Focusing On Christ Amidst Holiday Frenzy

C.S. Lewis talked about how Christians have different ways of describing Christ forgiving our sins in his book Mere Christianity. He said “You can say that Christ died for our sins. You may say that the Father has forgiven us because Christ has done for us what we ought to have done. You may say that we are washed in the blood of the Lamb….They are all true. If any of them do not appeal to you, leave it alone and get on with the formula that does” (p 182).

If I were to name a writer who lives this truth, it would be Traci. She has a way of writing about some of the different “formulas”  that in the end, bring you closer to Christ and understanding his Word. Traci has a way of seeing how God uses his church and his body to minister to others. Instead of turning away from something that seems different, Traci embraces it to grow closer to Christ. She sees God working through his people and ultimately, brings His revelation through her to her readers.

And that is something special.


She sat across from me at the table, casually discussing holiday plans. Family get togethers, last minute shopping, planning a menu. All of the typical things we women do to make sure our families have meaningful traditions and, ultimately, memories. Then, she said,

“I wish there was a way to help me focus more on Jesus during this time. I want my holidays to be more about him.”

My response came instinctively, which shows how far I’ve come. You see, five years ago I wouldn’t have known what to tell her. Likely, I would have listened politely, and nodded my head in agreement. Here’s how I responded,

“There are ways to better focus on him during the holidays! Times of preparation that lead up to the actual holidays, which often last more than one day too. It’s all in the church calendar.”

I didn’t say any more than that, but I hoped it peaked her interest. You don’t have to be Catholic, or any denomination that practices high liturgy to practice these seasons of preparation. Advent. Lent. Ordinary Time. Just as God did for the Israelites in the Old Testament, he’s built feasts and festivals and fasts into our yearly calendar to help us right our focus on him.

He reminds us again and again, we don’t have to practice our faith alone.

The church year actually starts with Advent, which begins on Sunday, December 3rd this year. It always begins four Sunday prior to Christmas (or Christmastide if you really do your church calendar research).

Up until about five years ago, the only thing I knew about Advent was that some of the churches I’d attended would put a wreath on the stage with five candles in it. They’d invite individuals or a family up each Sunday to light one of the candles and do a short reading. All very nice, but it didn’t mean a lot to me when I did nothing else for Advent the other six days of the week.

For our family, it started when our daughter was a toddler. Isn’t that the way of things? We’re willing to try something new if it enriches our children’s experiences. I found an Advent calendar in the shape of a house on clearance after the holiday season at Target. The following year, I filled it with candy and tiny trinkets. Wanting to make sure I included the Christmas story in our Advent time each day, I wrote a brief summary of the story, breaking it into 25 days of reading. Then, on Christmas morning, she would open the last Advent door and we’d sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

The first few years, I read the blurbs to her each day. Once she could read, I let her take over. Starting in 3rd grade, she began looking up the verses pointing to each day’s story in the Bible on her own. Every morning of Advent, she jumps out of bed, rushing to the table for that day’s reading. I realize it’s as much for the surprise treat, but it gets her in the word every day.

It prepares her heart for a Christmas morning that I want to be about Jesus, not just a bunch of presents. I’ve tried to graduate her from these simple readings I prepared years ago into maybe a devotional, but no, apparently the simple phrases she was introduced to as a toddler are part of the tradition too. Just the other day, she asked me if we could start Advent early.

The past few years, I’ve added other elements to our observance of Advent. For myself, I find a new devotional to read during this season. There are a ton of great choices! I’ve also started collecting picture books that teach children about Advent, this unique season of waiting for his coming. Each one is truly beautiful.

Last year, we added an Advent wreath to our table, complete with five candles. It’s a simple round wooden wreath my husband cut from a downed tree on our property. Together, as a whole family, we read a prayer each Sunday evening, and light the next candle. This from a family who doesn’t do family devotions together! I’m excited to see where this tradition might lead us.

Tis the season – for a season before the season. If you don’t already participate in Advent, I hope you’ll look into it. We’re given several weeks to start preparing for the coming of the Christ child. We have an alternative to the hustle and bustle of this time of year. Thank you, church!

 

My name is Traci. I live in southwest Michigan, somewhere in a triangular section connecting Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids with all things Lake Michigan. My husband and I parent one daughter. We have dogs, cats, ducks, pigs and chickens. Their number is always changing, as farm animal counts tend to do. I enjoy watching sports, reading, cooking and all things Bible study. I am a writer. When I first started blogging, I wondered about what unique voice I could bring. I’ve landed on this one line: A country girl goes to church.

You can find Traci on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Top Ten Most Read Posts for 2016

I get a kick looking at the past year. I like those little videos Facebook makes to capture your year. I enjoy seeing the most liked posts of my friends on Instagram. Even though, if I think about it too much, it’s a little creepy, I still like to reminisce about the past year.

And for my Only a Season Mamas, I love seeing what you guys kept coming back for on our site to get your mom tip fix. I love being surprised too! Sometimes I see a post pop up as most read for the week and I’m like “Whoa! That’s from last year!”

So reminiscing is fun for me and I hope it gives you an opportunity to look around the site a little more to see if there’s a tip or some advice you can use right now, in your mom life today.

Let’s take a look at what you’ve been reading at Only a Season this year!

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are always my own. Full disclosure here.

Most Read Posts by Moms looking for mom tips! Most read posts by moms in 2016.

 

10. Can I Just Take a Minute and Talk about Some Awesome Mom Bloggers?
I love that this post made it to the top ten list! I have made some amazing online friendships and I am so glad that many of you mamas out there stopped by to read about these amazing ladies to help support you in your mom journey!

9. Why I Don’t Shop at Gap Anymore
This post has been one of my most popular throughout the year. As I talk about my transition to being a SAHM, many of you mamas out there, whether you work away from home or at home or both! you felt like you could connect with my sort of identity crisis during that transition and The Gap.

8. What It’s Like to Grieve without God
This is one of my faith-based posts where I talk about the loss of my mother this past year. I had originally published it on Only a Season but eventually started another blog and moved it over to there. Nonetheless, it seems that grief unites many of us in many ways, no matter the journey we’re on with it. If you’ve lost someone you love and you struggle with God and grief, then this post may be for you.

7. Five Freezable Baby-led Weaning Breakfast Ideas
Apparently many of us mamas are looking for quick breakfast ideas that we can pull out of the freezer in the mornings! My son is well beyond the weaning process but we absolutely LOVE these recipes and the handiness they bring to our early, busy mornings!

6. Which Wonder Week Was the Worst for You?
So yah, you are NOT ALONE in wondering what the heck is wrong with your baby and then find out that there’s a Wonder Week for that! I remember times when Bubby would be crying or waking for what seemed like no reason and then BAM, it was a Wonder Week. Check out the survey from other moms and see what was their worst Wonder Week!

5. Four Healthy Snack Alternatives for Your Toddler
I’m thinking that food may be a common theme for many of us moms as we are searching for tips to help us thrive as we parent our little ones! From Universal Meltdown Hour to the screaming baby in the grocery store, these handy snacks will make you feel good about what you’re giving your little to snack on during the day.


4. Five Items Under $20 Your Kitchen Needs
And here we are, another food related post that we all seem to want tips on. ALL of these items are in my kitchen and I absolutely love being able to grab them when I’m whipping us up something to eat. These are great deals and they will last in your kitchen for a good amount of time too! Check them out here!

3. 20+ Tips from Real Moms for When You Have a Toddler and a Newborn
There’s strength in numbers. And that means when you have more than one kid, they outnumber you when you’re home with them all day. But it also means when you receive tips from other moms who have been where you are, then you find strength in their advice, knowing you WILL survive. This post came out only a couple of months ago and it is the third most read post on the site this year. That tells you something, Mamas.

