Make. It. Work.

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I’m not an athlete by nature.  I never excelled in any sports and I wouldn’t know my way around a gym to save my life.  I admire people who have skills on the court and stamina on the treadmill, but neither of those things have ever truly been a desire of mine.  However, being healthy yet balanced is a goal of mine.  In certain areas of my life, I tend to be all, “Go big or go home,” but in the arena of food and fitness, I’m working on being more mindful and balanced while also increasing my strength and enriching my health.  With all of that being said, here’s what has been working for me.  I think when we make a goal to be stronger or healthier, it’s tempting to look all around at others to see how they are getting those results.  We will often so desperately want to try to mimic them, but I think it’s important to remember that we are not them.  We can get results too, but the steps to get there have to be steps that make sense to us in our lives.  Below are some ways I make it work for me.

  1. I work out at home.  I knew that in order to gain strength and have a healthier lifestyle, I would need to exercise.  The problem is that I don’t always love to exercise.  When I look at others on social media, I see people going to Orange Theory, joining a gym, hiking outside, running 5k’s and marathons, doing Cross Fit, etc.  All of those things are great, but none of them are practical for me in the season of life I’m in currently.  I’m learning that what is ideal for someone else might not be ideal for me in my situation, and that’s totally ok.  It doesn’t have to keep me from reaching my goals.  My “gym” is my living room.  It’s ideal for me because I can throw in a load of laundry right before I work out and I don’t have to include travel time in to my daily workout time.  I researched a lot of different work outs to do at home and there are waaaaay more out now than ever, with great results to back them up.  I chose to do P90X3 in my home.  I don’t have to find childcare to get to a gym, I can work out in my ugliest, nastiest state and not a soul sees me, I don’t have to pay big money for a membership anywhere (I purchased P90X3 on eBay for around $25), and I like that the workout has variety.  The last time I did this, I followed the “Classic Schedule.”  I lost 20 pounds in 6 months with this combined with macro dieting.  Right now, I want to maintain (or even increase some of) my weight through building muscle.  I’m doing the “Mass Schedule” and I’m loving it.  I’m currently in week 3.
  2. I wake up early.  This one is going to be dependent on personality.  I have friends who love to run on their elliptical or treadmill while watching a show after their kids are in bed at night.  I have other friends who do group classes at a gym right after work.  For me, I don’t have the time to go to a gym consistently and my evenings are usually crazy.  Each week in the evenings, Ike has speech, Isla has gymnastics, Adia has dance, I teach both girls piano, I lead professional developments, I have faculty meetings, etc.  Add on top of that a full time job and you’ve got yourself a busy mom.  I can’t imagine being able to consistently fit in a workout each evening while still allowing time to make dinners, spend time with my kids and my husband, clean, and get ready for the next school day.  I also have no energy at night because I’m so tired from a full day’s work.  I find it difficult at times to wake up at 5:30 AM, but once I’m up and I’m doing it, I enjoy the peace and quiet.  I also get that workout knocked out early so that I don’t have to worry about when and where to squeeze it in to the rest of my day.  If waking up early is unimaginable for you, then when is your prime time?  I don’t suggest that we all wake up at 5:30 AM to exercise, but I do suggest finding your best time within your schedule and devoting that time to your own fitness and well-being.  I don’t think you will regret it and it does not have to be all or nothing.  Personally, I value progress over perfection.  A few years ago, I rarely worked out at all.  My body will never be perfect but I’ve had progress and that motivates me.  Just working out 3 times per week for 30 minutes a session is 78 HOURS of time you are committing in a whole year to take care of you.  78 hours is way better than 0.  (Look at that math!  I amaze myself!)
  3. I count macros.  I’ve talked about this before, but it’s the easiest and most efficient healthy eating I’ve ever been able to stick with long term.  I’ve done Paleo and though there were parts about it that I loved, I found it hard to navigate with so many foods having to be off the table.  I love counting macros because I can eat what my kids eat and I can eat whatever I want as long as it fits my macros.  A lot of people call this “Flexible Dieting,” and that’s exactly why I like it.  Most of the food I eat is really healthy, but I can enjoy a late night donut with my friends or a scoop of ice cream with my kids and maintain my weight and results.  I’ve just learned how to balance what I eat so that I CAN indulge at times.  The MyFitnessPal app makes it incredibly easy to adjust your macro percentages and then plug in the foods you eat each day to track how much protein, fat, and carbs you are consuming.  I have goals for each (protein, fat, and carbs) and I try to reach those goals by the end of the day.  I’ll link more about that here, but I highly suggest contacting Kim Waits to help get you started if it is something you are interested in doing.  I owe the bulk of my health and success to her wisdom and assistance.

