Sunday, February 25, 2018

Grace When Kids Color on the Walls

"Some of the most important things you can communicate to a child are that feelings are okay, mistakes are fixable, and there's nothing they can do that would push you away or make you love them any less." -Kelly Bartlett

I love this quote. I got to experience this all in one instance with M a couple days ago. He's 2, which means he hasn't even begun to develop impulse control yet. I'm so glad I know this because it gives me peace and perspective in those moments where it might otherwise seem like he's being downright defiant. 

I was on the potty, and M brought me a marker because he needed my help opening it. Right after I handed him the opened marker, he started coloring on the wall. I blocked him and said, "I don't want you to color on the walls, but you can color on paper."

He left the bathroom and I heard the sound of him coloring on the wall right outside the bathroom. "You're not coloring on the wall, are you?" I asked.

He ran back inside and said, "Color wall ummm..." He looked around like "Who? Me?" And then he colored on the wall again right in front of me.

I chuckled and said, "M!"

He jumped at my exclamation even though I didn't think I sounded angry at all. Because I wasn't. I understand how much fun it is to color the wall. But he started crying, wearing his sad I-feel-bad face. This face breaks my heart! I was such a guilt-ridden kid, and I never want him to feel that way.

I hugged him close and told him I wasn't angry. He cried harder. I told him the wall was okay, I was okay, I was there for him, that he was safe to feel sad. I think he knew perfectly well he wasn't supposed to color on the wall. But when you don't have impulse control, curiousity wins. Still, even with all that curiosity and developing sense of self, a two year old has the desire to please. He felt bad, I think, for doing what I asked him not to do because while he's curious, he also does want to make me happy.

Kids don't need to be shamed, blamed, and berated in order to know what's right. They have an innate sense of right and wrong. They may choose wrong out of curiosity or to push boundaries, but they aren't little villains, spoiled brats, or defiant monsters. They're good people. Sometimes sensitive people, like my M.

In these instances, they need our understanding, gentle guidance, and unconditional grace. I understand how hard that can be at times when you just want your child to listen and do what you say. I have a hard time sometimes too, especially when I'm tired. We're all going to mess up and respond harshly to coloring on the walls. (Or whatever "coloring on the walls" is for your kiddos.)

But time is a funny thing, and so is grace. Time moves forward. Grace moves us forward, and with each new minute, we have another chance to choose understanding, patience, and peace. We have a new opportunity to give the same grace we've received from the Father who is always patient with us. 

Grace means "I love you." Grace means "I love you even when you color on the walls." Grace means "I love you and nothing could ever change that."


Is there a time your child colored on the walls literally or figuratively? Share with me in the comments!

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Sunday, February 4, 2018

I'm Celebrating My Kid by Not Throwing Him a Birthday Party

I love planning parties. And I love birthdays. Birthdays are huge in our family, so I've always dreamed of throwing big birthday parties for my kids.

But my son, M, is turning two, and we're not throwing a birthday party. I struggled with the decision to let go of my past fantasies of what my kid's birthdays should look like. Sure, it would have been fun for me to plan the party, and I'm sure our loved ones would have liked it too, but more than that, I want M's birthday to be a celebration of him and for him. That means giving him the kind of celebration he'd actually enjoy.

M is an introverted, sensitive boy. He takes a while to warm up to people and socializing drains his energy (even after playing with his best friends, he's cranky the rest of the day). So he probably wouldn't have a good time surrounded by his family and friends all at once.

Instead, my husband and I are taking him to an aquarium! He loves seeing the fish in the grocery store, so we're giving him the gift of a fun, fishy experience with Momma and Daddy. Plus a balloon because he loves balloons!

We're going to celebrate our kiddo by honoring not only that he was born, but the way he was born. He doesn't have the personality type to enjoy big parties, and that's awesome. Because he has the personality type that makes few and strong connections with other people. He has the personality type that has a huge capacity for empathy. He watches, listens, soaks it all in before he enters the scene with his gentle spirit and vivacious curiosity. I'm so happy to let go of the classic birthday party if it means nurturing this amazing person just as he is.

Thanks for reading!
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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

30-Day Fun Mom Challenge

Every mom and her relationship with her children could benefit if Mom, well, loosens up a bit. Right? I mean, it's so easy to get caught up in maintaining the home, getting our kids to activities on time, making sure we teach them to be kind humans, etc. All good stuff, don't get me wrong. But we can lose the fun side of ourselves when we focus too much on our to-dos.

I want to start 2018 with a month full of FUN, and you're invited to join us! Let's start the new year making memories our kids will look back on when they later think of their childhood. Let's be the fun moms. Find joy in motherhood and carry that joy with us the rest of the year. 