2. 45 Daily Activities to with Your Toddler (12-18 months old)
I remember being inspired to write this post when I found myself constantly scrambling during playtime with Bubby. I finally decided to make a list and then it dawned on me that other moms could use this list too! Apparently many of you feel the same way, making this the second most read post on Only a Season. This post is also one of my higher pinned posts too. For someone who still has a young blog, that’s pretty exciting! 🙂

1. How to Transition Baby from a Rock n’ Play to the Crib
It was late in the night and I started Googling “how to transition from the rock n play to the crib” and the results were pitiful, like there was hardly anything out there to help me figure out how to get Bubby to sleep in his crib. I scoured Pinterest but came up empty handed. So I used some of the principles for nap transitions and viola! I got Bubby to transition sleeping in the Rock n’ Play to the crib. And many of you mamas out there faced the same dilemma, making this the most read, most searched post on Only a Season. And what’s better yet about this post, is if you have a friend who may be going through a similar battle, you can refer them to the post! Whoot!

JOIN THE TRIBE!
There you have it, ladies! I would love to hear any thoughts you might have on other posts we’ve had here that encouraged you! Tell us below! If you’re interested in getting posts like this sent directly to your inbox, check out our Mom Tribe so you never miss a post!

I look so forward to 2017 and what it will bring to us Only a Season Mamas!
Cheers!
Glo

My Two Words for the Year 2016

Back in January I wrote a post about my two words for the year 2016. As I look back and see what my goals were I sort of chuckle to myself. I had a new baby, a new blog, and a bunch of new endeavors I wanted to tackle.

For the most part I think I stayed realistic with myself and self-aware of how I operate when it comes to these resolution things. And honestly, I feel like I stuck with a most of them too. Some of them got a little bumpy as we became pregnant this summer with our second and with the loss of my mother, but I have stayed active nonetheless, which was the ultimate goal anyways.

Social media and I have a love hate relationship. As I have worked to grow my mom tips blog, I have had to utilize social media, BUT I have majorly grown in organizing my time and planning tools so I don’t have to stay glued to my phone. Score!

As I look back over our year of 2016 and I can’t help but think the words cultivate and focus still ring true for how I would describe this past year.

With all the deaths, anger, elections, shootings, religious controversy, and that’s to name a few, I feel like this year has caused me to seriously cultivate my relationship with Christ and focus on who He is according to His word. And this wasn’t originally my reasoning for picking these two words back in January.

If there was ever a year when I felt like my faith was tested, then this was the year.

I have spent much of my Christian life relying on my experiences in my relationship with Christ. While I think most of us need those supernatural experiences when we feel God holding us, I have also come to realize that truly knowing what His word says about Him is the fuel that fans those experiences.

It’s the fuel that fans my feelings from day to day experiences.

But my relationship with God isn’t all about feelings either.

Cultivating my relationship habits with Him has caused me to focus on His truth. And while I will continue to look at how God has provided for me throughout the years based on my experiences, I will read His Word to believe in what He will provide for me in the future.

I think we fall into that rut of “seeing is believing,” but that mindset causes me to lose site of the truth that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

To me, this means that if I am praying for growth and change and God’s supernatural power to transform something in my life, then I need to already believe it’s going to happen. Not just look back at what He’s already done to give me encouragement for what He can do. It’s a balance, don’t you think?

And while I want to look back at this year and see how God has shown me to not be shaken in my faith when man tells me otherwise, I want to look ahead, believing that He in His mighty power has gone forth to prepare a way of victory for me.

I want this truth to be real, deep down in my core and daily vision.

This doesn’t mean it will be easy. Doesn’t mean I wont lose heart or sight of Him. But it does mean Hope. And I don’t know about you, but I need all the Hope I can get. Every minute for every day.

Peace,
Glo

Looking back at 2016, I can't help but think of these two words.

 

 

 

What Memories of My Mother Have Taught Me

Last week we had Sarah’s guest post about her thoughtful and sweet memories of her mother this time of year and baking cookies. This post especially hit close to home for me with my recent lost and I felt like Sarah’s article could not have been more timely. And then Julie’s guest post came along and it seems many of us moms have similar things on our mind this time of year of the loved ones we have lost.

When I met Julie in a fellow writing group, I was always interested to see what new essay she had written. She has a great ability to write as if you are flowing through her daily life with her. In my mind, I see Julie as she is experiencing life and then things to herself, “This is something other moms would want to know to. Let me share my experience with them.”

Whether she actually thinks about her writing process like that or not, I definitely love the genuine, simple and real appeal Julie offers through her writing tips to other moms. And since we’re all about mom tips around here, I was excited to have Julie guest post. I was even more excited to see that she also decided to write about her mother and provide endearing, honest encouragement for many of this time of year.


Meet Julie! She is a freelance writer and blogger, wife, and mom to three busy boys, & fur mama to two rescue dogs and two guinea pigs. She writes on her blog about motherhood, kids, family, recipes, DIY, travel, and faith. She is a vegetarian who loves to cook and create recipes when she’s not driving her three boys all over town to sports practices in her crumb-filled minivan.

In her past life she has worked as a Scientist and Medical Data Manager, a Pediatric Nurse, and a SAHM. She loves to volunteer in her kids’ schools and help fundraise money for their schools. She is a Christian who loves nature, animals, traveling, gardening, swimming in her pool, and simply spending time with her family. Her favorites are dark chocolate, red wine, and cheese with yummy bread. Catch more of her writing at www.juliehoagwriter.com. Better yet, check her out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or my favorite!! her Pinterest.


 

Memories are like tissues. Sometimes they are out in my hand and present with me. Sometimes they are all crumpled up and thin, or balled up and tucked away with tear etched and hand wrung crevices. Yet others are shoved down in the deepest pockets of my heart. Memories like tissues are cried on, nose wiped, smudged with food. They are loved or used to help me feel better and soak up my sadness. Or some memories thicken my sadness. Whatever their role my memories have built me into who I am.

My motherhood memories from my own childhood are real. They are mine alone. Those memories built me into the mother I am today. Having lost my mother days before Christmas as a teen taught me many things about being a mother. I learned the lesson the hard way that my own motherhood will end someday when I’m not ready for it to end. I will be ripped from my children’s lives and I won’t be ready for it. They won’t be ready for it. It will leave my children scarred, scared, terrified, angry, and feeling cheated. And I will feel the same as I take my last breath when I die. No matter what age I will be when that happens, I know I won’t be ready to leave them behind. I will want to stay. I will want to be with them and imagining that moment scares me to my core.

I shove those feelings down deep in the pockets of my heart most days but they resurface from time to time to teach me.

Having lived the loss of my mother has brought me to a place in my motherhood where I know I can’t waste this motherhood of mine.

As I near the age my mother was when she died, I feel this realization the strongest I’ve ever felt it. I can’t waste my motherhood no matter how busy I am or how many tasks I get behind on; I am a mother first before laundry, before homemade lasagna, before writing my next post, and before my messy kitchen.

All I have to do is fall back into my sixteen-year-old heart (and this isn’t hard to do because it’s always at the surface) to realize how special those mother and child memories are for a child. I instantly put down my vacuum and stop folding clothes when I realize this. Sometimes I’m dense and my mountains of work cloud my vision and I keep working like a mad woman to get it all done. Sometimes this realization to live in the moment comes at me like a concrete fist to wake me up. This realization helps me stop working when my child asks me to snuggle with him on the couch while watching a Christmas movie. I remind myself the Christmas season is short and he won’t want to watch these movies with me in a few short weeks.

I’m a hard core type A personality and I often forget to savor moments because I get wrapped up in my to-do list. I remind myself I need to slow down. I recall that piercing memory of how I felt at Christmas when my mother had passed away, and all I had left was memories. This stops my racing type A mind cold and I sit down and be present with my child while I can because I don’t know when I will lose the ability to do so.

This thought composes my prayers each night as I ask God to allow me to be with my children into my old age because I so desperately want to do just that. Loss of a mother at any age is extraordinarily difficult but when a parent is lost to a child that loss is devastating. The child doesn’t understand and they struggle to go on. Their world is forever altered and slanted yet they must struggle to walk straight. I know because I lived that loss and it devastated me even as a teen.

My memories of my mother are present all around my house today at Christmas time. My children place memories of her on the tree as they fit the little strings of her initialed ceramic ornaments on the branches. My memories are in the lit up ceramic Christmas tree she made as my kids put the little plastic bulbs on it. We listen to the faltering music box inside as they work with busy little hands. My memories of her are intertwined with their fighting chatter about who gets to put what bulb where. Their fighting annoys me, but still I smile because I know decorating this tree will be a memory for them.