So, there you have it.  3 tips for how I make it work for me.  Please understand that I’m not suggesting that everyone out there ditches their gym membership or wakes up at 5:30.  What I am suggesting is this: have a goal, decide on what behaviors you’re going to change/continue/or begin in order to meet that goal, and make some commitments so that you can actually do the behaviors you need to do in order to meet your goal.  Maybe you’re going to take a kickboxing class and you’re going to commit to plan out your schedule each week so you can attend.  Maybe you’re going to run a 5K and you’re going to commit to laying out your running clothes the night before and waking early to run.  Whatever it is, have a system and hold yourself accountable to your system.  Reflect on your system and do what you need to do to make it work.

Monthly and Weekly Planning

This year, my word is “balance.”  I always have a lot of great intentions.  I intend to work out, to eat at home, to get the laundry done, to organize that one drawer, to spend quality time with my kids, to find coupons for groceries, etc.  However, if I don’t have any intentionality behind my intentions, I end up feeling defeated or overwhelmed when it all seems to pile up at once or the time passes and it’s not done. In order to have more balance in my life while still getting stuff accomplished, I decided this year to make a flexible plan.  Here’s what that looks like for us in our home.

  1. On the 1st of each month, we fill out a monthly goal plan.  This includes our physical, spiritual, career/learning, financial, and project plans.  This is broad and it doesn’t get into the nitty gritty at all.  For example, a spiritual goal of mine in January was to read the book called Messy Grace and to read the book of Matthew in the Bible.  My physical goal was to complete the first 3 weeks of P90X3 Mass edition, and my financial goal was to save enough money for some car updates and repairs.  Here’s an example of what it looks like for us filled out.  I do this with my husband, but you could do this individually or with your kids too, depending on their ages.  For us and our family, my husband and I decided we can do this together.  One day, we will likely involve the kids in the preplanning, but we aren’t there yet.  This doesn’t take us long at all and it’s simple.  It narrows our focus and helps us to not get distracted by the other 3 million things we feel the need to work on or complete.  We can’t do 3 million things, but we can do a few things really well if we are intentional.img_2915
  2. From there, I just look 1 week at a time and map out my week.  I make little mini goals for each day of the week that will lead us to achieving our overall monthly goals we’ve set.  I don’t always have something written in for each section, but the opportunity is there to write it in if I need to do so.  Here’s an example of what that looks like for us.  On each day, I make some commitments that I track and discuss with Micah in order to help hold myself accountable.  Some of those commitments are harder for me to keep than others. If they were easy, I wouldn’t have to track them or even state them because they would already be in place.  I don’t have to track how often I brush my teeth because I already do it all the time and it doesn’t require any extra motivation or reminders for me to do so, (although flossing is a completely different story….  Whoops.)  My point is that I’m not going to waste time tracking stuff that I already do naturally.  That’s just busy work. img_2917
  3. As the week goes along, I track my behaviors and my commitments and I reflect on my success at the end of the week.  On that next Sunday, I look back over the week with my husband and we talk about how it went and if we are on track to meet those monthly goals we’ve set.

 

I can’t be perfect and neither can you.  I also can’t do it all, no matter how hard I try, so my goal is never perfection.  My goal is learning and growing, so what I pay most attention to is my progress.  At the end of the week AND at the end of the month, we are asking ourselves what celebrations we have.  Did we spend more intentional time with our kids?  If so, how did that impact our relationships with them?  Did I work out harder? If so, am I stronger?  What are some areas where I (or we) can improve?   Is there anything we need to stop, start, or continue doing?  This leads to us creating our next weekly plan and it’s how we lead into our next monthly goal plan.  If you have a google account, you can click on this link to get a free copy of the monthly sheet and weekly plan I made.  You can edit this to tailor it to your own liking.  Take off the stuff you won’t use and add in things you want on there.  Feel free to print it off and see if it helps you make progress toward your goals.  If you do, I’d love some feedback.  This sheet isn’t perfect and I’m thinking of new ways to customize it even further for my own liking, but it’s helped me get off to a great start this year and I’d love to know if you find it helpful too!

