Your Momstinct

Finding your instincts as a mother one moment of clarity at a time, no matter how few and far between they come.

Your Momstinct - Finding your instincts as a mother one moment of clarity at a time, no matter how few and far between they come.

Losing Your *IT* vs. Saving Grace (FIVE things I’ve learned through 7 years of poop)

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Last week was one of those. A week that sapped us of sleep, and strength. Of two cars with issues that drained the bank  just like they did last month.  Of many things broken in this house.

My mug, known by all as an extension of my arm and used every day.

My mug, known by all as an extension of my arm and used every day.

My favorite cofffee mug, used 50x a day.

My mug, this week.  Followed by my favorite tea cup and my grandmother’s porcelain ash tray. All in a week.

I sighed, I felt disappointment… deeply struggled with the inner beast… but no children were broken and that is something, if you consider how close I was to edge of my walk in grace.  That fine line where the sidewalk ends in this walk with my Guide. Sometimes, he’s just gonna have to carry me, because I can’t take a step.


I teetered on the edge for a minute there, but I took a deep breath. I’ve been here before more times than I could ever recall enough detail to relate to you. It’s that often.   I can scream with the best of them. I can stomp and slam doors and rage to high heaven.  I have, and sometimes I do, but I’m finding that it’s not as often anymore and that this grace that is said to be sufficient… it actually is if you let it be.  I wonder how I got to the place where suddenly I’m choosing grace over rage more often than not. Especially when current circumstances would predict otherwise, based on past experiences and outbursts from my inner godzilla.
I suppose it could be a phase. It could be my constant expose to the need for it, and the scarred knees from falling over and getting back up, over, and over, and over, and…
I think, like many of my other blog posts will tell you, God likes to teach me how not to lose my **IT** by giving me many opportunities.  Hundreds of them. Could it be that I’m finally getting the message?
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Here are a few things I’ve learned in my  battle between choosing a saving of  Grace or a losing of **IT**.


1. WHEN I RAGE AGAINST THE GRACE. The rage does not heal and it does not put back together my pieces of broken things…the mug I love and the heirloom that I never used anyway. It was beautiful and special, but what need to I REALLY have for my grandmother’s ash tray?  No, crossing the line won’t bring the things back. Any of the things. It simply breaks and bends more things around me, and the next in line tends to be my children.

2.  BE PREPARED, IT WILL KEEP HAPPENING. I, alone, choose my focus, to be aware of where I am and who I am to them.  To accept the truth that it is not a question of IF I will ever be on the edge of losing it again, but WHEN.  We have to stop  crossing our fingers and hoping for days where we are not tested. Let’s simply agree to accept as fact that we will be. We should even PREDICT that today we will be, and the real question is which way we will step. After it all, I know what happens when I cross over from this field of grace to  the release of anger. The grass is not greener on the other side.  Sure, there is some bizarre feeling of release in that short moment of Losing **IT** that I can try to convince myself  feels “good” to let go of.  It’s not good. It creates a wasteland in tiny hearts around me.  Angry, selfish parenting…making our children’s mistakes and struggles about US and our day is self-centered and excludes their needs. This is THEIR day, too. I do not own it.

3.  I CAN’T CHOOSE THEIR OUTCOME.  My kids are individuals, who also choose their own opinion and response to my behavior.  I can not guarantee that they will not reach adulthood feeling cracked  and warped from being in our care.  I do not choose to parent with Grace in hopes of creating perfectly behaved little people and adults that will give me a great reputation. I do it to give them an example of giving in, of choosing grace even when you don’t want to.  Their perception of their childhood is their own and I can’t control how they process our moments together, the good or the bad.  Many a child has felt wounds from parents who struggled to be their best but all are human and all fail.   I can’t choose their reaction to us. That is theirs. I just want to be by their side in their life, which is where God has put me.  Just what I asked for!!!  And how I treat them will dictate how these children will trust me and want me beside them in the future, when it become THIER choice to call me…or not.  Their future decisions about me start with how I care for them now.  Their future decisions on when to run to grace and when to lose their own **IT** will conjure up memories of a mom. What do I want them to remember?

4. I CAN’T CHOSE CIRCUMSTANCES, BUT MY RESPONSE IS MY CHOICE. And that’s good because some of our current circumstances are much less than I had hoped.  I still have my choice. I choose my actions, right now. I can refuse to cross over when I know I’m there at the edge of control, the steam rising before my eyes.  When I have that split second of awareness, that moment of saving grace or losing my **IT**.   A still small voice says “breathe”, but do I want to stomp my foot and scream “No!”?  That point of no return where I either “Hulk” their mom before their eyes and turn green in the face, or fall back onto grace that will save me from myself and what that ability to rage inside me is capable of.  Dear God, why did you have to make it so easy to go green? Moms would be so much better with your kids if you made us a little more Stepford.  Just kidding. Thank you SO MUCH for not making me a Stepford!

5. I AM NOT THE **IT**, IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT ME. Last week wore on more than just me.  Each day had it’s something for him.  Husband flew away and flew back. Locked keys in the car and had to walk miles.  He worked late every night except for the night that his car gave us fits and I had to drive across town to get him. That was his only “early” night at 9:30pm.  Then the weekend came with no rest but  side jobs to fill in for those ends that aren’t meeting at the end of this month. Then the man had hours upon hours of working on the cars and fixing his wife’s laptop so that she can write and share our the innermost whatever of our lives. This man is amazing. How did he happen to me? He wears shoes like this to work on the cars. I find myself in a lack of content because I haven’t got the color I want my shoes to be. Dumb woman. I want my eyes open. I’m only alone in this when I close them to these things.

He spent hours in these this weekend.

He spent hours in these this weekend.

And after all of that, a week filled with so much struggle, it was also the most filled with grace and a surrounding of prayer and precious moments with children.  I was filled with utter shock, to be honest, and then joy at how often I found myself turning away from the edge of hysteria and losing of **IT**.  I did it! I found it!  I may not always, but I feel strength for tomorrow from what I accomplished in my heart last week. Looking back, I wonder, did I really make it through without one outburst?
I’ll take it, but I’m not applying for any awards ceremonies.  Because that was just one week. Now there’s this one and I’m not one to take bets on the future.  Just taking each day as it comes, thank you very much.

This morning, things were sailing along smoothly, for a Monday.  All were fed and dressed with bags packed and lunches made for  our two out-of-home-schoolers.  The homeschoolers were ready to begin. It’s a new week and the last one is behind me. Then after we settle in,  husband walks back in the front door with the 7 year old.  Ladies, toddlers aren’t the only ones who wait until the last minute to go in their diaper and make you late.  For those of us who are still in this diaper business with older kids….**IT** still happens. So, there I stood once again. He will be late for school, again. So will his sister.  Because of a load of **IT**.  And I’m not feeling the extreme edge of anger that I could, but I know this is another of those cross over moments.  Mondays are already hard days, do we really have to start with **IT**? Yes, apparently we do and I don’t get a choice about that. **IT** already happened.


My choice now is in how I respond. So I walk my big boy to the bathroom trying to convince him that he DID go, but he doesn’t believe me because he doesn’t feel it or smell it. He doesn’t understand. We go through the routine, again.  And I know my words, my expression and my choices will effect how this guy feels about himself as time marches on and he is still in diapers in a year… maybe even two. Third grade? Fourth? He’s the one who has to process this. I’m helping HIM.  I can’t feel sorry for myself to still be dealing with diapers. This is not about me.

And he’s off to school. All taken care of.  Not yelled at or shamed..whew.  I made it through another change.