Memories of her are intertwined in my time making cookies with my own kids. We make many of the same cookie recipes I made with my own mom as a child.  As I make these cookies with my kids the images of my mother drift into my brain. I can see her standing in the kitchen with a spatula raised like a magic wand, or setting the caramels pan on the snowy deck in the cold winter air to harden.

As my kids shake sprinkles heavily onto white frosted cookies, I recall the time as a child when I shook the sprinkles too much. I had loved to shake the sprinkles container, the cylindrical kind with the little colored ball sprinkles, and I thought it made a glorious sound when I shook it. I loved to see the tiny colored balls burst out the holes in top. After I sprinkled my cookie one cookie making day, I kept shaking, and shaking, and shaking that container. I shook it until there were little balls rolling all over the kitchen floor. My mother had looked at me and asked me to stop. She had the you-need-to-stop-now look I know so well now as a mother myself. She didn’t get too mad at me because we were making cookies, it was a joyous day, but I knew she didn’t like my thoughtless mess. The beauty of that priceless memory is I hold it cherished deep in my heart pockets where it lives soaked into my tissues, and it comes out to dance and make me smile at Christmas time when I make cookies with my kids.

Do you have memories of your mother that have shaped who you are today? What memories of my mother have taught me. Guest post.

I want to create special mother and child memories for my own kids so they can hold them in their own hearts. Hold them deep down in their heart pockets where their tissues will live all soaked in Christmas memories, tears, but with tons of joy too.

I try to relish the moments of each day so I don’t waste this motherhood of mine. I pray each night that God will permit me more time with my kids so I can keep watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with them on the couch each Christmas. I pray for the foresight to sometimes ignore my to-do list. I pray I will get to nurture my kids’ Christmas memories by making cut-out cookies as they grow each year to add new talents like rolling out their own ball of dough.

I lost my mother just days before Christmas on a fluffy giant snowflake falling day. That is the day I learned how to be a mother even though I didn’t realize this until just now as I hug and kiss my each of my children goodnight.

The secret of how to be a mother is to truly be present with your kids.

I know this as my kids and I talk about how Christmas is only a lovely few days away. It’s clear to me as we talk about how we will make more cookies this weekend, the ones they love made of peanut butter and a chocolate kiss. It’s reinforced as we talk about how they need to write their letters to Santa quick before we run out of time.

I tuck them in at bedtime and say their prayers, and add my own that I will get yet another day tomorrow, another year, another Christmas, another fifty years with them. And I know in my heart it still won’t be enough and I will still want more.

Fellow moms, may God grant you more time with your babies and may God help us remember we need to love our kids and live in the now of this Christmas.

Sprinkles and Burnt Antlers: The Joy of Cooking with Kids

I went back to her website to find that article. I remember it well because she had talked about her child seeing beauty in something that she, as the mother, saw as a mess. I remember this one well because it struck me to the heart. As a type A personality, I worry that I might rob the beauty my children will see in the daily mundane because I’m too worried about cleaning things up.

I’ve been following Sarah and her blogging since about February. I’m sure I stumbled along her writing in a mutual writer’s group. I do remember that I was immediately drawn to her writing. That’s what I love about growing as a writer. You find so many other great writers and you feel like you could be friends if you met in a coffee shop.

I wont keep you any longer. Sarah is our guest today and I can’t wait for you to meet her!


sarahheadshot

Meet Sarah! She is a current stay-at-home mom. After years of teaching high school English (ahh my kindred spirit! 🙂 ), she is now enjoying focusing on her two children while learning to slow down and look at the world through their eyes.

She has learned more about dinosaurs and princesses in the past few years than she ever thought possible.  Sarah writes about parenting on her blog, One Mile Smile, and has recently been published in the following sites:  Mothers Always Write, Parent.Co, and Her View From Home.

Check out her Facebook or Instagram to see what she’s up to! After reading her post today, I think you’ll want to!


 

 

The Joys of Cooking with Kids and enjoying the holidays. Guest Post on the blog.

As a child, one of my favorite Christmas activities was baking sugar cookies with my mom. Every year, my siblings and I would clamor into the kitchen to help her, mainly for the opportunity to make a huge mess with the sprinkles.

Flour filled the air as my mom rolled out the cold dough on the counter and hummed along to Christmas carols. She used a family recipe for the kind of sugar cookies that are thin and have a bit of a crunch when you bite into them. These cookies take time and patience.

When I was young, I was mainly delegated to the task of sprinkling the colored sugar onto the cookies before they went into the oven. I would complete this task with utmost care. I sprinkled crooked red stripes on the candy canes and only allowed green sprinkles on the Christmas trees. Of course, more sprinkles ended up on the table and floor than anywhere else, but my mother never said a word.

As I got older, my mother taught me how to cut out the shapes. Her preferred shapes were the star and the bell because they were the most dough-efficient; very little dough was wasted between each cookie. These shapes also didn’t have small parts that made it difficult to transfer to the cookie sheet.

Of course, I preferred the most impractical of shapes, like the long and narrow candy cane or the angel with delicate wings. The reindeer was also a favorite; however, the antlers posed a problem, as they were narrow and cooked much faster than the rest of the cookie. Usually, they ended up slightly burnt.

One year, I distinctly remember slowly transferring prancing reindeer after reindeer onto the cookie sheet under my mother’s watchful eye. The dough was so thin you could almost see through it, and because of this, some reindeers lost limbs. I tried to smoosh them back onto the bodies, but they remained crooked.

My mother continued to roll dough as I set the timer and kept an eye on the cookies.  Although I was careful with the timing, all of the reindeer came out of the oven with the tips of their antlers and hooves singed brown.

I nervously waited for my mom to say something, maybe a comment about the impracticality of  the reindeer cookie cutter, or how I should have been more careful watching the oven.

Instead, as she slid them off of the cookie sheet to cool, she set aside a few on a small plate. “I’ll have these with my tea,” she decided.  I beamed with pride. Despite singed antlers, my reindeer were a success.  

Many years later, as I made my own tray of cookies to take to a holiday party, arranging them in a perfect spiral on the plate, I thought of those reindeer and finally understood my mother’s actions.

She didn’t want to break her daughter’s heart by throwing the ruined cookies in the trashcan, but she also didn’t want those burnt, crooked-limbed reindeer to end up on her tray of cookies she planned to take to my aunt’s Christmas party.

So, she just did what moms do. She ate the burnt cookies.

burntantlerssarahguest

After my mother passed away, the cookie cutters eventually made their way into my own kitchen. I now unpack them with the rest of the Christmas decorations stored in the attic. Some years, I simply set them aside because homemade sugar cookies involve so much time and patience.

This year, however, as I peeked into the bag and sorted through the various shapes, I thought of the reindeer and couldn’t wait to show the cookie cutters to my kids. At 4 and 6, this will be their first real introduction to sugar cookies that do not come in a slice-and-bake roll from the grocery store.

Although I love cooking with my kids, I find it a true test of patience. I struggle to bite my tongue when they drop an entire bottle of sprinkles on the floor. My initial reaction is to scold when I find them leaning over the bowl eating large chunks of raw dough. And that time when a bag of flour somehow ended up all over the floor? It nearly brought me to tears.

I know baking with my kids this holiday season will be a messy affair. They will want to use the impractical brachiosaurus cookie cutter I bought on a whim. I’m sure I will end up with plenty of broken dinosaur necks and scorched dinosaur tails. I’m sure there will be more green sprinkles on my floor than on the cookies.

But, I’m also sure that my children’s laughter will be louder than the Christmas carols playing in the background. Their smiles will be more delightful than a perfectly shaped cookie. And, the memories we create together will last much longer than the tray of cookies we offer to our guests on Christmas day.  It seems that these messy, less than perfect moments are usually the most memorable.

So, as I create these sprinkle-filled memories with my children, I will remember my mom. I will ignore the crunch of sprinkles on the floor, and I will look the other way when they sneak globs of dough from the mixing bowl.