Tea Parties

Before I ever had children, I imagined myself as a “boy mom.”  I don’t know why, but for some reason, I just always thought that if I was blessed enough to have children of my own, I’d have a house full of boys.  So, when I had two girls back to back (only 15 months apart in age), I was immersed in all things girl.  Though I never felt anything but immense love and gratitude for my daughters, there were moments when I felt a little too glittery and pink and floofy as I was quickly surrounded by dress up clothes and dolls.  My daughters (especially my oldest) love entering a room with a twirl and leaving nothing but glitter behind, which made this “non-cutesy” mom have a whole new perspective on appreciating my daughters for exactly who God created them to be.  I had to embrace the feather boas and adore the princess dresses as I watched their sweet imaginations blossom.  I never want my daughters to feel like they are better than anyone else or entitled, but I do want them to always feel like they are beautifully and wonderfully made, just like all of the other unique women God created so intricately.

Since my daughters love to dress up and feel fancy, I decided to start doing tea parties with them from time to time.  Tea parties are supposed to be fun, but they also have so much potential if we just look at them as an opportunity to help our daughters grow into strong, graceful women.  It also gives me the chance to soak up their innocence and embrace this sweet age.

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At our tea parties, we talk about the following:

  1. Women in our family: those who came before them and the ones who surround them now.  This is one of my favorite things to talk with them about and one of their very favorite things to hear about.  I tell them about my “Memom,” (my grandmother) who said, “ESTA!” when she’d sneeze and who loved UK basketball more than anyone I’d ever known.  I also tell them about how she served others, even in her times of grief and struggle.  I tell them about their great aunt Lori, who passed at the age of 36 and how the tea set we use came from her.  I tell them about her hilarious laugh and how she always made others feel special.  We talk about their aunts and grandmothers and they ask me to retell the same stories to them over and over again as we find inspiration in the grit and grace that came before us and still surrounds us today.
  2. Table manners and kindness.  We practice how to be polite at the table, how to look people in the eye when we have discussions, how to say, “Thank you,” and, “Please.” We also set the expectation so that our discussion with each other is always encouraging and uplifting with everyone at the tea party.
  3. Serving others.  Tea parties are a great opportunity to talk with them about how it brings me joy to get to serve them their tea and treats and I ask them to serve each other.  We talk about how doing so is not only kind to the others at the table, but how it makes us feel when we serve.

Here’s how we set up tea parties in our home to make them more than a party and less of a hassle.

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  1. The food is stuff I already have in my pantry.  I shop at Aldi and I purchase a few things that could double as something “fancy.”  Below are some items I’ve used before for our parties, but I’m sure you could use anything.  You could also use this as a time to get picky eaters to try something “new and fancy” you’ve been wanting  them to try.
    • Dried fruit (we love dried mango)
    • Fresh fruit
    • Toast with different type of jam
    • Cheese (I have ever taken string cheese and cut it into small pieces)
    • Salami slices
    • Muffins (I often buy the Garden Lite Muffins from Costco, which are full of veggies.  They are frozen and thaw quickly with the help of a microwave.)
    • Nuts
    • Pirouettes (these just seem soooo fancy to my girls)
  2. I make a small pot of tea, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.  I typically use decaf or a low caf green tea.
  3. Instead of using sugar for them to mix, I usually use sweetened liquid coffee creamer for them to pour.  It’s already sweet and it’s less of a mess, and they also love to pour things.
  4. The girls get to dress up.  Sometimes, they’ll ask me to fix their hair fancy or to paint their nails.  If time permits, I honestly love to do both because it’s extra time I get to spend with them.  But if dressing up isn’t your thing, then it’s not your thing.  On Christmas Eve morning, we do a tea party and we do it in our PJ’s.
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Fancied Up Tea Party
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Christmas Eve PJ Tea Party