I’ve washed my hands 8 times. I still smell like **IT**.  Now I don’t want to drink my coffee. Gets my hands too close to my face and ruins it all for me.  Sigh…

I remember complaining when he was 4, unaware that the issue was not stubbornness or laziness. I did thinks like the Extreme Potty Training Makeover.   Why would this kid not potty train!?!?  Now, as he nears the age of 8, and we understand what he faces ( Read: A Boy And His Poop, Getting To Know Asperger Syndrome)  I have to tell you. I am thankful for his issue with  **IT**. Every time I change him is another chance to exercise my soul.  Will I go for saving grace or for losing **IT**.
And here’s the deal. God is so into hilarity. He absolutely knows my sense of humor well and my love for a bit of irony. He has quite literally  used almost 8 years of actual feces to teach me how to not to lose my **IT**.  You’ve gotta admit it.  That is pretty much awesome.  (Want more hilarity? Read: A Pathetic Tale of Miserable Hilarity, And The Quest For A Shower)

So for those of you who have asked “How I do it”, who seem to think that I have something you don’t, be aware that I spent my time Waiting For Supermom. She doesn’t exist.  I, of all people, will never reach a stake of being some kinda Mama Yoda.   And let us not forget, Yoda was 900 years old!!! That’s way more practice than  any of us will ever have.  And there’s something else to consider…..

Notice, you never see them together,  just like Miley  Crunkis and Justin Blueberry…   There may be something to this Yoda vs. Hulk thing.  Saving Grace vs. Losing our **IT**.

I think the answer is in finding the grace that is IT, because it  IS always available. The question is not whether grace exists in our moments of  struggle with **IT**.  His grace is present in ALL of the moments.

The ones leading up to **IT**.

The moment **IT** happens.

The second we choose whether Saving or Losing…. Grace or **IT**.

And ultimately, the grace is still there….. even if you chose to lose your **IT** this time.

It’s there. Always.  You have to choose to know it, see it,  grasp it, cling to it and don’t let go. I pray that it won’t take YOU almost 8 years of daily **IT**… but if that is what it will take, I’m gonna have to pray that you be blessed with lots of **IT**.

Now, while you try to process all of that…. I’m going to go wash my hands again. I really thought I had it gone that last time.  But then, I always do and there’s always more…. Thankful for more…again.

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The Opposite of Failure- Mec Happens- Part 2 of Lil Bit’s Birth Story

65025_10200375207403190_1720942416_nI had my first three little ones in 3.5 years.  Memories are like smoke and wind chimes, hard to define anything from those few years really. Any mama who has done the same can attest to the truth in this.  Mostly a happy colorful blur, full of life and vibrancy, but a blur none the less.

Wait, did you miss PART ONE?

Ironically, I grew up suspecting that I may never be able to have bio babies.  I had several reasons for this, but the main one  was the horrible abdominal pain and issues that I suffered since I was a child but no doctor had diagnosed. That’s a long story for another post. Or 5 posts. We’ll get to that someday.

I warned my husband when we were engaged that he may be joining in holy matrimony with a lemon.  As he is clearly the right and perfect choice for me, he didn’t bat an eyelash.  We made plans from the beginning to have a family of adopted children, whether we were given bio babies or not. He new my heart was drawn to adoption, having lived in South America to work with orphaned children on the streets.   No matter how we were blessed with them, we just knew we wanted children. We agreed that our dream come true would be to have both.


That is why it was no surprise that even though we were only 23 when we got married, we decided to “try” before our first anniversary. We didn’t know how long of a road we would have to conceive.  It was only a few weeks our first year  I knew the, ahem, “window” was coming up.

We discussed it and decided to try on a Tuesday.

We….tried…. on Thursday.

We woke up on Friday and decided that maybe waiting 6 months or a year would be better after all.

Too late.   That Thursday night was the only night we have EVER “tried” intentionally in our entire 12 years of marriage.  Infertile? Umm. No. Not even close.  Just our hearts being prepared for the blended family that we will soon have.

I expected not to be able to get pregnant. What I didn’t expect was how hard pregnancy would be on my body.  My mother had 10 children and I grew up surrounded by pregnant women. She never complained about pregnancy.  My sister was pregnant alongside me with her 4th.  She is also amazing, although she does have morning sickness really badly in the beginning.
I was not as prepared as a though. I threw up the entire 9 months. I was throwing up the morning that I went into labor.  We considered homebirth for Big Sister, but that was a fleeting thought. With throwing up 14 times a day, losing tons of weight, episodes of bleeding and contractions starting early in my pregnancy, I went for the “We’ll just have the first in the hospital and then do homebirth.” approach.

No one in my extended family had ever given birth by c-section. I knew a few people who had but I knew nothing about csections. It’s just not what Fowlers do. My mother birthed 10 children. I was an unassisted homebirth, myself.  My sister was double trained as a homebirth midwife (CPM) and also had her masters to deliver in hospitals (CNM).  We’re Fowler women. Birthing babies is our thing. It’s what we do.

With my cousin, Alex, and my Uncle Mike who passed away a few months after this photo. I miss him.

With my cousin, Alex, and my Uncle Mike who passed away a few months after this photo. I miss him.

You need to know this for me to try to explain to you the peace and strength that flooded me at 20 weeks when we had our typical, routine ultrasound.  It made no sense. Everything was perfect. SHE was perfect, and we finally knew her as SHE. Something stood out to me though. Something small and inconsequential it seemed. I looked at the sonographer and said it.

Me: “Wait, she’s breech.”
Sonographer: “Oh honey, we don’t even call it that at this point. She’s just fine.”
Me: “I understand that, but look at her. She is perfectly head up. That looks so strange.”
Sonographer: “You’re right. She really is. Don’t worry too much about it.”
Me: “Oh, I won’t. Lots of time.”

And that was that. Except, it really wasn’t. I didn’t say another word about it to anyone.  I didn’t bring it up again for weeks, but something happened in my heart. It wasn’t scary, or traumatic. It wasn’t devastating or even disappointing. It was, well… we Christian folk would call it a peace that passes understanding and it really was.  Peace surrounded me as I looked at my baby girl on the screen and I just knew. She was going to need a c-section. I had never even considered a c-section or heard the word during my care. I knew that I didn’t need a c-section, but I knew that SHE did.  I saw her and I knew, and in the knowing I was ok.  I knew I could do whatever my child needed, and I wouldn’t do it in fear. I was strong enough for her.

With my cousin's wife and my dear friend since we were 16, happy to be pregnant at the same time!

With my cousin’s wife and my dear friend since we were 16, happy to be pregnant at the same time!

It was my 32 week appointment that I brought it up.  Yes, I was a first time mom, but I knew my body. I knew pregnant bodies. That big lump that hadn’t moved and was absolutely killing the right side of my ribs was my daughter’s head.
Me:  “She’s breech. I think we need to talk about flipping this kid.”
Midwife: ” I just felt her. She’s not breech.”
Me: “Yes she is. That’s her head in my ribs.”
Midwife: “No, that’s her butt.  I’ve felt hundreds and hundreds of bellies. It’s a butt.”
Me: “Come on. Don’t treat me like a first time mom. I dare you to check.  I’ll even bet you $5. It’s a head. That is too round and hard to be a butt.”

This particular midwife happened to know my sister from some midwifery conferences or something they did together, so she had a soft spot for me.  She laughed and agreed to walk me over to the ultrasound room to have a peek.  The second the sonographer put the probe on my belly she exclaimed loudly…

“Oh! That’s her little head up there!”