And, the singed, broken-necked dinosaur cookies? I will simply put them aside on a special plate to enjoy with my cup of tea later.

Visit her site, One Mile Smile, or check out her Facebook or Instagram. Thanks so much for stopping by mamas to meet this special lady!

If you’re interested in guest posting, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at onlyaseasonblog@gmail.com. Check out other guest posts here.

Tips to Help You Reduce Stress During the Holidays

I find myself in a constant battle with time and stress. I know I know, we all get 24 hours in a day and many make it work for them, but as the holiday season is full fledge upon us, I am constantly checking my calendar and clock, shaking my head at how busy I let myself become. 

Ladies, why do we do this to ourselves?

Why do we feel the need to say yes all the time?

You need an extra helper for the Christmas pageant at school? Sure! I’ll help you. You were wondering if I would host the block party this year? Yes, I can do that. It’s probably my turn anyways. I need to use my Shutterfly coupon code and get out those cards for once this year!

And the list goes on and on. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I let fear drive my decision to say yes. Fear that I will be judged. Fear that I will be looked down on. Fear that I’ll be viewed as inadequate. And THAT list could go on and on…

In attempt to shut down fear and make proactive decisions to maintain peace in the chaos of life, I have been making it a point to check my motives in saying yes and to lessen my stress for this time of year. Let me share with you tips that I have been using.

I would encourage you to look over what I’ve mentioned and see how you can tweak this to fit you and your needs.

(This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Full disclosure here.)

Tips to help you reduce stress during the holidays. Ideas to lessen your stress during the holidays.

Setting Boundaries
This seems like a no brainer, but I recently read this UH-MAZING book titled Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life and it has literally changed my life. I think a lot of us have different interpretations of what the word “boundaries” means and this book dives deep into the meaning of boundaries and how there are so many we have in our relationship with others that I just can’t help but pass it along to you moms out there. It’s not a light-hearted read, so be prepared for serious evaluation of how you view yourself and others if you decide to read it. Trust me though, you should.

Boundaries are complicated but shouldn’t be overlooked just because it’s “the holidays.” Take a look at the limits and dynamics you have created in your relationships. Do they become stressful during Christmas time?

Telling others it’s OK to say no to me
I have started this practice recently (partly from reading the above mentioned book) and this practice alone has done something to me. By reminding others they can say no to me 1) sets them free from the pressure to say yes! And 2) by speaking it out loud I am sort of ingraining in my brain that it IS OK to say no too. Try it sometime. You might be surprised the effect it has on you and others.

Giving a single gift to my family members
I had to mention this to guys. I am the youngest of six kids in my family and all my siblings have kids of their own. When we ALL get together for the holidays, it’s like 30 people! I used to buy everyone a book for Christmas but since becoming a SAHM, I have had to limit our Christmas budget. This year I have decided to use online photo printing and photo books with Amazon since I am a Prime member who gets free shipping! They always have great deals going with sale codes you can pick right up from their site so that’s always a bonus too! You’re welcome! 🙂

Just the decision to simplify gifts by giving each family a photo book of some of our childhood memories has simplified my holiday shopping significantly and reduced a great amount of stress. What about you? How could you simplify shopping for your family members?


 

Prioritizing relationships
This is a time of year when you can easily plan a lot of nights out and catch up with friends. I have realized that for me personally, it’s the quality of friendships that brings me energy, not quantity. With that being said, I realized that I can’t say yes to every invite for a gift exchange if it means missing an intimate dinner with one of my mama friends who’s part of my village.

This is where saying no can be hard for many of us. I think it’s important to look at your relationships and evaluate the ones you hold close and want to stay connected to. The PTA Christmas party may have to hear a no from you this year. Or maybe the office party isn’t a great idea this year. I can think of a million reasons (or can I?) how it helps build my relationships in that part of my life, but if I haven’t seen my husband in over a week because of travels for business, then this may be a time to practice saying no.

I would encourage you to take a hard look at where you divide your time in your relationships especially with how quickly it goes during December!

Guarding my Gate
I love the image of the phrase “guard your gate” creates. I believe that what we put into our lives is what we’ll reap as our days progress. If I am constantly looking to social media for engagement, then I am building a false foundation of security for myself. If I am looking to that group of ladies who are quick to judge my Christmas party for validation in my mom life, then I am setting myself up for a stressful season.

While I love eating all the sweets and delicious food this time of year, I easily start to feel like crap before it’s even Christmas morning. And mamas, trust me, this is especially hard being a big o’l pregnant lady this year. But the food I put into my body is just another facet of guarding my gate to keep myself feeling healthy. What else could we guard about what we put into our lives this time of year to help lessen the stress?

At the end of the day, we are left with ourselves. It’s just us looking in the mirror and when I reflect on the decisions I made and the relationships I cultivated, I want to smile back at myself, knowing I stayed true to who I am and kept my peace, while loving others too. What about you? What would you add?

Peace,
Glo

Mistakes to Avoid This Thanksgiving

Ladies, as the holidays approach, I can’t help but have the biggest bag of mixed emotions stirring around. I absolutely love this time of year and will admit that I struggle to keep the Christmas decorations put away until after Thanksgiving! Ah!

In fact, sometimes I get so excited thinking about Christmas and the family traditions that I let Thanksgiving creep up on me. I find that I let myself get easily stressed or overworked and feel just plain exhausted when I hit the mattress after a day full of turkey and family.

This year I plan to be proactive and self-aware of what stresses me out or what might bring conflict about this time of year. Here are my quick, some serious and some fun tips for you to avoid.

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and end up buying something, I get a small small commission to keep up my coffee and writing addiction. Thanks Mama!

Tips to avoid mistakes for Thanksgiving. Mistakes to avoid this Thanksgiving.

 

 

Keep Talk about Politics at Bay (if it’s going to cause strife, for sure!)
I have had several friends mention to me that they are worried about Thanksgiving this year because they know political beliefs are at what seem to be an all time clash. If you know that one mention of the President will send your Uncle Bob into a frenzy and possibly ruin the day, then leave the strife stirrer at the door and focus on connecting with your family on a deeper level. Is it really worth it?

Don’t Turn Into a Martha Too Much
I can’t help but think of Martha this time of year. If you’re unfamiliar with who she was, then take a quick look in the Bible in the book of Luke, chapter 10. Martha was so worried about cooking, keeping things in order and running that she overlooked the powerful affect of just relaxing as the hostess and connecting with her guests (particularly Jesus!). It’s a powerful story about not letting the stress of hostess take away the joy that can be found this time of year and by fellowshipping with your guests.

If Grief is knocking, don’t be afraid to let it flow and have grace with others.
This will be our first series of holidays without our mother this year. I am part of a big family with six kids total and my mother had 14 grandchildren. It will be impossible not to think of Mama and all the memories around this time of year. Shoot, I’ve been thinking about it already. One thing I’ve learned with my family through our grieving process is that we all grieve in different ways and at a different pace. Remember to stay sensitive to each other’s needs and don’t be afraid to remember together either, no matter the loss you’ve experienced. Sometimes remembering brings healing.

When Hosting, Devise a Plan for Leftovers
I think more often than not, we overcook for Thanksgiving and then have an abundance of leftovers. If this seems to be the case for you, take a quick minute and do a Pinterest search on how to make more meals out of Thanksgiving leftovers. Or better yet, buy some easy aluminum foil pans and send home food with your family and friends. OR EVEN BETTER, if ya’ll hang around the rest of day, have it for more eating later in the day! Whatever the case, don’t forget about this part of the day and take a few minutes to plan it out so you can have one less thing to worry about as the day settles down.

Better yet, when hosting, don’t be afraid to let go of some control…eeeek!
This might mean using paper plates! Or maybe delegating who brings what. With my big family we delegate who makes what dish and then everyone chips in. Or maybe you have family who love to help in the kitchen. If you’re like me and you like to control everything (Yes, Hello, I’m Gloryanna and I’m a Controller) then use this as an opportunity to let go of that control and let others help and participate in the day with you. It might not look like how you would’ve have done it, but you also may find you’re less exhausted and tired and stressed during the day! Tap into other strengths in your family and friends and let them operate in those as they help with the day!

