Tuesday, January 2, 2018

30-Day Fun Mom Challenge Pictures

I'm having so much fun connecting with my kiddo and being intentionally silly with the  30-Day Fun Mom Challenge. I'll update this post every day with pictures or videos from the daily challenges. I'm going to love looking back on these, and I hope you enjoy too.

#HerArmsAreStrongFunMomChallenge

Day 1: Make a goofy video.


(Video coming soon. If you don't want to wait, you can find it in the

Day 2: Let your child do your hair.


M loved helping me get ready for the day and goofing around in front of the mirror. This easy challenge took less than 5 minutes. 

Day 3: Outdoor child-led adventure.



We went to a park where M wanted to hunt for icicles, which he tasted, and look at art sculptures!


Day 4: Spontaneous dance party!


I had some anxiety and felt like I was drowning in mess, so we almost missed this challenge. But we did family workout, got blood pumping and endorphins flowing...good vibes. So we danced to "Give it All" by Rise Against because my guys are rockers.


Day 5: Help your child plan, shop for, and cook the dinner of their choice. 




When I asked M, my almost two-year-old what he wanted for dinner, he said, "Bananas!" So we went with paleo banana pancakes with strawberry sauce and coconut whipped cream, side of bacon. Yum.

Day 6: Family game night.




The highlight of our family game night was a modified version of "Bounce Off!" We also played a fishing game and played with story blocks. 

Want to join the challenge? Check out this post for details. 

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.

For more gentle parenting, crunchy-living, and faith inspiration, "like" Her Arms Are Strong on Facebook!

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


Want more encouragement for crunchy living, gentle parenting, and Christian faith? Follow Her Arms Are Strong on Facebook and join the closed Facebook group.

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.


When

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.

Phase two: OWWWW FREAKIN' OW

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.

Delivery

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.

Breastfeeding

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.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Infertility


Infertility makes me irrational.

Last time a friend announced her pregnancy, I was nothing but genuinely happy. Now for some reason, another friend just announced and I got that stabby jealous feeling. We're not even trying for baby #2 yet. If ever.


Infertility isolates me.

I want to talk about my feelings with my infertile/angel mommy friends because I know they would understand, but at the same time...at least I have a living child. So maybe they wouldn't want to hear it. Other people don't understand what it's like, though. I have no one to talk to.


Infertility makes me angry.

Angry at whatever in the world caused me not to ovulate all those months. Angry at a world that poisons our bodies, robs wombs, ransacks dreams. Angry that people say, "All in God's timing..." when God doesn't cause the pain of infertility.


Infertility makes me afraid.

What if it happens again? It was so hard last time. I'm afraid to hope it can be different. Can I walk with my husband through the fire again? I'm afraid of getting burned.

But most of all...infertility does not define me.


In fact, I reject infertility. The name of Jesus is higher than the name of infertility. I'm heir to HIS promises. I will not let jealousy or fear cloud my eyes. No, my eyes are placed firmly on the One my soul trusts, my Healer. I'm allowed to have a very human moment of jealously, sadness, fear, and anger. But I refuse to stay in that place and let infertility take up more space in my body, mind, or soul.

Infertility is defeated.


Related posts:

Prayer of Comfort for the Infertile and Mother of Angels

When Back to School is Hard