I never got my $5.  I got some advice on exercises to flip her. Nothing changed.  in the meantime I was dealing with lots of contractions. I know now that I just have a happy, overactive uterus and they were overreacting.  As a doula I’ve seen that happen to many moms.  Anyway…..
At 34 weeks an external cephalic version was suggested. I talked to my sister. She recommended it.  I knew that breech vaginal delivery was an option.  We talked about it. I read about it. It seemed crazy not to use every option available.  That’s how I am about everything. Know all the options…
Praying about it was where the decision was made.  My gut said no.  Every time I considered it, I saw that tiny girl at 20 weeks gestation head up at attention. It looked right for her. It looked like how she was meant to be. I have no other way to describe it, because I make sure that every mom I work with knows of the version for changing a breech.  I didn’t hesitate at all for it with my other children and it was very successful. It was that still small voice, that catch in my spirit that held me back. I would have a c-section for breech.
I ended up on partial bedrest, with meds. I spent my birthday in the hospital getting IVs to stop labor.  That happened a couple of times, actually.
Then December 26th came. I was 38 weeks and 1 day pregnant and my sister was coming to visit from Illinois in all her matching-me-she’s-pregnant-too glory.  I was beside myself. The only thing I ever wanted was my sister and mother to be at my births. Here I was barely 38 weeks and she was coming for 3 days.  Pretty unlikely window of opportunity and I knew it.  I couldn’t blame her though. She came with 3 little ones of her own and was due in 6 weeks. They showed up at 9pm that night, but I insisted that Travis drive me across town to be there when they got in.  I didn’t want to miss a minute with her.

She was so tiny. 6lbs 2oz and 18.5 inches long!

She was so tiny. 6lbs 2oz and 18.5 inches long!

My parents had their church homegroup there that night.  I walked in the door and threw a big hug around her neck but was immediately pulled into the front room by the group of friends who had decided that they were going to pray then-and-there for me to go into labor. Yes, THAT NIGHT.  I laughed.  I mean, who’s going to turn that down?  Let’s go for it.
Sounds pretty inconsequential and I didn’t think a thing of it.  At least, I didn’t until I woke up hardly a few hours later at 4am with the first rockin’-hardcore-contraction of my entire life.  I sat up in bed… I walked to the bathroom… That was no joke, ladies and gentlemen.
I paced outside the bedroom and didn’t wake Mr. Marvelous.  I have found this to be true of all my births. When it happens, I get quiet.  I find myself internalizing…pondering in my heart…wondering in amazement at my body.  Quiet, secretive.
Contractions were short, but serious. I hadn’t really expected this for a few more weeks so I still didn’t believe it. I wasn’t even packed.

So, and I’m not sure that Mr. Marvelous is going to appreciate the overshare…..but when he woke up I didn’t exactly explain anything.  I just, ahem….attacked him.  I was a well educated girl. I knew that sex at the end of pregnancy can be a tool.  I also knew that if this was itthis was it for several weeks.

There. Now you know. Moving on…

At 7:30am I called my parents house and let my mom and sister know that, believe it or not, something was happening. I had an appointment that morning at 9am anyway so we just went on in. Sure enough, dilation had begun. I think they said I was 1cm? All those false alarms before and all that preterm stress…yeah there was never any dilation. Let this be a lesson to you ladies. Contractions happen. They aren’t always labor…

They sent me over the hospital.  We took our time and got breakfast on the way.  Because I was ever doubtful I had sent my man to work and had to call him and tell him to come meet us.  I was that doubtful of it being the real deal.

4pm at 4-5cm and heading to the OR.

4pm at 4-5cm and heading to the OR.

I don’t remember much of the next few hours other than that I wasn’t in a rush. I wanted my body and baby to experience labor and I wanted some dilation to prepare my cervix for next time.  I got that, even though I never hit active/hard labor.  I simply closed my eyes, exhaled in release and then went back to conversation after each contraction.  That was it.  During those hours of labor I lost my plug, I had bloody show and my water broke.  My body knew what to do.   I was 4-5cm when they checked me before my c-section at 4pm.  To be honest, I was still afraid that they would check me, yell “Just Kidding!” and send me home. They did not.

Words can not express my awe in joy at seeing my man fall in love with another girl. Our girl.

Words can not express my awe in joy at seeing my man fall in love with another girl. Our girl.

The c-section went smoothly enough. They played my music. They were respectful.  The epidural was heinous. It took them 7 tries to get it in. I threw up. I was alone with strangers and cold.  I hated it. That was the worst part.
Because my sister was a CNM, they allowed her to join us in the OR for Big Sister’s birth, 34 weeks pregnant in scrubs.

It began. I lay there in wonder that of all people I was having surgery for birth.  And that I had chosen it over other options. And that I was ok with that because my spirit knew it to be right. But I wondered at it all…why was I ok with this?

I had hives, shaking and swelling from the epidural. No surprise with all of my other random allergies. It was horrible and I was so groggy from the drugs they gave me to counteract it that I don't remember much of her first 24 hours. Actually, none of it.

I had hives, shaking and swelling from the epidural. No surprise with all of my other random allergies. It was horrible and I was so groggy from the drugs they gave me to counteract it that I don’t remember much of her first 24 hours. Actually, none of it.

I remember the feeling of not feeling,  completely numb but there being pressure. So much pressure. I didn’t feel a single touch of the surgeon, yet there was sensation then suddenly I knew I was empty. She was out!  And then it happened. The lightbulb in my head. I knew the reason.

OB: “Woah!! That is a short cord. That may be the shortest cord I’ve ever seen!  Look at that.”
My sister did.
Sister: “That is a seriously short cord! That’s crazy!”
OB: “Really, I’ve been delivering babies for almost 20 years and I don’t remember one that short! That’s less than 12 inches!”
OB asked the tech to take a picture. They did.

That’s all it was. I had been told earlier that my placenta was toward the top.  I never saw the cord myself. It was enough information. Suddenly I could put two and two together and I knew what added risk there would have been to an external version, or to attempting a vaginal breech delivery. I knew what forcefully moving her could have done. I knew that being born butt first could have pulled the placenta down on top of her, too early to be safe.

I knew. And it was good.

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And that is how I, of all people, had a c-section for my first baby. I was confident and strong. She was and is worth every bit of it.

Continuing with Lil’ Bit:

It is 9pm on January 16th, 2014 as I write this. All four of them are in bed.

Things changed about this time five years ago. I was starting to think maybe this would fizzle.  I mean, these were real but they had spaced a bit.  It could happen to me again. I could have 12 hours of steady contractions that just suddenly evaporate into thin air, like  2 1/2 years earlier with Ruckus.

For an hour they were at 3 minutes but now they were back to 5.  I didn’t want to go through that again. The confusion and disappointment of a big stall. I couldn’t control it either way, but I prayed. Please not that again.
We arrived home with the older three and went straight to work putting them in bed.  Mr. Marvelous was in our room and I was doing bedtime duty. I hefted the big lug of a 2 1/2 year old up onto the changing table to put on a clean diaper for the night.  That is when it happened.

I felt the pop.

Warmth down my legs.

Fluid pooling around my feet.

So….. that was gross.

I called Travis to come take over and waddled across the hall to the bathroom, leaving a trickling trail behind… there was no going back now. With water broken I was sure to be in labor, slow or not.

I’m not one to panic when water breaks.  I knew that my OB wanted to know right away but I wasn’t inclined to rush.  I knew my risks and was still planning to take it slow.
At least I WAS planning to, until I started cleaning things up. It took one glance for me to know what was going on.

“Oh heck.”

No wait… It was “Oh Mec”.  Actually, I didn’t say mec. Mec is short for meconium. Baby poop. I did say another word for poop, to be exact. It’s not a word that I want to put on my blog but I’m sure you can figure it out.
So there was meconium. Thick. Tons of it. Shocking amounts of it. As comfortable as I was with the idea of laboring at home with my water broken, this was different. Mec happens.  I didn’t expect it to happen to me.

So I cleaned it all up, and took a few minutes to stomp my foot and pout like a diva.  I don’t know if it was the loss of that lovely protective cushion that had been my bag of waters or if it was the stomping pity party.  The next few contractions were seriously sturdy.

I got my act together and told Mr. Marvelous what was up. He agreed. It sucked. At almost 42 weeks, with that much meconium, I didn’t want to be home for this. I called Dr. Tate. I knew what the answer was.