Last but not least–Tight Pants
This may seem like a no brainer and silly to mention but SERIOUSLY, more times than I not, I have this cute pair of pants that would look great with this festive top I have and I talk myself into wearing those cute pants that aren’t the most comfortable. You don’t have to leave fashion at the door to be comfortable. Just think twice before you pack your bags or travel to see family. I’m going with the big, chunky sweater and leggings (after all, this is the pregnant mom’s staple fashion trend 😉 ) If you’re comfortable, then you can spend less time thinking about how uncomfortable you are and be present with those around you.

Alrighty, what do you think? What would you add to our list? I know there are so many things we could have also covered here.

Let us know below in the comments! And don’t forget to pass the word along if you want to remind others too!
Peace,
Glo

Reasons to Get Excited about Christmas Ornaments in November

I don’t know about you but when I walk through Walmart and they have the Halloween and fall stuff starting to fill the shelves in August, I begin to get anxiety. I get anxious because then I start thinking about everything that I will eventually need to do to get ready for the upcoming holidays. Honestly, I can’t think of many reasons to celebrate the holidays so early just yet.

And then I get that little flair in my heart… There’s excitement in the holidays too, not just stress. The holidays can be a time full of mixed emotions. Happiness to be with those you love. Sadness over the ones you’ve lost. Anxiety for the gifts you still have to buy.

But I can’t ignore the beautiful fall colors that adorn the shelves in Wal-Mart. They beckon me. Pumpkin Spiced Lattes after Labor Day are my jam. So instead of rolling my eyes when I see Christmas ornaments out at Hobby Lobby in November scratch that, July, I can think a few reasons why getting ready for the holidays early in the year ain’t too shabby of an idea.

 

You Start Thinking about What Gifts to Get Sooner.
Some people *cough cough* that would be me, start buying Christmas gifts during the summer. If you’re not that crazy and tend to lean towards normal, then seeing the change in the seasons that bring the fall and winter holidays can spark your mind. When you see something you think someone close to you might like, snatch it up and save it as their gift for the holiday office party.

You Can Get Gifts for a Good Bargain during the End-of-the-Season Sales.
August and October are notorious for seasonal sales. August for end of summer and October as most stores transition to winter. Want to get your husband that camping gear he’s always wanted? Look for it in October and November. Know your son will have another class party next October for Halloween? Go to Walmart, Kohl’s or Target the first week after Halloween and you’ll see all those holiday prices slashed in nearly half.

You May Start Setting Aside Time to Spend with Your Family Ahead of Time.
All my family (and Husband’s) live in a different town. When it comes time for the holidays, we start gearing up to make the rounds to see everyone. I enjoy the holidays because I know this will be a time that I will see my family, when otherwise, I may not have seen them so much during the rest of the year. We have Black Friday traditions that we do every year. We have Christmas jokes we say every year. We know who’s going to bring what food to our family meals. It’s fun to start thinking about them and plan a good time to reconnect. I start looking at my calendar in September to get ready for the weekends and weeks we’ll be away to visit family.

Black Friday
OK, my family bonds over Black Friday when I know this shopping can easily bring a wedge for some. Let’s face it–we all want a good bargain and the bargains on Black Friday can be hard to pass up. Now that Black Friday is happening on Thanksgiving and during the day nonetheless, I see Black Friday becoming more and more of a tradition for families and being incorporated in their holiday. Personally, when I start thinking about those gifts in October, I am on the lookout for them on Black Friday.

It’s a Great Time to Budgeting Money for Your Holiday Expenses
If you’re like most Americans who spend A LOT during the holidays, then you may be interested in finding ways to start preparing for the holidays NOW. Some great resources are available online. I especially like these tips and advice from the Penny Hoarder. We are big Dave Ramsey fans, so we have a Holidays envelope that we start putting money in at the beginning of the year in January! But it’s never too late and you can start budgeting money now!

Oh, and don’t forget about those Pumpkin Spiced Lattes. 🙂 Cheers!

What about you? Can you think of other reasons that seeing Christmas decorations out so early might not be such a bad idea?

Peace,
Glo

Five Items Under $20 Your Kitchen Needs for the Holidays

The holidays are coming and the cooking is happening. Holiday party at the office, party at your neighbor’s, cookies for your son’s first grade class and the list goes on and we haven’t even hit December yet! Not to mention the annoyance that happens when I go to make those mentioned cookies for my son and my husband did not clean off the sheet from his pizza from the night before. Thankfully, I got a hack for that. Read more below, you’ll thank me later.

Find an awesome recipe online, but it calls for a food processor? I don’t know about you, but food processors are a tiny investment, so many folks don’t have one and you need to make cookies NOW. Don’t worry, I got a tip for that too to help you “process” that dough.

I am always looking for ways to make my life easier in the kitchen. When it comes to managing food for your household and you’re on a budget, we all need the little help we can get. I thought you’d like to see some of my favorite kitchen items I use ALL. THE. FREAKING. TIME. And guess what? They’re all mostly $20 or LESS. So without further ado, here are some items you are going to want to check out to make your kitchen life a little easier this time of year.

(This post contains affiliate links which means if you click through then I may get a small commission to aid in my coffee and writing addiction. Thanks 🙂

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Silicone Cooking Sheets
I seriously do not know how I survived this long without these genius cooking sheets. I can put the stickiest cookies known to man on these puppies and when they are done baking, the crumbs and crusted goods just wipe right off with the dish rag. Forget crusted cheese pizza you have to scrape off with some heavy duty elbow grease! Forget worrying about your baked chicken sticking to the pan. No joke. These sheets alone will save you time in the kitchen. Dare I say, they may make you WANT to bake cookies…

Handheld Mixer (Beaters)
I didn’t even know what a food processor was until a few years ago. Yes, I lived in a box, apparently. I guess I heard of it but it seemed like a mystery to me. I remember reading recipes that called for a food processor and I just shrugged my shoulders moving on to the next recipe. I remember watching Martha Bakes and she used one to make some cookie dough. It dawned on me that I had been using hand-held beaters for as long as I can remember to basically do any job a food process does (within reason, obviously you can’t chop carrots with beaters!). My tip for you is to have these on hand for that recipe that requires mixing with a food processor. They take up little space and are awesome to have for a quick go-to in your kitchen to speed up the mixing process. Your Thanksgiving snickerdoodle cookies will thank you. And your friends will love that homemade cheesecake you whipped up with these bad boys.


Hand Blender
If you have been dying to make some homemade soup, or need any sort of quick blending, pureeing of any kind, then you seriously need to consider having one of these in your home for the holidays. And better yet, I bet you use it throughout the year too. I use mine to make baby food, a quick yogurt smoothie, or a yummy berry glaze for my waffles. This little guy is so versatile, don’t be quick to shrug it off as a waste of space. It will help you make the yummiest broccoli and cheese soup. Trust me.

Handheld Slicer & Dicer (with storage container attached)
I absolutely LOVE this and I would guess this is another one you’ll use more than just for the holidays. I HATE chopping onions for a wintry chili. I can’t stand cutting up carrots for stew. I just want it done quick and fast. I received one of these as a Christmas gift from my mom a few years back and I don’t know what I did without it. The clean up is easy. I can move it around wherever I need it in the kitchen because there are no chords. This is definitely one of my staple kitchen items that gets used even more than during the holidays!

Pan Organizers
I don’t know about you, but during the holiday season I tend to cook more. Shoot, during the fall and winter alone I find our stove and oven use triples! It’s during these times when I grunt and groan because pans and sheets don’t get put back where I’d like and I can never seem to find that one small skillet I love to use for breakfast sausage. This feeling of angst increases during the holidays. There’s no time like the present to make your kitchen as accessible as possible so you can enjoy baking without the searching and groaning. I bought one of these a few years back and it has made grabbing pans so much easier. I bought this one too to organize my cookie sheets and muffins pans. It’s fabulous.

Here are a quick few more of my favorites in the kitchen to cut down on annoyance, because hey, wine can only do so much 😉 and to help cut down on the budget if I need freeze or reuse items.