Kid Chore/Responsibility Chart

Do you ever remember doing chores as a kid?  Or do you ever remember feeling like taking a shower was a punishment from Satan himself?  How dare your parents require you to bathe.  You swam today, dangit.  Didn’t your parents know that chlorine kills all the germs and that evenings were for playing, TGIF, and not putting the dishes away?  Then, it happened.  You grew up.  You got a job, a home, and kids of your own and all of a sudden, you realized why your parents not only needed a little help (sorry, Mom), but that they were really trying to instill in you the importance of taking care of your home, each other, and learning important skills you would one day need when you didn’t have Mom or Dad there to hound you to do it all.

But what if the evenings don’t have to come with nagging?  What if the activities leading up to bed put more ownership and responsibility on your kids and less stress on you after a busy day?  Well, it isn’t a perfect world, so I can’t guarantee your evenings will be stress free with a magical system, but I can tell you that coming up with a system has helped all of us in this house tremendously.  We aren’t perfect, and I still struggle inwardly when I look down the hallway and see my child playing with slime instead of brushing her hair, but I can tell you that I don’t yell at her for it anymore.  Instead, I let her fail.  She doesn’t beat her timer and then she’s a little down on herself.  That’s when we have a calm discussion – after the timer has gone off.  I go over her chart with her and I ask her to reflect on her behaviors.  It goes something like this:

Me: “Adia, I noticed you couldn’t circle your clock tonight.  What happened?”

Adia: “I don’t know.”

Me: “Let’s look at the behaviors you said you were going to try to commit to.  Were you silent?”

Adia: “Yes, but I played and it got me distracted, so I couldn’t beat my timer.”

Me: “How does that make you feel?”

Adia: “Sad.  I really wanted to beat my timer.”

Me: “What will you do next time so you can be happy when the timer goes off?”

Adia: “I’ll work harder during my chores so I can play later.”

I want my kids to see that their behaviors directly impact their success.  It’s a reflective habit that I want to help instill in them now, even with something as small as being efficient with a nightly routine.

The following were key for us:

  1. Know what your children are capable of.  They are capable of way more than what you’d think.  There are some things I KNOW they are capable of doing at these ages because I’ve modeled it for them, watched them do it correctly, and have given them praise for doing so.  For the things they have tried and haven’t done quite successfully yet, I still praise them for their effort and tell them we’ll keep working on some of those things together.  For example, Isla can’t vacuum on her own quite yet.  It’s still a little heavy for her and she struggles to work it correctly, so for now, we model it for her and let her have some tries each time we get it out.  For a list of some ideas to model with your kids, check out this link.
  2. Create a system that supports a no nagging policy.  When I made the chart below, I made it WITH Adia.  Prior to doing this, I set timers for my kids and they had a list of responsibilities to complete and check off, but they often times were not completing all of their responsibilities or we were constantly on them, which made it way more stressful for both us and them.  We decided to set a goal statement like this: “I will go from beating my night time timer on some nights to beating my night time timer every night.”  Then, we talked about behaviors that would help her meet her goal.  She named the behaviors below and we both agreed.  I told her when I gave her this chart that I would not give her any reminders (other than verbal time like, “10 minutes left”) and that I would not yell or raise my voice at all. I will be honest and say that this isn’t always easy, but it’s important.  I don’t want my kids to associate learning and hard work with feelings of inadequacy.

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*****Level 1 prizes are things such as stickers, glitter pens, glitter glue, fun pencils, etc.  Level 2 prizes are things like Dum Dum Suckers, a piece of gum, mints, small candies, etc.  Level 3 prizes are bath bombs, nail polish, my old makeup, lip glosses.  Star prizes are bigger things, but not necessarily expensive things.  They’re also things we often times do anyways, but it makes the kids feel pretty special to know they “earned” it…  stuff like making muffins with Mom, or Chick Fil a with Dad, or a spa day with me where I paint their nails and let them take bubble baths.  *****

3. Follow through.  If you show them that you value this process by reflecting on how they did with them each week and giving them the rewards they earn, AND you keep up with your end of the deal (no nagging, no reminders, etc.), they will learn to prioritize and value the system too.  Goals will be achieved when a successful system is in place.  If you have a goal that you aren’t achieving, whether it is with your kids or a personal goal of your own, you have to reflect on the system you’ve put in place.  If there isn’t a system, it likely won’t take off.  Systems require specific behaviors to take place, so we have to be willing to reflect on our actions.  For me, I view this responsibility chart as an opportunity to teach my kids about goal setting, learning from our mistakes, and trying to help them develop a growth mindset.  I don’t ever want them to feel like they aren’t good enough, but I do want them to celebrate their growth and always strive to keep growing.