Calls were made and kids were dispersed.  I honestly don’t remember how that happened or how long it took.  My water broke between 8:30 and 9:00pm.  We got to the hospital around midnight. No panicked rush, but begrudgingly earlier than I would have liked. And now contractions were more like 10 minutes a part. Boo.

The Opposite of Failure- Part 1 of Lil Bit’s Birth Story

n502182112_1384615_2186[1]I didn’t mean for it to be like this. Me, sitting at the computer five years later trying to pull some semblance of  ordered memories out from this befuddled brain.  It isn’t that I was avoiding the truth.  It wasn’t about hiding it either, because I’ve told the story many times over always with an exultant rush of tears and joy.  There is just something about sitting here, banging away on this dilapidated laptop with missing keys, that makes in permanent. It puts it in the books. I don’t know how I want it to be. Or really if I want it to be at all. But I must.

Birth is never a failure. It never is. It’s an experience. A part of life we walk through, are dragged and drugged through, or are pushed through on a stretcher. In the case of the birth of my fourth child, it was all three of the above over the span of three days.

I haven’t really written my other three  births out either, so it would appear that I am just not the kind of girl to write them up.  The truth is, I knew that if I write the  first three, I must also write the fourth. So I didn’t.  I stalled. I said someday, but I never wrote. It’s so definitive, that last one.  It was my Alamo. My last stand. I did it, and did it well. I celebrate every contraction and every moment.   But sharing it gives others that opportunity to label it a failure. To see mistakes and a labor that was a lost cause.
No one needs to analyze my decisions but me.  For me to be able to share the first three stories I have to face the giant. The one where I said enough.  Where we decided it was done. It was time, and boy do I HATE it when an OB pulls that line. I have to share where I accepted being done and being broken all in one fell swoop that I didn’t see coming.  Where I surrender and moved on to being a mother of 4 and
The-doula-who-couldn’t-do-it-herself, all without losing my thankfulness and the beauty of it all. That wasn’t easy.  Birth is huge. It is powerful. It is not all of who I am or who these children are.

I refuse terms like “FTP” (Failure To Progress).  I progressed. I labored for 43 hours. That was progress, regardless of what my cervix decided to do about it.  There was progress in my soul, in my very being.
I don’t call it a “Failed” VBAC(Vaginal Birth After Cesarean).  My birth was an amazing beautiful success that didn’t happen to end in the use of my vagina for delivery. That is not failure. I am a success and I worked my butt off for my daughter, loving every minute of it.


So maybe I’ve held off because I don’t want words or acronyms to define this sacred experience of mine, yet my biggest struggle has been how to describe it to people because I want to.
The easiest way IS to say “I had 4 c-sections”.  Yet that doesn’t tell anyone about the strength and beauty I have found through my births.  About confidently fighting for your body to work, trusting it to do what it needs to, and then peacefully surrendering to the process that leads you, once again, into the O.R. for the surgical extraction of your child from your womb.
I loved every one of my births!! Yet in no way would you ever hear me say the phrase “I loved my c-section.”  Heck. No. Never.   They are a part of my life and growth, but they aren’t who I am. I can’t let them be.  They were something I went through, in spite of all efforts, that brought me these amazing little people that surround me. And in that I say, it is well. I am well. So is my soul.

And with that, the story begins like this:

About this time in the afternoon, 2:00pm on January 16th, I had the first few contractions for the day.  I didn’t think anything of it. I had been contracting for weeks.
The day before at 41 weeks and 2 days on a Thursday, I had gone to my OBs office and waited 2 hours to be checked and have my membranes stripped. That wait sucked but I had refused it two days earlier at my 41 week appointment.    I was in again that day, Thursday, for a NST (Non Stress Test) to check on Lil Bit since I was getting to the end of full term (Yes, you are NOT LATE UNTIL 42 WEEKS, LADIES).  

I decided that I did actually want to be checked and have my membranes stripped to see if something would happen.  I could have skipped it but I chose to do it. So the wait was my choice. It felt right and I didn’t complain.

So on Friday, 5 years ago about now,  when the contractions started I knew that it may just be the effect of the membrane stripping and not true contractions. I took note, but didn’t call the press if you get my drift.

It was about 4pm when I had that feeling.  The feeling I had at 8am the day that Big Sister was born.  That feeling I had after 10hours of contractions with The Brainiac.  I had it the night Ruckus was supposed to come and then everything fizzled into disaster.  I may not have had a full labor and vaginal birth before, but I knew this.  These were it.

Mr. Marvelous and I had plans to go out to dinner without the kids and eat the famous Eggplant Parmagian at Scallini’s. Did you know, they’ll give you a baby onsie if you have your baby within 24 hours of your meal?  Sometimes when a mom tells me that she heard about that and is on her way there… I laugh and laugh…
Birth 087


I sat through that meal contracting every 5 minutes. They were stronger than before.  This was changing.  I didn’t realize that this was the first day of labor and I had 2 more.  No onsie for me.  Actually, I spoke to the manager and they admitted that the success is partially due to moms that come in before a scheduled induction or c-section.  Posers!!!!

Anyway, It was good. I ate it.

Birth 084 copy

To be honest, I didn’t eat much of it between the contractions. It’s hard to chew when your abdomen suddenly balls up in a rolling thunder trying to turn your whole body inside out.   I got a few fun looks from other patrons of the establishment. They could look all they wanted. After all the waiting I was one happy mama.

I suddenly realized that the problem was actually that I needed chocolate, in one of it’s most amazing forms, as all pregnant women know.  So across the parking lot we went, in the middle of January.

For Ice cream.

Birth 086copy

We didn’t stay out late. At this point contractions didn’t seem to be doing anything or changing. I figured we had a long night and day ahead and was in no rush. We picked up the kids and headed home to put them to bed, hoping that something was happening.

Five minutes after we got home, something did happen. Oh it happened, and it wasn’t pretty.

But right now, today in 2014, I have to go get that almost-fiver-year-old from preK.

Come back tonight if you want to hear more. ;-)  Be sure to enter your email on the right to follow and get updates, or “Like” YOUR MOMSTINCT on Facebook!

 This birth took three days to happen. I foresee it taking that long for me to write. It’s that jam packed of twists and turns. Join me!


Why I Will Never Be Your Bff (GUEST POST)

Jo shares about life after adopting. The reality, brutally raw and beautiful. The truth, as it really is.  The season of now.

I have spent many guilt filled days berating myself because I’m not a very good friend to you. A better person would have made more play dates, met you for lunch, come to your kid’s birthday party, responded to your texts quicker – or at all.

But I haven’t.


In a perfect world you and I would probably be Sex and the City best friends, but six years ago I made a decision that just doesn’t leave much room that.

Don’t let my facebook feed fool you, what I do on a daily basis would make most people run away in horror.

I am parenting a broken, abandoned child. The after effects of her first three years still reverberate through this family in waves that frequently leave me struggling to breathe.

Years ago, I was a server at Red Lobster. One of the industry terms often used was “in the weeds.” It meant that you were overwhelmed with your customers and were constantly unable to catch up with your basic needs.

The beauty of the job was I could yell, “I’m in the weeds!!!” and two or three other servers would jump in and help me out. We were all doing the same job, and at a quick glance they could assess my situation and know what they could do to get me back on track.

I wish parenting adopted children was like that.

But it’s not.

These days I exist in the weeds. And I am often emotionally empty. There just isn’t room for us to be best friends because my entire life is invested in parenting a child that is broken.

And it’s really hard work.

I’m not asking for your sympathy because despite the difficult work I have chosen I am raising a phenomenal child full of life, love and imagination. I just want you to understand that it’s not personal. Through it all I believe deeply in a God of redemption, a God grace, and a God love. I believe that my daughter was built in His image and every morning I choose to walk in faithfulness and love this little girl God gave me.

But, yeah, it’s hard.