Extras
silicone muffin cups–because you can freeze any liquid in these and reuse them for all your baking needs!
2 cup pyrex with lid–becuase measureing 1 and 3/4 cup never felt easier.
silicone ice cube trays–because I’m addicted to freezing leftover turkey, chicken, or beef broth to reuse for later.
cooling rack–because I get tired of using parchment paper to cool cookies
gallon freezer bags–did I mention I have a freeze-the-leftovers problem??

What about you? What are some of your favorite, staple items in your kitchen that are fairly inexpensive? Tell use below!
Peace,
Glo

Why We Decided to Trick or Treat

 

Last year I wrote a post about To Trick or Treat or Not To Trick or Treat? and this post generated a lot of positive discussion from friends whose opinions I think are valuable. I had many comments on Facebook from parents who had differing views about Halloween and how to handle trick or treating.

Why We Decided to Trick or Treat. NOt sure if you should trick or treat? Read for more insight.

For some of you readers, this may not seem like a problem at all. But for someone like me who grew up in a home that did not condone being scared as a fun activity, you enter into this time of year with some caution. I am not one who messes around with fear. I think the Bible is pretty clear that the spirit of fear does not come from the Lord and it’s something we should be on guard against. I do not want to take Halloween lightly. I think it’s a time of year that can release a lot of darkness and negativity and honestly, sin in the world. Some people can breeze through this time of year without a care and stroll through a haunted house without giving it a second thought. I am not one of those people and I don’t plan to raise my son as one of those people either. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against folks who can go through the Edgar Allan Poe Haunted house. If anything, I would like to join my friends who can go out for a night of haunted houses. But I also wont take my son to a haunted house someday pushing him down the hallway because it’s supposed to be “fun to be scared.”

The problem for me is that once I open that door, fear kicks it wide open.

So how am I going to handle this topic as I raise my little family?

 

After much consideration and prayer, and after reading lots of positive responses from some of my friends, I have decided to take a completely positive view on Halloween. I love traditions. I love making family traditions. Why not make Halloween a positive family tradition? There can be many positive family memories made from creating costumes for trick or treating. Much laughter and joy can come from making homemade candy. Not all decorations need to be gross bones and blood. Plus, there’s always the perk of putting up orange christmas lights lights that can last through Thanksgiving. 🙂 That sounds like a win win to me.

I don’t plan on going into this time of year with a blindfold on either. Just because I choose to glean positive from Halloween, doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to the the reality of evil that abounds this time of year. As my children grow older, I’ll be sure to use the right opportunities to teach them that fear doesn’t come from God. That demons and evil are real and not to be made light of because there is a goofy ghost poster at WalMart. I will teach them that prayer is powerful and our lifeline to fight against the Enemy.

So this year we’re taking Bubby trick or treating. He’s currently into watching Curious George on TV. Carter’s must have read my mind because their monkey costume was on sale. Cha Ching!

If I can just convince Husband to dress up as the Professor in his yellow suit with that yellow hat…

What about you? How do you handle Halloween? Is it something you had to wrestle with?

Word for the Year 2016: Focus…and Cultivate

I couldn’t decide on one word for this year. I had a few goals and thoughts that I was mulling over for a couple of weeks and I just kept coming back to these two words. Focus was the dominant word. Each time I would delve deeper, the word cultivate kept swimming around my thoughts. So there you have it. My two words for the year are FOCUS and CULTIVATE.

Every year I tend to fill the need to change something in my life. One year I allowed myself to watch TV/Movies for a total of three hours in a one week period. Another year I wanted to run everyday. Ha! That was the year I got bronchitis AND laryngitis. (If you’re wondering, no, I didn’t end up running everyday that year.) Another year Mike and I pledged to eat at one new restaurant a month. One year I decided to read a new book each week. (I was close. I ended up with 50 on my reading list that year.) You get the idea. I have never picked a word to focus on. This will be a new endeavor.

I got the idea from Frank Viola. He posted a great article about getting ready for 2016 and I decided to run with it. If you’ve never heard of or read any of his stuff, you should head over to his site and check it out. Once I decided to pick a word for the year, I started to pray about it. I plan to take this seriously, so it seemed natural to ask God for help.

I knew I wanted to be on social media less, run more, eat healthy, read more, write more, be angry less, spend time with people I care about more and be purposeful in my relationship with Mike. I wanted to focus on them, but not just that, I wanted to grow these things. Improve upon them somehow. Enter cultivate. So here’s my list of focus and cultivation for the year 2016 and how I plan to “implement” them.word2016

1) Facebook less. I plan to turn off all my push notification on all my social media apps (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest). I have found that I have great excuses to be on these all the time (while I’m nursing, while Asher is napping, when I’m going for a walk…you get the idea). I keep missing the present because I’m so focused on someone else’s “present.” Who wants to spend life on Facebook. I don’t even want to know how much of my time is spent either surfing social media or the Internet in general. So, I’ve decided to allow myself two times in a day to check these things. I get up early and like to do emails, etc. so morning seems natural. I’m not sure when the other time will be, but it will be minimum.

2) Run More. I like to run. I feel healthier, stronger, and usually mentally stronger when I’m running. Especially if I have a plan for my running. I plan to run a half marathon this spring. That’s as far as I’m taking it right now. The fall gets pretty busy for me with coaching, so we’ll see what it brings. I already try to run a few times a week, so this isn’t new, but I am cultivating this habit. See what I did there.

3) Cook More Wholesome Foods. I believe I’ve mentioned before how I love Lisa over at www.100daysofrealfood.com. I use her site as my go to when I want to make wholesome, less processed foods. I’ve decided to use my blog to help me with this goal. I’ve got some ideas turning but I’m thinking of a “Supper Sundays” post. I’ll post what I cooked, how it went over, the recipe I used and any other resources. I don’t know if anyone will read it, but it will help keep me accountable to cook at least a wholesome, non processed, possibly all organic meal, once a week. I’ll most likely cook this on Sundays, hence “Supper Sundays.”

4) Read More. If you check out my side bar, you can see that I’ve signed up at Goodreads.com for the reading challenge this year. I plan to read 40 books this year. If you are a struggling reader or like to read, this is fun to do. You can join others and check out who’s reading what. It’s an easy way to find some accountability for your year of reading. I love it!

5) Write More. I’ve thought about using my blog to help me accomplish this. Obviously it’s two-fold with the Supper Sundays idea. I’ve thought about other “day themed” writings. I’ve seen a lot of other bloggers do this and it seems like a good idea. I wouldn’t have to keep it up every week, but when I get an idea, I could tie it to one of those themes. I also have realized that I want to schedule more time in for writing. This can be tricky. I have two prime times in a day to do this, but I use that time for a lot of other things too, so I’ll have to decide maybe what days to do what. Book ideas keep floating around my head. Right now, their just floating. I’m trying to get the sail up still.

6) Relationships. I would definitely consider myself and my husband an introvert by definition. We have friends we see every now and then but nothing consistently. I tend to easily run in my head that “I’m introvert. I don’t need to see people to get energy.” This might be true, but that doesn’t mean it’s the way God intended things for all introverted people. I plan to invest in some of my relationships more this year and spend time with people I care about. I’m pretty sure Mike will go along with this 🙂 I also have a big family, and we can go a long time without talking to each other. This bothers me when I think about it. So, I’ve decided to plan a phone call/text to my family members more often throughout the week.

7) My marriage. I can easily see how married couples lose their intimacy and friendship when they have a child(ren). I can see this slowly happening to Mike and me. He works fairly long days and it’s easy to fall into the roommate mode and give all  your energy to your kids. I’m thinking we need to implement two date nights a month or something. I haven’t worked out all the details of this because I need to talk with Mike about it. but I plan to be proactive in this. We’ve got a great babysitter that we trust and Asher doesn’t have any issues going to bed at night, so we just need to plan to go out together!

That’s my list to help me FOCUS this year and CULTIVATE some things that are important to me. Have you thought about your year? I really like Frank Viola’s idea of making a list of your “Dream Year.” How inspiring! I would like to sit down with Mike and do that. I think it would be a cool idea to see how those dreams pan out for the year. What would  your word for the year be? Why?
Thanks for reading!

Crying in the car and being a control nut: What is your top ten list for 2015?