Recently, I shared some about this on Instagram, which allowed some great questions to come my way.  I’ve decided to answer lots of those questions below.

Q: How old were they when they started their night time chores?

A: They have had night time chores for a couple of years and right now, they are 6 and 8, but we have only done it with this system for about the past 4-5 months.

Q: Does your son have any chores?

A: Our son is 3, and he does have some chores, but not like the girls.  He puts his dishes in the sink, trash from his meals in the trash can, carries his laundry upstairs, picks up his toys, etc. but he isn’t quite mature enough to do certain things on his own.

Q: How long do you set their timers?

A: Since part of the girls’ night time responsibilities includes showering, we set their timers for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the volume of what they need to complete.

Q: Where did you come up with this?

A: I’m an educator, so I’ve done a ton with students with behavior charts, goal setting, and relationship building.  A lot of this comes from my teacher brain, trial and error, and some training on the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution, which is a great book all about how to achieve the goals you set.

Q: What if they beat the timer and the chores are not done well?

A: Prior to ever giving them this list, we modeled the chores for them, we did them together, and then we had them demonstrate the chore or responsibility for us.  I can’t expect them to do something to mastery if I’ve never taught them and allowed them to demonstrate their abilities to me (Hi there, Educator Mom).  For this reason, I know how to respond.  I know my daughter struggles to make her top bunk bed.  It’s hard to do.  Her level of ability (though not perfect at all) is ok.  I know she puts forth effort and I know how hard it is for me to make her bed, so I don’t expect it to look pristine.  However, I know she can clean off the kitchen table well.  There have been a couple of times when we’ve noticed that she didn’t clean it well or there were several crumbs left behind (even though we saw her wiping it off).  When she didn’t perform the task well, if the timer has not gone off and she tells us, “I beat my timer,” if we check and see that something is not done well or not completed, we will ask her to try again.  If she tries again successfully before the timer goes off, she can circle her timer on her chart.  If she doesn’t, or if we don’t notice until we check after the timer has gone off, we’ll ask her to clean it again and tell her she can’t circle her timer that night.

Q: What are their night time routines/chores?

A: Initially, we just made them a pictorial chart that we tucked inside of a page protector.  They would circle their chores as they did them with an Expo marker.  Eventually, it became so routine that they had them all memorized.  Our issue was just time and efficiency.  Here are their chores/routine:

  • Pick up all toys
  • Clean up their dishes after dinner
  • Clean the kitchen island and table
  • Help fold and put away all of their own laundry (including some of their bathroom towels)
  • Brush and floss teeth
  • Brush hair
  • Shower (every other night, but pretty much every night in the summer)
  • Put lotion on and get dressed
  • Clean the bathroom sink
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Occasionally added: cleaning out ears, clipping nails, sweeping the kitchen floor, putting away dishes from the dishwasher, etc.

Forgiveness.

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I’ve heard it said before that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.  It’s always resonated with me and I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that I sometimes have to tell myself almost daily not to drink the poison.  Sometimes, I do really well and I temporarily avoid that poison altogether – especially when I go a long time without seeing someone who I’ve allowed to hurt me.  Other times, I drink the entire vial and it’s paralyzing.

The only thing that I can do is to do what feels the most unnatural for me to do, which is for me to pray blessings over the person(s) who I’m struggling to forgive.  I want so badly for them to come to the realization that what they said or did or the way they acted (or didn’t act at all when I needed them to act) was hurtful and I focus way more on justice than I do on mercy, which imprisons nobody but myself.  I think that if they only had the “a-ha” moment and understood how wrong they were that I could finally be released from the resentment I unnoticeably embrace.