For all of you mommies like me, who are overwhelmed, struggling to breathe, parenting children that often take you way beyond your ability to cope… I suggest we all take a collective breath, find a momentary happy place, and shake off the guilt of not being a good enough friend.

51LgH5gVGtL._SY300_Jo Isley  blogs at Average American Housewife. She  is a biological mom, and adoptive mom, a stay-at-home mom, a baby wearing mom, a cook-from-scratch mom, a bargain hunting mom, a sleep deprived mom, but most of all a happy mom! She has no recollection of what it’s like to use the bathroom without my audience of four!


Which Came First, The Chicken or The Dumplings (GLUTEN FREE RECIPE)

I didn’t expect to need this, I was just making soup because it sounded delicious.  Maybe this was a prophetic pot of Chicken and Dumplings.  Was it “If you build it the headache will come?” Or could it be more along the lines of the old “Which came first, the soup or the sickness?”  Chicken or the egg… whatever.
Oh, I’m sorry. I’m not making any sense, am I?  That may be because I just spent the last 3-4 days caught in the snare of a migraine, maybe fibro flareup, felt like the flu, wanted to bang-my-head-on-concrete-to-make-it-explode-and-relieve-the-pressure kinda alternate universe.  The migraine started on Saturday, with all the talk of crazy cold temperatures on the way for Atlanta.  Somehow, I was inspired to immediately start a pot of warm, wholesome Chicken and Dumplings.  The timing coincided a bit.  I’ll never know which came first. The truth is, if I had not had this marvelous, nourishing pot of Chicken and Dumplings to cautiously savor in rare moments that I was able to manage a bite or two, I may not have survived the last few days. Honest, I was that miserable.
Wait! The timing of it all, going into  a few days of miserable ick,  may be a deterrent to you trying this recipe. Don’t let it stop you!   I suppose this is not the way to make it sound good, I suppose.  As if it brought it all on.  Let me try again…


Growing up my mother made was homemade chicken and noodle soup.  Lots of mothers made it, and maybe it was not all that unique. To me there was absolute magic in those homemade noodles. There was nothing on earth that tasted better in winter, warmed your insides and helped clear anything that was holding a body down… nothing compared to a steaming bowl of those homemade hand-cut noodles that my mother could whip out in copious amounts for a family of 12, in record time.

As a young girl I learned to make homemade egg noodles easily and did so many times as a teenager.  I was thrilled as a young wife and mother to prepare them for my family, looking forward to many years of warm bowls to share on cold winter days.  Then 9 years ago our journey into the world of gluten-free living began and somehow the idea of noodles and dumplings was far from my mind.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started making it again.  I had to work out the gluten-free aspect which wasn’t that hard, but I decided that mom’s chicken and noodles needed another twist.
You see,  I am just too lazy to cut noodles.  Hand cutting noodles was messy, flour all over the counter,  taking up tons of space. Heck I don’t even remember the last time counter had enough  space clean  off and roll them on. Also, I’m always in a hurry. For me to be able to make this, I’ve gotta get it done quickly.  Cutting the noodles by hand always frustrated me, as much as I adored the finished product.
Well, now I get the finished product with a much simpler process. I make them as DUMPLINGS!  just dropped into the bubbling goodness of a pot of prepared broth. They melt in your mouth and warm you through to the bones.  It tastes like home.

Ok, enough of the nostalgia.  Let’s just get to the recipe, shall we?

As always, I highly recommend you use organic ingredients for this, as much as you are able.

Chicken and Dumplings- Gluten-free

3 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2-3 c. cooked chicken (chopped or shredded)
6-8 c. chicken stock
1 t. parsley
1 tsp. sea salt (omit if your stock is already salty)
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 t. turmeric

In the bottom of a large pot, saute the onion and garlic in butter for a few minutes until clear.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.
While the pot is on, DON’T WATCH IT! Haven’t you heard that a watched pot never boils? Yeah, well, it actually will but you can make better use of that time by throwing your dumpling dough together.

In a medium bowl, combine:
2 c. of gluten-free flour (I use a mix of brown rice, millet, amaranth and quinoa)
3/4 c. tapioca flour (corn or potato flour can be substituted)
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. sea salt

Make a well in the middle of the dry in the middle of the dry ingredients and add in:
3 eggs
1 tbsp. olive oil

Combine into a nice messy dough. Make sure that it’s well mixed.  Now, guess what!! I bet your pot is boiling or close to it. Aren’t you glad you didn’t watch? Once it is rolling well,  take your dough and drop it by spoonfuls right into the boiling goodness.  I prefer to drop smaller spoonfuls, knowing they will expand.  I LOVE the outside of each dumpling bite the best so the smaller they are the yummier to me.   Just keep dropping them in there one at a time until all your dough is gone. If it looks like it is getting too full you can stir a few times and you’ll find there is plenty of room because they are all crowding the top. If there actually isn’t much room, just add more chicken stock.
Once all of your dumplings are, well, dumped… give it a good stir and put the lid on it. Turn the heat down and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

You now have a huge pot of delicious goodness like this, without sticky hands, a messy counter top and flour floating in the air of the four nearest rooms.

And, one more photo of a delicious bowl.  Mmmmmm.  Maybe I should go make some more.

My No-Wreath Door (TUTORIAL)

I have been accused of being anti-wreath. I admit it, I used the term once in a comment on my FB page and a good friend called me out.  I am here to say, it was a bad choice of words. IMG_4584 I am not anti-wreath. I do not discriminate against a door based on it’s attire, adornment, or the door handle’s left/right orientation.   Doors are cool.  I simply don’t want a wreath on my own, at this time. I want something different. Something other-than.  I recognize wreaths as attractive, but I am not attracted to them. Come on, I own one wreath.  It stays up year round in my kitchen. I represent, see? IMG_4634 copy Wreaths simply aren’t my thing, and I’ve been looking for something else for a while. I mean, I do want something snazzy on the door. Inspiration hit me a few months ago when I saw a monogram hoop on my cousin’s door. I was blown away by it’s simplistic beauty and  I-could-make-that-ness.  It was simple, it was gorgeous. It was ME!! It was not a wreath.

Making things is my gig. I’m all about the DIY. Also, I like to save money because I rarely have any.  This great adornment fit both criteria, since I have an embarrassing amount of fabric and crafting things on hand.

I did not buy a thing. I scrounged and found the following:

Large embroidery hoop Cardboard to fit inside hoop
Burlap or other fabric of your choice (be sure that it is somewhat translucent to see your design through it)
Permanent Marker
Spray adhesive or other craft glue Paint Beginner Google skillz A door, or heck…a wall

First I googled “Letter S” and chose images only. I looked for one that I liked and kept it on my screen as my example.  You would be amazed at the options that come up when you google a letter. Who knew? Not I. Next, I cut a circle out of my cardboard that would fit snugly inside the INNER HOOP. Now for full disclosure, the hoop that I used was missing the inner portion of the hoop. It was used last year for another craft when I went out on a limb and tried to make… wait for it… a WREATH. It bombed. You never saw a tutorial on that for good reason.  Really, I am no good a wreaths. So I made my circle fit inside the OUTER HOOP because I didn’t have an inner one. Hopefully you have your inner hoop and don’t need to worry about all that yourself. Or, maybe you are better at wreaths than me and I just gave you the idea to get two decorations out of one embroidery hoop set.  Have fun with that.

IMG_4522 copy Take your cardboard circle and start drawing your letter.  I say go with pencil, and be sure to find your center. Personally, I freehand everything.  I am a henna artist. I don’t even use patterns for my sewing. Patterns intimidate me, but you may feel better about printing your letter and using it as a stencil. Even better, print your letter, cut it out and glue it to your cardboard. That would work, too.  Once you’ve got the idea in pencil, go for a final outline with a marker that you will be able to see through your fabric.

