers, wipes. The hospital provides a lot of these things, but if you are delivering at a birthing center or at home, you want to be stocked up. Also, if you plan on taking newborn photos, be sure to have those cute outfits ready!
  9. Toxic free toiletries for Baby and Mama: I didn’t give either of my kiddos a bath until they were at least a week old. I rubbed their vernix in and let their baby skin soak it up. However, I did thoroughly enjoy a quick shower after giving birth. My friends say it’s nice to have their toiletries on hand if they are away from home. I use Pure Haven* toiletries for myself, and they have a fantastic baby line. Currently I use Earth Mama Angel Baby body wash and lotion for my kiddos.
  10. Nursing Pillow: I used a nursing pillow early on, and eventually graduated to not needing it. This was also a helpful tool when my son wanted to hold his baby sister. Aren’t they the cutest?                                        IMG_5005.jpeg

Hospital Bonus Items:

Motrin and Colace stool softener. The hospital will overcharge you for everything. Bringing these items could save you a couple hundred dollars. You might want motrin for pain, because, you might experience a little pain after giving birth. And Colace stool softener because, you need to poop eventually. Subconsciously I did NOT want anything else coming out of me after I gave birth with my second child. When my midwife asked me if I had pooped 24 hours later, she recommended taking something if I didn’t drop a deuce in the next few hours. Thankfully nature took it’s course without any assistance.

Home birth Bonus Items:

Padsickles, peri bottle, and sitz bath. You can make your own padsickles by freezing witch hazel onto pads. Ahhhh relief. Prior to giving birth, I purchased sitz bath and had my husband brew it up and put a big batch in a pitcher in the fridge. I kept the sitz bath in peri bottles in every bathroom. Whenever I did any kind of business on the toilet, I would squirt some down there and it helped ease the tenderness.

That’s my top ten with a few bonus items. What was in your labor bag, Mama?

*Pure Haven is a toxic free company that produces house-hold cleaning products and toiletries that vary from toothpaste to skincare items. I am currently a consultant for Pure Haven. If you are interested in their products, feel free to contact me. http://purehaven.com/
This post contains affiliate links. 

What Makes You Squeal

Whenever my son Aiden takes a bite of something so yummy and delicious, he gets this goofy grin on his face and let’s out the HUGEST happy sound. A squeal of delight. He had gotten in the habit of doing it multiple times, and I thought to myself, “Where did he learn to do THAT?”

Oh….he learned that from me!

You don’t have to know me for very long before you discover I let off squeals when I’m excited. When I see someone I haven’t in a long time, I can’t help but give them a great big squeeze accompanied by my trademark noise of bliss.

Multiple months ago, a friend of mine shared a book she was recently reading, “Grace Not Perfection” by Emily Ley. I confess, I haven’t read it, yet. Buuuuut our conversation and my son’s squeals have gotten me thinking. What things do I delight in?

I enjoy…

the quietness of the early morning

the beach

long runs

a great workout

facemasks

pedicures

yummy healthy food paired with dark chocolate

new book releases by my favorite authors

I could go on…the author sheds light on the reality of motherhood. Sometimes we get lost in the diaper changes, night feedings, laundry,…or we get caught up what our children need, want, like/dislike. And we forget who we are. What do we like?

Today, I challenge you to answer the question, “What makes you squeal, Mama?”

It could be as simple as mango lipgloss.

Jot down a few things and set aside some time for yourself this weekend. Take delight and remember who you were created to be.