Things that don’t make forgiveness magically happen:

  1. Avoiding the person
  2. Disassociating with them to teach them a lesson
  3. Gossiping
  4. Giving them a taste of their own medicine
  5. Trying to ignore the pain

It’s easier to forgive and release ourselves from that anger and resentment when it’s someone we hardly know.  A lady on her phone cut me off in a parking lot today.  It annoyed me at the time, but I know I won’t remember it years from now, nor will I care.  It’s different when it’s a family member or a friend that you trusted and loved enough to not only give of your time, but your acts of service, your money, your encouragement over the years, your own home when they needed a place to just be, your embrace when they were sad.  Hearing hurtful words about how they feel about you or statements questioning your character or integrity are moments you don’t forget.  They are moments that maybe only took a second to unfold, but they have been stinging you for months, years, or even decades.  These types of wounds are the hardest to heal, and it seems like no amount of care will cover the scars.

I’ve been hurt before, and the only way I healed was to pray – not to pray for justice or for the other person to realize what they’ve done….. not even for them to change.  Unconditional love means we don’t give up on people – even when they hurt us.  Years ago, I got hurt pretty heavily.  For months, I let it fester.  It ate at me.  As soon as I would start to pray about it, I found myself just venting in my head and justifying my thoughts.  I had to audibly tell myself to stop and I made myself write a prayer on my for that person.  My prayer was simply for that person to experience abundant blessings,  for that person to know who they are and WHOSE they are.  I prayed for this person to have a blessed family, a happy home, an incredible life.  In addition, I prayed very specific blessings over that person.  I prayed that prayer once a day for a while and I promised myself I would pray that prayer every time I started to feel like drinking that vial of poison again.  I can honestly say that I no longer have resentment, hurt, or even a smidge of bitterness toward this person.  I don’t think about the hurt I felt anymore.  I don’t hold onto it.  I’ve been released and it feels so good.  I also have a great relationship with that person now and I consider myself blessed to call this person my friend.  Trust took some time, but that’s ok.  Forgiveness and trust aren’t the same thing, but I’m happy to say that God restored my trust in this person as time went on too.

The point of this post is to encourage us (myself included) to stop replaying the hurt in our minds.  Who has hurt you?  Who do you struggle to forgive?  What name pops in your head?  Pull out your phone, a sheet of paper, write an email to yourself, do whatever you need to do to write down a prayer for this person.  Instead of asking God to change them, ask Him to bless them.  No alternate agenda, just blessings.  See what happens to your heart.

 

Obedience

I think the word “obedience” often has a negative connotation.  We might hear that word and think of times when we were punished for breaking the rules in school, or we may hear it and associate the word with a lack of fun.  We might think of the straight and narrow, or the stern tone of the deliverer of our consequences when we weren’t obedient in the past.  I want to challenge you to think of obedience differently.  Obedience changed my life and set me on a completely unanticipated path to a very visual and life giving blessing that I would have missed out on entirely had it not been for obedience.

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If you are a parent, think of it this way…  Have you ever given your child a direction because you knew that if they followed that direction, it would set them up for something good?  I often think of teaching my kids to not fear the water.  There have been many times when I’ve stood there in the water with my arms out and told my kids, “Jump!”  I knew they’d be safe.  I knew I’d catch them.  I knew they’d love the feeling of the water all around them and the celebration of all of us waiting for them to trust me and leap.  If I switch the perspective to my child, they’re often scared.  Even though mom or dad has never missed and has never encouraged them to do something that would harm them, they still fear the unknown.  The water looks deep.  What if it’s cold?  What if Mom doesn’t catch me?  What if it makes me uncomfortable?  All the while, I know they’ll not only be ok, they’ll be glad they did it.  I just need them to trust me and know that I’ll be in the water with them.  Listen to my call and obey.  Jump!