IMG_4523 copy

Next you need to attach your fabric.  Yes, I still dig burlap. I do not care if it is overdone, trendy, dated.  I loved burlap before the trend and I still do.  So there. I’m using it.  I fixed the burlap to the circle with spray adhesive because I had it on hand. I am too cheap to have gone out and bought it, if it were not sitting in a box waiting for a purpose. I could have used school glue, tacky glue or even a glue stick to get the fabric secured to the circle. It doesn’t really matter.  Glue an X across the entire circle to start from. Lay your fabric centered and press it down by hand from the center out.  Let it sit for the glue to dry. IMG_4524 copy It may surprise you to know that I don’t like to paint. I don’t do well with brushes.  Yes, I’m creative. I do henna and many other similar things. My art styles are done with cones and applicator bottles. I like pens and pencils.  Brushes and I simply make messes. Feel free to use a marker again for your outline. I did!  Take your time to get clean lines.  Don’t rush. IMG_4526 copy Now you fill in your large spaces. I actually liked the contrast of the black outline. It’s not what I originally expected to do, but it grew on me. It is quite possible that having a brush in hand caused me to think of ways to minimize it’s use.  Either way, I left the black marker outline exposed and simply filled in the larger areas with my dark blue paint.  You can really use many different types of paint.  This is left overs from my shutters. Yes, that would be exterior house paint.  Don’t go spend money! You surely have some paint sitting around. Let your paint dry.

The last step is to put the hoop on.  I now slide the inner hoop BEHIND the fabric to fit the cardboard into it, then add the outer loop over the top.  Because I didn’t have the inner loop, I actually added 4 beads of hot glue around the edges of my outer loop, after inserting the cardboard,  to keep it secure. That’s it!!! Try it out. Just be careful not to let it make the wreaths in the neighborhood feel inferior. That’s not cool. IMG_4556

Reader Question: How Do You Talk About A Virgin?

Dear Talitha,
I am going to teach my children the words to Silent Night, and there is a pretty good chance that my six year old will ask what the word “virgin” means. Please give me some advice as to how to explain it!

If you have been reading my blog for awhile then you know that these are things I do not shy away from with my kids.  I welcome them. I am so glad that they are asking ME!

As parents, we get to set the tone of how confident our littles are about their bodies.  The look on our face, the tone in our voice… the drawing back in horror or the smile of gratefulness for a good question… these are the things that will make or break the future of how they question is. For me, I want to always be ready to answer. I answer with truth to the best of my ability. Sometimes that means, “My love, I don’t know the answer to that one. Will you remind me when we get home so that we can find it together?”  Yes, I call them “love”. Often.  And “Beauty” and “Darling”.  These are things that my children can never hear too many times and someday may not be as welcome.

But this is something that we know the answer to, and we know it well. So the question is how to be honest and appropriate. How to protect innocence but not create confusion and naivety.  It is in placing the cornerstone for future conversations that will be deeper and more confusing…. with much greater detail than your little one needs now.  So you present truth, simply, while holding back detail.

My response to one so little?

A virgin is someone who cannot have a baby yet.  That’s why baby Jesus was a miracle!

That’s all they need to know at that point. The simple. The basis.  One day they will want more.

Now my children have a childbirth professional as their mother.  Books on pregnancy, with photos and drawings, abound.  They are more aware and are older than yours.

When pressed further, I have said, “Well, a virgin is someone who can not have a baby.  A man who is a virgin can not  make a baby.  A virgin woman’s womb has not been opened yet to receive a baby. It is still safe and protected.”

There are words that am very intentional in avoiding.  Some of those, ironically are the first to pop to our minds! Especially those of us who consider this a huge part of our faith. So,for those of my readers who aren’t interested in the Christian side of things, feel free to stop here. I won’t judge you.  But go read the last bit, because that’s good.

Not married.  Pure.  Clean.  Holy.  

None of these fit. None of them mean virgin.  Clean…. maybe.  A virgin is often all of these things, to be sure.   Presenting these things as the definition, the only understanding of what “virgin” means… not the best idea in my opinion.

We live in a world where women get pregnant without being married. Where men get women pregnant.  All of our children will become aware of this at some point. The next phase of questions will come.

“But how did she get pregnant if she is not married?”

“Sometimes a woman’s womb can be opened before marriage against God’s plan. That is sinful and breaks God’s heart. But He is good!! And sometimes he chooses to bless them with a baby in spite of the sin. He is loving and always makes the right choice of when to give life. Sometimes he makes good out of our sins.” I also make clear that a man is involved equally in the sin and they both can choose to work through it to honor the gift of a new life they have been given.   That doesn’t always mean getting married. Life is more complicated than that and a marriage that is not just would not fix a sin but add another.

Yep. I tell them that.  If I want my children to value all life, I have to teach them to respect the mother as well.


I could go into these separately but they all roll back together in my mind.   Is a virgin who is spending their free time hanging out with porn considered pure, clean and holy? Not in what I believe.  Eventually our kids will know that. Either they will feel like they are awesome for finding the loophole in God’s plan or they will feel like hypocrites, hiding in shameful dark corners unable to explain how they are a “virgin” but they don’t feel pure. They feel unclean and unholy.  They feel the wrong of it, and they may not want to tell you if you are resting your parental confidence in their virginity.  Believe me, this happens.  Overstating virginity closes the door to communication.  They don’t know how to navigate this and find the way back to truth. Leave the door open to discussion, so they don’t go looking for a different escape hatch.

1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.   I hope. I pray.  My deepest desire is that it not happen to mine or yours, yet it already has. With how many people read my blog posts, someone reading this has a child who has been abused. Several someones.  I hope it’s not you. You most likely are sure that it is not you.  But what if it is? Or what if it is their friend, and they know about him/her?
Maybe like many of us your child has played “Doctor” .  We have Generations of Play Doctors (blog post) .   What if a child is hearing you say the words…. pure… clean… holy…. They nod in understanding but their heart bolts away from you, searching for safety.
It burns and beats in their chest.  That’s not me. I am unclean…impure…never whole, not holy.  Words that can stay with a budding heart for years, until the truth comes back in to light the way back to understanding of their innocence. I know this happens. I know they could be yours. Because it was me. Because they are mine.

Do not use those words. I beg you. Find. Better. Words.

Sex is pure. What people do to it often is not. It is clean and holy. It is god-breathed and created and one of the coolest, most wonderous experiences we are given in life. Don’t steal that from your child.  Be gentle and wise. Cultivate the respect for it along with the confidence and trust in how intricately our bodies are designed.  It is good.  Take a deep breath and know that sex belongs to your 6 year old as much as it belongs to you.  Walk them gently through the stages of discovering it.

Now, after all that… I bet you wish you has asked me for a gluten-free recipe this week instead…

Be confident, mama. Answer with truth.

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Putting School In A Box- A Confession

All their supplies are gathered.  The pencils sharpened and extra erasers ready at their side.  Each one has a glass of water in case they get thirsty, so there is no reason to be distracted from their post.  Eyes twinkle and grins are immeasurable, as incapable of suppressing them as if they were waves of the ocean. They come and go every time their thoughts come back to what is about to happen.  Excitement spins and swirls around us all, creating an atmosphere of tingling anticipation as I hand out the first set of “end of quarter” tests for them to work through.  They dig in.

I’m floored. This is why, to the disappointment of this mother-desiring-less-structure, our short attempt at unschooling failed. Miserably, with relish.  It doesn’t fit for them.

As someone who craves structure to a fault, I am aware that I just fall apart if I can not organize and compartmentalize the different aspects of my life. I give up, easily and often. I don’t finish things because I already know that it won’t be perfect.  I walk away because I don’t have it in me to follow through with something that I am unsure I can present as balanced and 100% awesome.