I know many are focusing on New Year’s resolutions, but before I jump in to looking ahead, I like to sit back and look at the year and all the things I experienced. I like to make a list, (shocking, I know) and reflect on what had an impact on me as a person. I like to try and narrow down these experiences to ones that seemed most impactful to me. These “experiences” could include a book or music or even a movie. So before you jump into the new year, I would encourage you to reflect on your year in 2015.

WHY make a list?
It’s good for the soul to remember things that have helped mold you into the person you are. As a society, I feel like we’re always looking forward to the next date we have marked on our calendar that we forget to reflect on important things that have happened to us.

HOW to make your list?
I tend to be a “free writer” myself. I don’t start out with a number one and then try to perfect my list right away. I generally sit down and just start writing about the year in total free form. Sometimes I go through all the pictures on my phone to bring up reminders of special events. Sometimes I go through my music play lists to refresh on my favorite songs. I also keep a journal. I like to go through it and reflect. You might even want to talk with someone you spent a lot of time with throughout the year. They might have some interesting perspectives on how the year went.

WHAT to put on your list?
Of course this is very general and can vary greatly depending on the person and what they experienced during the year. Some might find this reflective process liberating and motivating as they move into the next year. We can’t forget the struggles that the year brought. There are many who may have had a tough year who wish to leave it behind and never look back. Think about how your experiences could or may have made you a stronger or more considerate person than before. Your list may include a relationship that ended, a lost loved one, a new loved one, a book, a song, a trip, a concert, a restaurant your family was addicted to, maybe a TV show.

This list is wide open. Be serious. Be funny. Be thoughtful. Be gritty. Be honest.

MY LIST FOR 2015

1) Having my first child.
Of course, this seems like an obvious one, but I must say that it seems almost all my experiences this year revolve around this little guy. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if Mike and I would have kids. God opened my heart and now I don’t even know how I used to think that! I could live without the labor part, and really skip the nine months pregnant part. A stork delivery would be nice. But I would do it all over. Words can’t express all this, really.

2) Becoming a stay at home mom.
If you would’ve asked me a few years ago what I thought I’d be doing the rest of my life, I would have said teaching in a school somewhere. I never would have thought that I’d be a SAHM. Now, I can’t imagine working away from my little guy. The transition had its and still does have its emotional moments, but I am so grateful that I get to be with Asher for all of his “firsts.” Wearing leggings everyday does have its perks.

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3) Love and War by John Eldredge.
This book has brought a new foundational meaning to my marriage. If you are struggling in your marriage and are interested in faith-based insight, you really should check this out. I feel like this book gave me a huge reminder that we are all under attack by the Evil One and prayer is a powerful thing for your marriage, for any relationship, really. Marriage is hard and having a child and being parents is icing on the cake! This book saved us! I really should write a review for this book.

4) Since I’m on the topic of marriage, the song Broken Together by Casting Crowns rang true for me this year, especially after having a baby! There were many car rides, with a lot of tears upon hearing this song. Pregnancy hormones didn’t help either! (Come to think of it, there was lots of crying in the car this year…) There’s nothing more humbling than you and your spouse caring for this new little life (or lives) you’ve been given and realizing how utterly flawed you both are as you walk your parenting journey together.

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5) Organic and less processed.
This year I have tried to cut out processed foods and create a more “whole foods” shopping list. I am addicted to Lisa’s site www.100daysofrealfood.com I first decided to really pay attention to ingredient lists of foods I buy and I try to buy organic when it’s feasible. I really try to go by the dirty dozen. We certainly don’t always eat healthy, but I feel healthier knowing I’m making more educated purchases at the grocery store.

6) Being a control nut.
I have realized this year that I like control. I like to control as much as I can and when I can’t, I feel like a failure or I feel unstable. Again, having a kid can do wonders! I always knew I liked to plan and organize, but I feel I really saw my controlling flaws within my marriage and my relationships and the unhealthy side of control. I think control can be a good, healthy characteristic, but like anything, too much can become a problem. I certainly haven’t mastered dealing with being too controlling but I feel that being more self aware has already helped tremendously.

7) Learning to laugh more.
Laughter instead of anger. This practice has helped me a lot in my marriage. It could help in any relationship. There are several occasions when Mike and I could easily get snippy or rude with one another, but we’re finding out that sometimes. things can be pretty funny and laughing instead of getting angry can calm a storm very easily.

I could probably add Taco Bell, KLOVE Radio, and the public library to this list, but those are long enough for a post of their own! By the way, I realize I only have a list of SEVEN! I’m working on my controlling deficits.

The new year is almost here. Take some time to reflect before diving in with new resolutions or before planning away all your time. Remember those closest to you and how they have impacted you. Most of all, enjoy the season of life you’re in. We all know things can change so quickly.

16 “Must-Dos” That Should Be on Your Holiday Tradition List

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I love traditions. Now that my husband and I have a little guy, I am gushing with excitement about traditions to start as he grows up and as we add to our family! The more people I talk to about traditions they have for the holidays, the more I realized that traditions are what make the holidays fun for me! Some of these traditions I still do even though a holiday isn’t attached, but I would dare say they don’t quite have the flare and excitement as they do when it’s holiday time! Whether these are your guilty pleasures or typical family fun, you really should add some of these to your holiday tradition list.
I know my list is 16. I can’t help it. I tried to make it 15 so it was more balanced but I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of one.

Having fun establishing holiday traditions. 16 holiday traditions you should add to your list!

1. Eat Little Debbie Christmas Cakes. Yes, they’re the Devil, but evil has never tasted so good.

2. Wear your pajamas all day. I would probably still wear underwear…well, then again, maybe not.

3. Have a big freaking breakfast with your family or close friends. I’m talking create your own version of the IHOP gigantic breakfast platter. I feel like gluttony is allowed here. Wait, let me think about that…

4. Better yet, have those family members or friends bring a bag full of food. Take the food and pile it in your vehicle and head down to your local Food Pantry and give someone else a breakfast they may be in dire need of.

5.Take a big nap in the middle of the day. If you have kids and this is impossible, you could always dream about it…

6. Binge watch something (OK, this might be more for me, but do it. You know you want to…)

7. Read something new and different than what you would normally read. Try a different blog or nonfiction instead of fiction. You never know, you might realize that fishing in Wyoming might be pretty cool to add to your Bucket List.

8. Watch a Christmas classic. There’s nothing that gets the Christmas juices going than a movie like It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s OK if you need the Kleenex. I find holiday movies can put your significant other in the mood. You might even get a little lucky…

9. Listen to some Classic Christmas music. I love Bing. Bing Crosby. Or Bubble’. He’s classic enough, right?

10. Stay up late with your family or close friends playing board games. Try not to kill each other. Apparently, Catan can cause uprisings.

11. Stay up late watching all the Star Wars movies…AGAIN.

12. Cook or Bake something new. You know you’ve always wanted to try your snicker doodle cookies with actual Snickers chunks. Would someone please make these already!

13. “Check” your phone less. The world will still go on without us glued to our phones. Unless that means you quit reading my blog.

14. Teach your kids how to shovel snow out off the driveway, the sidewalk, the porch. Better yet, show them how to do it for their neighbors too.

15. Buy yummy scented holiday candles. Olfactory can create a huge “sense” of holiday buzz!

16. My favorite one: Create a “Family Top Ten List.” Take a look back over the year and reminisce with your loved ones about the highlights of the year that everyone experienced. Maybe it was a trip, a movie, a song or a show or a book or a restaurant you’ve discovered you guys can’t live without.

Have fun with it and feel free to eat Little Debbies while you’re at it.

 

Can You Guess the Christmas Movie? #christmasmovietrivia

I LOVE this time of year. I am a hard core Christmas enthusiast. Shoot, my husband and I got married two days after Christmas because we both love the holidays!

I have always been someone who associates movies and music with a certain time of year. Favorite movie during fall time: You’ve Got Mail. Favorite Movie to watch at the beginning of summer: The Sandlot. Favorite movie to watch on Labor Day weekend: The Goonies. Who wouldn’t want a little truffle shuffle and end-of-the-summer adventure as school revs up. You’re mocking me, aren’t you? I was a middle school teacher and I’m pretty sure being in middle school all day as an adult for a period of time stays with you for life.