When I first felt like God was calling me to offer my womb as a surrogate, there were a lot of unknowns.  But because I had a relationship with God, I knew He’d be in the water with me, arms wide open, ready to catch me.  I jumped.  Sometimes, the water felt cold.  My Father was always there in the water with me, holding me, and assuring me that I could trust Him to keep me afloat.  He called me to jump, and the experience wasn’t only a lesson for me that I could trust Him and that He is faithful, but that I’d be glad and excited that I got to jump.  I can handle the cold temps and I can handle the uncertainty because He’s in the water with me, holding me and assuring me it’s ok.  He’s excited that I jumped in and so many are standing around the water, celebrating with me.

I don’t think God is calling all of us to jump into the waters of surrogacy, but I do think He’s calling us all to jump into the water with Him and to obey whatever it is He’s calling you to do.  What’s He calling you to do?  Will you jump?

 

2 John 1:6 says, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.  As you have heard from he beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”

Mommy is a Surrogate

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If you have a family of your own and you’ve ever contemplated becoming a surrogate, then you’ve probably wondered how you might address this topic with your children.  For me, it was much simpler than what I had expected and I’d love to share some quick pointers or insights on what that was like for us and our kids.  Before I go any further, keep in mind that at the time I was embarking on this journey, my youngest was not quite 2, my middle child was 4, and my oldest was not quite 6.  The way you approach this with your children might look and sound different depending on their ages and your circumstances.  For us, I was carrying for my sister in law who had battled cancer and couldn’t carry her own.  My children saw her go through that battle and they were excited that their mommy was helping her have a family and that they would get a baby cousin.

  1. They accepted the news better than anyone else we told.  Many adults have preconceived notions of how things are “supposed” to work or what they would consider to be “normal.”  To many of us, we define “normal” as how we were brought up or raised.  Children are so moldable and they look to us for a model of how to live.  When we told our kids about this, we simply told them that Aunt Amanda’s belly was broken.  Aunt Amanda and Uncle Reid wanted a baby, but Aunt Amanda couldn’t carry the baby in her broken belly.  Sometimes, when a mommy’s belly is broken, a doctor will take a cell from the mommy and a cell from the daddy to create something called an embryo, which is the beginning of life for a baby.  Since Aunt Amanda’s belly was broken, the doctor was going to put the embryo in Mommy’s belly so Mommy could carry the baby safely for Aunt Amanda and Uncle Reid.  When the baby is done growing, the doctor will take out the baby and give him or her to the mommy and daddy.  My oldest two definitely understood.
  2. If you are uneasy, talk to a psychiatrist or a psychologist.  This was part of the process for us that we couldn’t avoid even if we wanted.  The fertility clinic we went through required all of us to talk to a psychiatrist and a psychologist.  During those sessions, we asked about how we should share this information with our kids.  They were very helpful and reassured us that the kids would likely take it much better than the adults.  They told us that the only reason kids sometimes have issues with surrogacy is because they may fear that you will meet someone else who wants a baby and decide you will give that person one of your children.  She said that thought could be easily prevented as long as we front load our conversation by explaining that they belong to me and my husband and that we will never ever ever give them away.  The baby in my belly was not mine to keep and was made with the cells of two different people, so the baby belongs to them.  My daughters never questioned this at all, but we did make sure we explained this to them ahead of time.
  3. Use children’s books.  We purchased two different books and we used both to help explain what surrogacy is, the process, and the “why” to our kids.  Our kids still pull the books out for us to read them with them from time to time.  When we first told them about surrogacy, we read the Kangaroo one with them and had Aunt Amanda there with us as we all read it together.  (I will link the books we used at the bottom of this post.)  Please excuse my middle child not wanting to share the book in the video below.  She was a full on threenager at this time…  Ha ha!
  4. Turn this into a very visible lesson on serving those we love.  Unfortunately, my sister in law was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at a very young age.  Due to this, she couldn’t carry her baby.  I volunteered to carry for her, and my husband and I explained to our children how this was an opportunity for us to help people we love and care about be able to have a family as well as an opportunity to give a person a chance at life with incredible and loving parents.  We talked about how sometimes, serving others requires sacrifice and an understanding that there are things far more important than our comforts.  We talked about trusting God to bless us through this process and take care of us.  As they continue to grow, I’m going to talk with them a lot more about obedience.  I felt called to do this, but with a calling often comes what feels like a risk.  But truly, I felt like there was more of a risk for me if I wasn’t obedient.  What if I didn’t do this and they never got to have a family and Adalyn never got to have a life?  What if I didn’t do this and I felt like I could have helped and chose not to help?  Living with that seemed harder than the risks associated with following through and embarking on this process.  FullSizeRender 2
  5. Be honest about the process.  We never said the baby got in my belly through magic, or that everything would be easy.  We told them about the sickness I would feel.  We told them I would be on medicines that would sometimes make me feel a little out of control of my emotions.  We told them Daddy would be giving Mommy shots and we let them watch a few times.  They also watched my husband rub my hips after my shots and they tried helping out with that a few times too.  When they asked me if it hurt, I told them it did, but that it was worth it for their little cousin and for their aunt and uncle.  I told them I’d do the same thing for them if I’d had to and that when you really love someone, sometimes you choose to take the boo boos for them.