It’s not that I’m a messy person. Ok, well, I can be.  I’m a perfectionist, most likely clinically O.C.D. who can not create or control perfect.  I simply give up instead. I stop trying.
It affects everything. This is true for the state of my house and our finances. It’s true for my hairstyle and my gift giving. I do it with my blogging and with my ability to stay in contact with those dear to me. I give up on how I dress and what I eat.  When it comes to follow through, I just suck.  I’m great in the moment. I may be a fantastic “idea  and detail person” but  it’s the follow through that suffers because I can never be satisfied with anything I do. So I turn away with fingers wedged deep in my ears, humming a tune to block the failure from my present balance. If not I’ll be thrown off  so much in the moment as to turn into a puddle of sobs and self-deprecation on the floor.  I dance a dangerous two-step, a waltz between failure and confident surrender in every moment of my day. I fight it well.  Confidence and peace typically come out on top, they really do.  Somehow, in the past few weeks they have been losing… Often.

That is why I ‘tried’ unschooling a last  year. I had hoped that if I put away all check lists and standards, to focus on the simplicity of what to learn right now, there wouldn’t be the same room for feeling behind. If I gave up on the idea of what is perfect and correct, go with the flow, I could embrace that and do it well. There would be no need to compare and critique with nothing to hold our plan up against.  It actually worked somewhat well.

Big Sister and the Brainiac thrived and learned so much.  As someone who saw examples of unschooling growing up in the homeschool lifestyle since 1982, I have openly stated my concerns with unschooling in the past and I still have those concerns for some.  But I tried it anyway. To be honest I liked it. The reasons we chose not to continue this year in that was weren’t about the education it provided but about the work for me and the financial aspect.

To do it well, I had to be researching and finding opportunities, books, videos, games… all of this stuff.  To get them all that they needed on a subject, I had to pull it all together myself.  I know lots of moms who are crafty and able to pull things out of thin air.

Oh, I’m creative to be sure.  I can ghetto rig anything to be useful, I can solve life problems like McGyver Mom on a mission to save money and time with DIY everything. Give me yard and a Vitamix with some homemade kombucha and I can fix ANYTHING.  That’s not the same thing as crafty.  Crafty is glitter and glue and paper and things that I have to decide whether they should be saved or not.  I get enough of that coming home in backpacks from the children that I DO send to school. It simply is not my nature to create more of it at home.  To me, unschooling looks more crafty than creative. I tried it and it bombed. It’s just not for us.

This year, I also decided to try something new. Something that in many years of homeschooling both as a student and as a parent, I have never tried.  Are you ready for this?  For the 2013-2014 school year Big Sister and The Brainiac are being school by a full, accredited curriculum. It all came together, with schedule and study guides. School in a box.

I know! I can’t believe it either.   Wait, that’s for newbies, right? The moms who are afraid to take their kids out of school so they want someone to tell them how to do it?  The moms who are overwhelmed and only half committed?  The families who are only doing it because they hate their school option? The kids destined for celebrity greatness and doesn’t really focus on TRUE education?  Yep. People have said these things. Let’s be honest, I have wondered these things at times myself.

There are a few reasons that we are trying out a full curriculum, even though I never have experienced one and neither has Mr. Incredible (homeschooled middle and high school).

1. It gets exhausting to be sure that you are getting it all in. Every homeschooling Mama knows this.  We second guess ourselves and take the responsibility of our children’s education seriously.  I have major gaps in my education from being homeschooled.  Likewise, I know people who went to traditional school who have major gaps. Nothing is perfect.  The difference is that for me to be confident in my job I want to spend all of the time WITH the kids educating instead of finding how and when to present each juicy morsel of information.  With this I have the map and as a seasoned homeschooler I also have the confidence to veer off the beaten path whenever we need to.  This has been a huge relief, because, Did I just tell you? I have a map!!

2. In the next few months we will be inviting DFCS into our home.  For our fostering and adoption they will have permission and access to our home.  That is very anti-freedom homeschooling.  I have great faith that we will be working with a wonderful team of public servants. We are working with a private foster agency that is fantastic and may never have a DFCS homevisit.  Yet taking the wonder and worry out of it was good for me.  I’m sadly VERY successful with imagining the “What-ifs”, and one of my biggest fears in life is being misunderstood.  We homeschool appropriately and well. Our children are thriving and well educated.  Having an accredited program with grading services relieves my wonder of what it would look like to explain a hodgepodge to a social worker.

3. We are about to have babies.  And not newborns most likely.  Toddlers and infants that will throw me right back into all of the work that the younger stage of parenting entails.  With this setup I have my balance and am ready for it. More ready than I have ever felt before.

4.  Education is a top priority. It is NOT everything.  When it gets to the point that it is consuming all of my time, energy and parenting…there is an imbalance.  My goal as a mother is to prepare confident, balanced, and prepared adults. I can’t do that if education is taking up more than the 25% that it deserves (read about the 25% rule here).  Letting go of the controlling, the planning, the researching each subject and lesson individually to be certain that each one was THE greatest thing ever… big win.

The full verdict is out.  They’re learning, and I’m not wearing myself out covering the bases to be sure that, well, I’m covering all of my bases.  I don’t exactly love every aspect of it.  I’ve decided to drop and adjust a few things to fit us and that has been easy to do.  Yet, I still do not feel qualified or ready to do a full review.

So what is the point?  I guess that lately I have felt very frustrated with all of the posts on Unschooling and Classical schooling that I have seen floating around.  Now, I seriously don’t like generalizations. Not all of them are this way. But the wheels that surround me, the squeakiest ones, make it seem that Unschooling is the only way to do it or you aren’t “really” homeschooling. Others present Classical Homeschooling in a similar way. If you aren’t doing one of the two then you are really just doing “School at home” and that’s noooooootttt the same thing as homeschooling.  I’m not going to fall for that. I will not beat myself up for admitting that “School In A Box” is working for us.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I’ve done it all. I’ve been excited with each style and approach that we have tried over the years. Never, in my wildest dreams did I think that the best fit we would ever find would be a pre-set curriculum in a box. Never. Ever.  Yet, here we are.

The beginning of this post happened this morning. It’s real. My kids absolutely love being able to look ahead at what they are learning and predict what is coming. As much as I detest Dr. Phil, I do agree with one thing that I have heard him say more than once. “Children need to predict what the outcome is going to be.” That is how they make this theirs. For these two anyway, that is what is giving them the confidence to take ownership of their education.  I thought trying unschooling would make me a “guide” to their personal processes. Instead, it took a box.

For those interested, we are using Seton Homeschool Catholic Curriculm.  Way more religious than I’ve ever gone and more workbooks than I’ve ever seen in my life. My. Kids. Love. Them.  And I’ll admit it. i’m enjoying it, too. It may not be what we do forever but it is working well for us right now!

Time to Stuff It – 10 Earth/Family Friendly Favorites for under $20

Today is the actual the real Feast of St. Nicholas!!!  After yesterday’s post, sharing about how we celebrate, I thought you may enjoy a few of our favorite stocking stuffers.  We go for eco friendly and educational with most of our gifts and buys.

1. I’m not one for stuffed animals, but  my kids are so I try to think outside the box.  For really little ones, I love anything from Under The Nile.  These scrappy dogs are just precious!

While not eco-friendly, educational is a plus for us as well so these plush mini-microbes made the list. Something soft to snuggle up to when they’re sick? hug your germs, kids.
Or seriously.  A brain cell?  I want to hug a brain cell!!! 

2. When it comes to school supplies, I find that inspiration comes when whimsy and nature take over the typical for us.   So this year I splurged and changed up a few things.

If we must write so much, we can pretend we are hobbits with these twig pencils!!! Surprisingly, having such fun pencils gets them put back away more often and we haven’t lost them!!  We have a colored set and a graphite set









I keep most school supplies in a closet but these go on my shelf, inspiring us all to write or color.. something, anything to use a twig pencil!