I am also someone who loves to make lists. I have the most organized iPod you’ll probably ever see. Playlists galore. I have a planner with a “to-do” list for everyday. Love, love, love it. I get a kick out of categorizing my lists.

Enter the “Christmas Move Watchlist.” Apparently “Watchlist” is supposed to be two words but I don’t like the Feng Shui of it. What movies do I love to watch and associate with the holidays? Here we go and in no particular order.

I know this goes against the organization gods but I just can’t bring myself to pick one over the other… Instead of making this some ordinary list, let’s see a photo for each one I enjoy and see if you can guess. Honor code people. I didn’t create these pics myself so I had to borrow them. Clicking on the source is cheating. Sheesh.

Can You Guess the Right Christmas Movie? Christmas Trivia fun. Christmas movie trivia.

 

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I feel like a renegade having a list of eleven, instead of a traditional list of ten. It really could be more, but these are definitely on my list of movies I always try to watch around the holidays. I also just realized that Nicolas Cage is popular for me this time of year.

Answers:
1. Home Alone
2. Family Man
3. White Christmas
4. Elf
5. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
6. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
7. The Family Stone
8. The Muppet Christmas Carol
9. The Santa Claus
10. A Christmas Story
11. Trapped in Paradise

What would your Christmas Movie Watchlist be?

Ideas to Help You Fight Winter Blues

 Have you heard of winter blues before? I had not until a few years ago. It was about this time of a year, and I became pretty depressed. There were some challenges with my job that I think triggered the spiral. Ever since that time, I’m more aware of how easy it is for me to get depressed this time of year. You’d think with the holidays approaching that every thing would be fun and jolly. Well, it is, at times, but there are also those times when it’s not.

Many people may get what is called the “winter blues,” a seasonal depression, and if it’s a mild or a light case, this depression can be helped relatively easily, without medication and with some proactive measures. According to an article from National Institute of Health (NIH), Dr. Matthew Rudorfer explains that winter blues is used as a general term and is considered more mild than serious and can eventually go away within a short amount of time. He goes on to say that many times this depression is triggered by the stress of the holidays and reminders of lost loved ones. Ding! Ding! Ding! That would be me.

It is worth noting that there can be more intense and serious cases of depression during the winter months called Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). Dr. Rudorfer mentions that this depression is “a well-defined clinical diagnosis that’s related to the shortening of daylight hours” and it “interferes with daily functioning over a significant period of time” (para 4).

I have always felt that as the days get darker sooner during this time of year that I was affected by that, especially since I worked in a room with no windowns! I never knew what was going on outside during the day. I would head to work and it was dark! By the time I I drove home it was dark. Dr. Rudorfer goes on to explain that there is a pattern to SAD, meaning it flares up during the winter with “less light” months and clears up during the spring and summer time.

For me, I feel the less daylight hours, along with the stresses of the holidays, can easily trigger winter blues. I don’t know about you, but I can hide my emotions pretty well. My husband was pretty unaware of my feelings when I was really depressed a few years ago.

I didn’t want to get out of bed, go to work, I wasn’t sleeping well,  and I was willing to lie to get out of responsibilities if it meant I could avoid certain activities that fed into my depression. I feel like this is especially easy to do around the holidays because the good times can easily mask the rough patches from those close to you. Husband just thought I was sick–like physically sick. Honestly, I think I made myself sick. The mind can do amazing things. The built up anxiety can do wonders to the body. I found I am easily prone to ulcers if anxiety and depression settle in for a winter vacation and my winter blues to be kicked up a notch.

The holidays can create this tension that pulls you up and quickly pushes you down. One minute you’re excited to be home for the weekend and be able to spend time with your family and as Monday approaches, the dread settles in. Eventually this dread causes you to take action–sick for the day, which turns in to days, which might lead to resentment for the obligations you made two months ago and now you’re supposed to host this Christmas party you completely forgot about, which cuts in to the indoor soccer game you planned on watching of your son, which takes a night away from you and your husband hanging out and you feel like this always happens this time of year.

Why can’t you just get a grip? Great. You’re starting to get sick. You’re waking up in the night because you can’t sleep. Oh man. Now the real monster comes out to play when you start operating on less sleep.

I find myself walking this balance beam at times during this time of year, and try to take proactive steps to prevent winter blues from settling in.

I am by no means an expert. These tips should not replace any sort of medical advice you may receive or should not replace a reader seeking medical attention for any kind of depression.

Get outside as much as you can.
If you know that you dislike the hour changes, then try to get outside as much as you can. When I was at my job, I would use my lunch break and plan period to take a quick step outside, either for a short walk or a quick breath of fresh air. I would try not to check my phone and just enjoy being outside for a brief moment. The National Institute of health found that people diagnosed with SAD who underwent light therapy had an “improvement in depression scores after the first treatment of light” (para 11). This can apply too for getting outside more often.

Tips to help you fight winter blues. Are winter blues real? Tips about winter blues.

Talk with someone about what you’re feeling…seriously, do it.
Why do we tend to be so secretive about being depressed? Depression seems to have such a negative stigma, almost like it’s a sign of weakness. Satan couldn’t be anymore glad if no one ever talked about their depression, whether it’s mild or serious. If no one is talking about it, then many are probably not getting help or being proactive, which means more people missing out on God’s amazing grace!

When you feel the depression starting to creep up, evaluate positive ways to cope and possibly divert the depression.
For me, a key ingredient to fighting the hormones that come with depression is exercise. For my husband, it’s having a time of no responsibilities in the home, a break from the every day routine. Another coping tool for me is sleep. I can get in serious ruts with little sleep (which made Postpartum Depression really hard to deal with for me!). Since it’s dark anyways, I tend to just go to bed earlier if I feel tired, then getting up early the next day to meet my obligations seems less daunting.

What might be some tools you have that could help you with this? Have you taken the time to evaluate what they might be? Have you talked with someone about this?

Deal with what you can control and seek guidance for the rest.
This tends to be the biggest obstacle for me and it is so easily said than done at times. I can’t control other people’s actions. I can control my emotions and actions. Another easier said than done…cough cough.

For me, this means everyday I have to remind myself that I am a child of God and no matter what happens, He is with me and is there no matter what. If the finances are falling apart or your brother wont talk to you or you’re reminded of your sweet grandma and her delicious cookies which aren’t around anymore, then those are the times to look for guidance. Counseling may be an effective tool for you this time of year in particular.

As I mentioned, for me I have to speak to myself the promises of God from his Word. I don’t always remember those promises in the heat of emotions. I like to write them down on cards and place them around the house, in my purse, in my car.

I can control how many Christmas parties I host. I can control how many activities I get my family involved in. I can control how much money I spend on others. I always think of Matthew 5:37 when Jesus says something along the lines of “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” I have always felt this means if you say you’re going to do something, you should follow through and if you can’t do it, then just say so. I’m sorry my good friend, but we’ve got too much going on already to go to that party you mentioned. I’m sorry cousin, but this argument is between you and your sister. I would prefer to stay out of it. Again, easier said than done. But if we’re doing what we know is right, then we have to trust that decision.

Try not to worry about appearing weak.
Honestly, I was nervous to talk to my husband about it because I didn’t want to appear weak. There it is again, that stupid stigma. Eventually, he caught on though. My demeanor had changed too much at home and he brought me out to talk about some things.

Having someone close that can help you be “accountable” can be very beneficial for some people. Someone who can remind you in a loving way to speak positive in those low moments or maybe remind you to speak God’s Word. Someone who can walk with you during those low moments. Some might prefer someone who isn’t close to them, maybe a therapist, someone you might feel you can be more open with. Either way, the more you keep things in the worse things can get and spiral out of control.

Clinical depression can be far worse and should be treated as soon as possible. This post is not to minimize someone’s experience with serious depression and all the obstacles that come with it. If you feel you are on any path of depression, seek help as soon as you can.

Have you experienced Winter Blues? If so, what have you found that works best for you? Any tips to avoid depression during the holidays?
Peace mamas,
Glo