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    The rectangles on my belly were Estrogen patches.  The heating pad was providing some relief from the many knots and bruises I had from Progesterone injections. This was also around the time I was giving myself shots of Lupron in my stomach.
  6. Include them in the conversations, the pregnancy, and meeting the new baby.  My oldest went to a couple of doctor’s appointments with me, which led to some deeper conversations with her during the car rides home.  It was a great opportunity for us to talk and for us to learn from each other. As my belly grew by the day, they would wrap their little arms around my belly and hug me.  They talked to the baby, they felt her move, they gave my belly kisses.  We all loved her from day one and we all had the mindset that while the baby in my belly wasn’t ours, she was still ours to love and our responsibility to make sure she was taken care of.  IMG_1786  IMG_2002All 3 enjoyed celebrating the whole time with us – from finding out the pregnancy took, to seeing the pictures from the first ultrasound, to finding out the baby was a girl.
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    The girls loved finding out their little cousin was a girl!

    My parents brought the kids to the hospital the day after Adalyn was born. The kids brought little presents for Adalyn and enjoyed getting to hold her in their sweet little arms.  They love visiting with Adalyn and we look at her pictures and videos all the time.  We are especially thankful for FaceTime since Aunt Amanda and Uncle Reid live a few hours away.

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    Adalyn with her mommy and her big cousins.

To hear a little more about their response to the surrogacy, watch the YouTube video below.  My husband and I did another video about his response to the surrogacy, (click here for that video) where we had some comments from people asking about how our kids responded to the surrogacy.  I asked my daughters if they wanted to do a video, and they jumped off of the couch excited to get started!  So, this video is definitely not the best quality, but it will give you the skinny.  Feel free to share and ask us any other questions you can think of.

Children’s Books:

Sophia’s Broken Crayons by Crystal Falk

The Kangaroo Pouch by Sarah Phillips Pellet

Strong Women Stories

I’m lucky.  I have been surrounded by some pretty strong women my whole life.  I want to start a movement where we showcase the strong women in our lives.  I’ll show you what I mean…

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My memom, grandfather, and my dad when he was a baby.  1950’s.

This is my “Memom.”  I know it’s not a typical name for a grandmother, but she wasn’t a typical grandmother either.  She was a mother of 5 kids, my dad being the oldest of the 5.  When my grandfather was 40, he passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack, leaving my memom alone to raise 5 children, ranging from ages 5 to 17.  Not long after he passed, my memom invited anyone she knew who had experienced a loss in their family over for Thanksgiving.  She was a widow herself, yet she served each of the families who came to her home and every family left with a pie.  I didn’t know that story about her until after she had passed.  My other grandmother had lost her 18 year old daughter and was one of the women who left that Thanksgiving with a pie on her lap from my memom.  A piece of my memom lives on.  I bet that life wasn’t easy for my memom, but it didn’t keep her from rolling up her sleeves and serving others.  I’m thankful I come from people like her.  She was strong, even when she must have felt weak.

So, who is a strong woman in your life?  Let’s start sharing their stories.  Join my challenge!  Here’s how:

  1. Post a picture on Instagram of a strong woman in your life.  Tell us what makes her strong.
  2. Tag me on instagram using rachel.removetheveil
  3. Use the hashtag #strongwomenstories
  4. Follow me on Instagram.
  5. Search  the hashtag “strongwomenstories” and get ready to be inspired.