Are you in?

I've made a list of 31 fun activities to do with your kiddos--one for each day of the month. If you want to follow along with other moms, we'll be sharing our fun pictures and videos in daily threads in the closed Her Arms Are Strong Facebook group. If online mommy communities aren't your thing, you can share your pictures and view other moms' pictures with the hashtag #HerArmsAreStrongFunMomChallenge on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Let's inspire each other with our fun!

You can follow the list as I have it, jump around, or skip days. The point is to have fun, so if any of these aren't your thing, that's okay. You can even add your own. This list is more of a guideline. Some are pretty specific while other days will give you lots of room for creativity. If you need to brainstorm ways to incorporate these fun mom ideas or tweak them for your child's age, we'll be brainstorming together in the FB group.

The only rule is TO HAVE FUN WITH YOUR KIDS.

We'll be starting as a community on January 1, 2018, but I'm sharing the list early so you have time to prepare and share with your friends. And please do share! The more, the merrier. Every mom needs a little more joy in her life.

Are you ready to reign in the new year with lots of laughs and special memories with your kids? I'm just assuming you shouted, "YES!!" while jumping up and down. Ha. Let's do this!

1. Make a goofy video you can look back on for years to come.
2. Let your child do your hair.
3. Go on an outdoor child-led adventure.
4. Spontaneous dance party!
5. Ask your child to plan dinner, shop for the ingredients together, and cook it together--WHATEVER they plan.
6. Family game night. (Do you have young toddlers? Here's a way include toddlers family games.)
7. Build a fort.
8. Go somewhere fun. 
9. Make a mess.
10. Have your child pick your outfit, and then go out in it.
11. Leave a small gift on their bed to wake up to.
12. Family movie night with your kiddo's favorite snacks.
13. Lazy pajama day.
14. Try something that's new to the whole family. New food, new park, etc.
15. Make a colorful snowman.
16. Collect nature materials
and make figurines.
17. Dessert for breakfast.
18. Video chat with a family member or friend.
19. Leave a clue.
20. What's your child's favorite thing? Do extra of that!
21. Family picnic! Inside or out. Invite your child's favorite toy along.
22. Take extra time before bed to read one more story, sing one more song, whisper to each other about the day, their dreams, anything.
23. Blast fun music and paint to the beat.
24. Fancy dress-up day.
25. Roughhouse. Hug monster, tickle tarantula, etc. But respect boundaries.
26. Flashlight or glow stick fun in the dark.
27. Make animals or other fun shapes with snack.
28. Take selfies together with silly filters.
29. Go to a pet store/shelter to visit the animals.
30. Give kiddo a disposable camera or your phone, go for a walk, and have them photograph things they love.
31. Which challenge brought your family the most joy? Do that one again!

I can't wait to see all your pictures! Remember to either join the Her Arms Are Strong Facebook group or use the hashtag #HerArmsAreStrongFunMomChallenge to share your family fun with a community of other moms. Have FUN and enjoy the new year!

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

How to Include Toddlers in Family Games

Our family is HUGE on games. Our go-to for any family get-together activity is a board game or card game. We could play all day, laughing and yelling and really getting into good-natured competition.

And then came the first baby...

We could get away with playing games when my son, M, was a little baby, content with milkies and cuddles. But when he became more aware and curious about his surroundings, he was a destructive force during these game days. Plus, I felt bad that we were doing something the whole family, except for my little dude, could enjoy. He just wants to be included. And we want to include him!

Some games flat out won't work out with a toddler in the room. Do your game pieces need to maneuver the board safely? Forget about it. There's no hope. Retire that bad boy for another time a few years from now.

But if you have a game with some elasticity to the rules and gameplay, I encourage you to find a way to include the littlest members of your family. After all, family is family no matter the age, so family games should include everyone who wants to play. This will give your kids a strong sense of family and belonging.

To give you an example, Uno is one of our family favorites. My brother has like five versions of the game that we mash together to make a crazy, unpredictable game of Uno. One day this past summer, we played giant uno outside. M kept taking cards from each of us and handing them to other people. At first, we were like, "Well this isn't going to work. How are we supposed to play?" Then it dawned on me...

My kiddo could be the ULTIMATE WILD CARD. So basically whatever Ultimate Wild Card does, you go with it. If he takes some of your cards and gifts them to another player, awesome. If he steals some cards off the pile and hands them to you, too bad for you. We played the rest of the game this way. All of us, including my toddler, were laughing and having a great time.