Along those lines, I love these crayon rocks!!  I have them on our wish list to get as soon as I can.
Or really go all out and get this amazing beeswax crayon set!! I think this makes me want to be a kid again.

3. We are getting ready to learn about magnetism after Christmas break.  How cool is this magnetic putty to play with!?!

4.  With a recently nail polished obsessed 10  year old girl, who spent an hour last night painting Star Wars characters on her brothers’ fingers, some all natural Piggie Paints seemed like a good idea.

5.  If you read my recent post on our new love for the game KUBB, you may want to try it out with this inexpensive tabletop set!
6.   With lots of car time, paper dolls have become a new quiet activity that the kids love and I love for them. For Lil’ Bit,  there are lots of magnetic tin paper doll sets that hold all of the pieces and are easy to grab and take with us on the go. The boys get into it too. Planes, farms, cars, fire station… not that they don’t play with the princesses, too.  They love it all.   Big Sister goes for the more refined REAL paper dolls.  They make me happy and I admit that I’ll play with them, too!  Little Women, Little House On The Prairie and other Storybook Characters. There are so many different time periods and themes!!! And so many vintage paper dolls for under $10!


7. This  kit to make a kaleidoscope filled with natural stones and thinks is just so fun.
51-hG+YnHEL8.  Because it’s winter, I also always  try to disguise a few of our essentials as stocking gifts. It helps me justify the cost of buying something better than what I would grab at the store.   Chapped lips are a fact of life for us so I try to be sure everyone gets a tube of a natural lip balm.  we like these.
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9.   And don’t forget the candy and treats.  We go for candy without food coloring, high fructose corn syrup and preferably organic.

Candy canes are a must, too, but once again no foodcoloring or HFCS for us.  These may take some effort, but they are worth it. Seriously, the best tasting candy cane I’ve ever eaten!!!  They are so good!  You can find these sometimes at Whole foods or maybe order the set of 6 with a group of friends.


10.  And for our final item on the list, we always get new toothbrushes for Christmas, Easter and Back to School. It’s my thing. That way I don’t have to think about how old they are and when I should replace them. I just mentally “sync’ them to those holidays.   These are big for kids but they love them and get a kick out of sending them in to be recycled.  They all fit into our toothbrush holder the same and everyone has their own color. Done!

Snack time with hot cocoa in honor of St. Nicholas’ Day is calling my name, so off I go to hang out with the kids.  I hope this helped give you some ideas to finish up your shopping. Go get some stocking stuffers, peoples!

For The Love of Saint Nick!- Giving Him His Day

We don’t “do Santa”.  I’m not a militant mom against the dude. I do not think he is inherently evil, pagan or sinful.  I don’t mind that most people do. Even family members of mine who repeatedly say “Your kids had better not tell mine that Santa isn’t real!”. I get it, you like it.  That’s all cool. I do get questioned about it, often. That is why I’m putting a little bit out here on my blog about it today. I say all of this to let you know that I’m not planning on writing a long post to debate the merits and pitfalls of  deifying the man in the red suit. I’m only here to tell you what we do and why. Because, well,  people ask.

Staying away from the confusion about Santa is a big deal for my own family and our goals in parenting.  Both my husband and I grew up without Santa so we don’t have any great memories of believing in him or of “losing faith”. As a child I remember feeling just devastated when friends would talk about the big guy as a real being.  I have a deep dedication to truth and honesty.  Santa is proof that it started at an early age, because I remember as young as 5 years old crying because of this. Not that my friends believed in something that wasn’t true. I cried because their parents LIED to them!! I couldn’t understand it!!!  Well, over 30 years later as a mother of 4, I still don’t understand it. I mean, I kinda get the whole, “Let them believe” thing. I don’t go all out making sure that my kids don’t.  But I have friends who will actually climb on their roof to make noises, just to get their kids to believe another year longer.  Every year someone posts on Facebook or mentions in conversation how devastated they, they parent, are that their child is questioning or doesn’t believe anymore.  That’s a lot of emotion to use up for something that is supposed to be “fun”. Doesn’t look fun to me.

Let me tell you the bottom line. The REAL reasons that we don’t play that game.
There is the obvious commitment that we made in early parenting to be honest and truthful with our kids.  It is a big deal for us. Huge. Lying STEALS the trust that your children deserve to have in your word when you speak it, it KILLS the truth, and it DESTROYS their chances of being truthful in the future as they learn by your example.  Come on. I know you’ve heard it before. Steals, kills, destroys…ring a bell?  For me, dressing it up in a cute suit doesn’t make it less of an untruth.  I once told a friend, who was actually a pastor that was questioning us as being unfair to our kids by not playing Santa, “The second they realize that this isn’t true and I upheld it as truth, the next question in their minds will be “What about Jesus?” .  It’s a completely logical parallel. Who else sees you when you are asleep or awake? Knows your heart with all  it’s bad and good…. urges you to be good for the sake of GOODNESS… Who else?
A few years later that pastor’s oldest child “found out”.  And wouldn’t you know he admitted that the next question asked was. “Wait, is Jesus real?”  Bummer. That’s not easy. Because you kinda can’t say, “trust me on this one…”

But that’s really not the main reason, even.

Sure, not every kid will go there, but it makes sense to. Heck, we’ve even taken over Jesus Birthday in favor of the red suited guy.  We’ve given him many of the good characteristics of Christ, the generosity, the ability to be everywhere, the knowing of our hearts and loving of us all….That’s  confusing.  More than that, I believe it is offensive. Oh, not to me. We are all supposed to learn to be like Christ, right? Why be offended?

So you want to know?  Why don’t we do Santa?

Because… St. Nicholas IS real. He was amazing. He was generous and holy. He was kind and sacrificed for others. And all of this junk and distraction in his name….would break his heart.

So, we don’t “do Santa” out of complete and total respect and love for St. Nick.  Because Saint Nicholas would not want to be Santa. He was humble in his extravagant giving. He hid it for Christ to get the glory. He was silent so that there was no where else for the praise to go…. He deserves to be honored, but not by distracting and taking over the feast day of the One he did it all for.  The guy would HATE that!  In his honor, we keep him out of Christmas.

I could write out the history of St. Nicholas here, but it’s been done… THIS WEBSITE is fantastic and has been a favorite for us in the past few years.

I’m running out of time in this busy week. I’ve got to get to preparing for him!!  Because tomorrow, December 6th IS his day!!! We love to celebrate it!!!  Tonight all of our shoes go out, in hopes to be filled with goodness in the morning when we wake.  IMG_0232Gold coins (CHOCOLATE COINS, of course!) and apples are a traditional treat. This is what we had last year in our shoes!

We will read my favorite childhood book about who he was.

Here is a newer edition on Amazon. (affiliate link).  These other two look good and one is a kindle edition if you want to try to do something with your family for tomorrow’s holiday! St. Nick would LOVE that. :-)


We will have delicious cinnamon rolls for breakfast!!!  And we will celebrate tomorrow evening at church.  We make a LOT out of his day!!

So for the love of St. Nicholas, we don’t do Santa.  We keep it to the truth of who he was and honor his heart, just like we try to keep to the truth in our daily life and honor each other.  That’s our family. That’s our style.  We play and celebrate St. Nicholas with full knowledge and understanding of who he was and why he did what he did.  We imagine what he felt and thought, without the confusion of sleighs and elves. He had angels and the secret cover of night, and the gift of love and faith.  We get the best of both worlds in truthfully honoring him…. and an extra holiday!!
And as for where St; Nicholas is today, we believe he’s in the best place EVER! He’s hanging with the King, the one that he lived for.  He’s not dead.  There’s no future discovery of untruth because I absolutely believe that to be true. (let’s not get into a religious attack on this. It’s what we believe, you don’t have to.)

Now, I’m going to go get ready!!!!!! So much to do before his big day!!  Here comes St. Nick!!