Apply this Ultimate Wild Card principal to any game where you can bend the rules and add random fortune or misfortune. Be flexible, have fun, and remember that the time spent together is more important than playing the game "right."

If you try the Ultimate Wild Card method, leave a comment to let me know what you did and how it went! Need some inspiration? Leave a comment with the game you'd like to play, and I'll help come up with ways to include your toddler.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Alternative to Forced Sharing

I was in our church nursery today and decided to try something. Two kids were having a disagreement about who should get to play with a key. First of all, I heard them out, and they had totally valid concerns. See, the key went to the car that Kid A was riding, so she felt she needed the key to drive. Kid B felt he should get to play with the key because he had it first. They both wanted me to step in and say they should get the key. Kid A asked me to "make him share."

And then maybe it was because I was tired and didn't feel like playing referee, but my answer surprised them both.

I said, "To be honest, I don't really believe in making someone share. You probably don't hear a lot of grownups say that, do you?"

They both blinked at me.

I blinked back. Because, really, I didn't know how this was going to go. I've been playing the sharing game because that's what you do because that's what all the parents do because you don't want your kid to be the entitled jerk who won't share.

As much as I think the word "entitlement" gets thrown around a little too much when we talk about young generations, let's think about this for a minute. Who is likely to feel more entitled in a forced sharing scenario? The kid who is being forced to share or the kid who gets the toy that another kid has for...what reason again? Oh, so your kid will learn to share. Except, does forced sharing actually teach anything? Or does it just cause frustration and resentment between friends and between child and parent? Because really, when we force sharing, aren't we actually showing our child that the other child's wants are more important than theirs?

These were my thoughts during all the blinking going on between the nursery kids and me.

I broke the bewildered silence first. "Okay, I'm not going to make him share. When he's done playing with it, you can have it. While you're waiting, you can play."

Kid B bounced away with the key. Kid A hung her head. I sympathized. "You feel sad that you don't get the key. I understand."

Then I stepped back to watch how this would play out because I had no idea. Kid B started playing with another toy and was only holding the key in his hand, not playing with it. Kid A pointed this out. So then I asked Kid B if he could let Kid A have the key since he wasn't actually playing with it. I don't know if that was the right move or not, but it worked out. He agreed and handed over the key.

And then he realized he wanted it back. So he asked Kid A if he could play with it again. She said he could when she was done. Kid B said, "I'm mad."

"You're mad." I said. You know, validating.

"Yeah, I'm mad because I want to play with it but I have to wait."

I said, "I glad you told us how you feel. I understand. I get mad sometimes too. It helps to say it, doesn't it."

"Yeah." And then he kept playing.

And not even five minutes later, Kid A gave Kid B the key. And that was the end.

So let's recap the highlights.
-Emotions were named and validated with both kids. Emotional intelligence is important.
-They learned to hear and value each other.
-We talked out solutions, giving them the opportunity to think critically and creatively.
-They learned how to wait. Super important in a culture full of instant gratification.

I couldn't believe how well it went! Probably because, like I said, I've been playing the sharing game. And in the sharing game, kids just get frustrated and parents are constantly playing referee instead of guiding. Forced sharing isn't productive. This alternate approach takes some effort and creativity on everyone's part, but that's what this parenting gig takes, right? Just wait your turn to try this out. 😉

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mom Guilt is a Butcher

Mom Guilt is a masked robber.
The mask says, "I'm here to make you better! You can do this mom thing better than that. I'll help you."
But behind the mask is a liar.
Behind the masks is a stream of, "You're not good enough. The other moms are better. Your kids are going to pay for your mistakes." While you're distracted, she robs your joy.

Mom Guilt is a butcher.
Mom Guilt says, "Let's dissect what you did. That yelling? Awful. Why can't you be more calm? You circumcised your baby? You should have known better. Why didn't you research?"
But the butcher kills.
Mom Guilt places peace on the table and slices through it with a knife. Scraps are all that's left.

Mom Guilt is a snake oil saleswoman in a cheap suit.
Mom Guilt has a briefcase full of brochures. Account after account of your wrongs. Take a seat while she sells you despair and hopelessness. It only costs your heart. And don't worry, dear, it's all in the name of doing better, being better....better better better than you are.

Shine light on the robber.
When the butcher comes for you, wield the double-edged sword.
Shut the door in the saleswoman's face. She has nothing good to offer you.

You are a human being. Flawed but redeemed. Learning but favored. Falling but saved.
You are a mom. Sometimes you yell. Sometimes you choose wrong. But all the time, you are your children's world. "Learn better, do better?" Sure. But above that, give yourself grace. Drink grace. Bath in fragrant grace. Give grace like God gives breath to each day. Like He gives grace to you right where you stand.

"Three times, I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me,'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

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Related posts:

Forgiving Myself for My Son's Circumcision

I Regret My Son's Circumcision

Monday, August 21, 2017

Natural Birth Story

Finally, after a year and a half, I've finished writing M's birth story.


M's due date was February 4, and he was born February 6.

That morning, after a week of freaking out, afraid I'd have to be induced for going over, I finally surrendered to my body's timing, M's timing, and God's timing. My husband, Gary, offered to shop with me at Joann Fabrics (and he hates that store, God bless him) for some craft supplies so I'd have something to do to keep my mind off the timing of everything. After we went shopping, we returned home, and I was sorting through some beads when labor struck!

First real contraction

For some reason, I thought I'd be a unicorn who wouldn't have labor pains and wouldn't know I was in labor until my baby's head was poking out. Crazy, right? My dreams of a unicorn birth crashed with that first exciting contraction. It was a deep, DEEP ache I had never felt before. I had already been dilated to 3cm for a month, and I don't know if that helped with the speed of things, but my contractions got to 5 minutes apart or less right away. Bloody show happened, and I called my family so they could meet us. Eeeh!! While we waited for my family, I took a shower so I would be fresh. Contractions got really freakin' real in the shower. So real that I threw up after getting out and told Gary I needed help standing and walking.

At the hospital

When we got to the hospital, they checked everything. All looked good, and I was dilated to 6cm, so they admitted me. Yes! I passed out my natural birth plan, which requested that they not even offer me an epidural or any pain meds, and I got right in the tub to help with the pain. I had been nervous about being naked in front of nurses and my birth team (Gary, my mom, and my sister), but labor became my one and only focus, so I announced, "I don't care if you all see me naked!" All thoughts of modesty were so far gone.

Our "this is it" moment

Gary and I had some time to ourselves. He massaged me in the tub, and this is where we had that big moment that rocks your universe and makes you go "whoa." By the end of the day, our boy would be born, and our lives would never be the same.

A drop in heart rate

M's heart rate dropped a little bit, so the nurses made me get out of the tub and into the bed so we could get hooked up for monitoring. Which I didn't want, but I was okay with it and going with the flow. I just wanted M to be safe. His heart rate went back to normal, so they thought the tub was the cause and didn't let me go back in. Now I was SO COLD and trying to relax through the shivers.

The calm

Through the contractions, I closed my eyes and focused on breathing and keeping my body relaxed. Every nurses who came in made me feel like such a rock star because they were all amazed at my self control. My birth support team helped a lot with massages and encouragement.


At 8cm, the contractions got more intense and my self control and calm started to fade. I told my team I didn't think I could do it. It had been 8 hours of labor, and my water hadn't broken. My OB offered to break my water and told me that it would speed things up and had no risks (which I now know isn't true), so I agreed. This was the least natural part of my birth. She broke my water and within 20 minutes, my body started pushing on its own! They told me to stop because I was only dilated to 9cm, but I had no control over it. So they helped my cervix dilate to 10cm, and it was time to push.


I wanted to give birth in a squatting position, but my OB said I had to be on my back. I went with it because I honestly didn't feel like I could move into the squatting position anyway. Gary and my mom held my feet while my sister stayed by my side. It was about twenty minutes of pushing with the contractions when they said they could see his hair! A couple more pushes and he was out.

My sweet, beautiful boy

They laid his slimy, wiggly little body on my stomach. I held him, so afraid I would break him, and said, "My sweetheart, my sweetheart..." He was born at 10:05 PM with red hair like me, 7lbs 6oz, 19 inches. With fuzzy little shoulders. He was perfect and finally here.


I wanted to give M the time to initiate breastfeeding on his own with the breast crawl, but the nurses helped position him instead while we were skin-to-skin, and I went along with it because I was distracted and excited by my baby. He latched right on! A natural.

Just the three of us

Gary and I had an hour of alone time with M, cuddling him, soaking up this beautiful change in our lives before we introduced him to the rest of the family. It filled my heart to see Gary and everyone else in our family hold him for the first time. There was so much love.

My favorite moment 

Every time a baby is born, the mom gets to ring a bell that plays a nursery rhyme chime through the whole hospital. Since M was born so late at night, they told me I would have to wait until morning. We didn't actually get the chance until we checked out of the hospital. The nurse wheeled us to the bell. I snuggled M close and pushed the button. The chime announced to everyone the arrival of my baby boy, and that was my sob-happy-tears-because-my-dream-has-finally-come-true moment.

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I would love to hear your birth story! Feel free to share in the comments.