Posted in Book Reviews, Joy, parenting

Five of the Most Inspiring Books I Read in 2022

It’s been awhile since I did a book review… not because I haven’t been reading… mostly because I have been too busy reading to take time to share.  But some of the books I have read recently really deserve a shout out and were so inspiring I couldn’t keep them to myself!  Check these out and if you are looking for a good Christmas gift for someone on your list, any one of these would be a great choice. 

Please note that affiliate links are provided for each.  If you choose to purchase through the link a portion of the sale will come back to this website!

The Men We Need by Brant Hansen

Let me start by saying I recently heard a podcast by Hansen. I heard him speak and thought him a phenomenal speaker with an empowering story. Obviously this title sounds like it lends itself to a book not really intended for an audience of women. But I am a mom who wants her son to grow up as a man of godly character. These books speak to this single mom! Hansen writes a compelling book about the role of a man in families, society, and in the workplace. He discusses the importance of them fulfilling their calling, which is being keepers of the garden. Hansen outlines exactly the type of man that every woman is/should be drawn to. And then explains why every young boy should strive to grow up to be just like that. You should definitely check it out!

Healthy Me, Healthy Us by Les and Leslie Parrott

I am always looking for and reading books about how to improve my relationships.  I grabbed this book on a trip to NC earlier this year and couldn’t put it down (or stop talking about it). Half the book is highlighted and I keep going back to remind myself of the truths written there.  The authors encourage the reader to be authentic and know their significance.  The questions throughout guide the reader in determining their own health, because our relationships can only be as healthy as the people in them.  If you desire stronger relationships that are God honoring, I recommend this one!

He Still Speaks to Kids—Teach Children and Young Adults to Hear God by Wayne Drain and Tom Lane

Gateway Church recommended this book the last few months and I couldn’t wait to read it. There are great stories and reminders intertwined that guide parents/grandparents/teachers in how to teach kids to listen to God’s voice.  Along with those great reminders, the encouragement to trust Him that we will lead and raise our kids well! You can grab a copy here!

My Yes is on the Table: Moving from Fear to Faith by Jennifer Hand

Here is another great book that I highlighted and will go back to read over and over again.  If you struggle with giving up control to God and trusting him with the unknown, this book is a must read.  Jennifer takes us on a journey to figure out what is holding us back from saying yes to God.  If like me you let fear get in the way of you taking the next faith steps, these words will really encourage you!

Becoming an Intentional Family: Creating Meaningful Memories and Building Confidence in Your Kids by Anastasia Corbin

I got a preview of this book before it hit the shelves this month and absolutely love the down to earth way it is written.  Corbin grew up watching families to see what characteristics they shared that made children feel valued and loved.  She has a practical guide that asks questions and shares activities that help families to be intentional in the way they represent Christ to each other and the world.  This book was so inspiring and showed how they really live out their values! If you are interested in a copy of this book, I’m giving away a signed copy on Facebook/Instagram… so head there and check it out!

I said I only had five but I have two more that I have to give shout outs to!

Undistracted by Bob Goff

This one needs no introduction.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  If you have never read Bob Goff, you should.  Basically every time I read something of his, it becomes my favorite.  Check it out, you will thank me later!

Stop Interrupting Me: A Practical Guide to Teaching Kids Their Manners by Rebekah McClure

This is a low-cost, wonderful resource for any parent or grandparent (or even teacher).  The methods in this book not only work, but I have seen them in action, because it was authored by one of my good friends.  Her children are precious and so is she!  I actually read this book the first time last year, but since I reread it again this year, it definitely deserved a spot on the list!

Interested in seeing more of my recommendations?  “>Follow me on Goodreads to see what I have been reading this year!

Affiliate disclosure: When you make a purchase through our links, we may earn commissions from Amazon and other retailers. 

Posted in Joy, parenting

Should I Shelter My Kids From Pain?

               I recently got heart-breaking news delivered right as my sixth graders returned from lunch.  I had not processed the news enough myself to even know how to respond when the students came barreling in and saw me crying as I hung up the phone.  I left school quickly, fully expecting someone would tell them why I was upset so that they would understand. 

               I received so many emails from students in the subsequent hours.  Students who had not even seen me that day, or who were in my morning classes, were emailing because they heard I was crying.  They wanted to make sure that I was okay.  And they all wanted to make sure that I would be coming back to school the next day.  I was told to tell them I had a family emergency and would be back next week.

               There was a time a few years ago when I thought I needed to shelter my kids from any kind of sadness and suffering.  I tried for several years to shelter them from their dad’s seizures and cancer.  I did not think they needed to know he was sick.  I wanted them to have a carefree childhood free of pain and suffering.  But when my twins were only three years old, their dad took them on a walk through the neighborhood and had a seizure.  He fell off the curb into the road.  They sat with strangers and watched as he was loaded into an ambulance and waited for me to arrive to pick them up.  I realized when they explained it to me that they knew far more than I realized and that sheltering them only made them more afraid.

Here is what I have learned about sheltering my kids:

  • Loss and pain is a very real part of life. It is everywhere. You cannot hide from loss and you cannot run away from it. Someday they will have to face pain. And when they do have to face it head on, they need to know how to process it.
  • Sheltering them makes them think we should ignore hard things. When we shelter our kids, we are teaching them it is not acceptable to talk about hard things. It is teaching them that pain and loss and things to be avoided. When my kids first started school, I remember a teacher telling me that my son needed to go to counseling because he was always telling people his dad was dead. I remember saying, “but he is.” The teacher told me that it was not healthy for a six-year-old to talk about loss so much. But speaking that truth is necessary for us to process it as reality. The last thing I ever want is for my children to grow up thinking that they cannot talk about hard things or that they should avoid them because it might make others uncomfortable. That loss is a part of who they are.
  • Letting my children feel the pain and loss of others has developed compassion in them. It has taught them to feel for others who have lost. It is teaching them to be kind individuals. When I told my kids about losing their grandfather recently, the first words out of my 7 year old’s mouth were, “That is so sad for Grandma. Now she has lost her son and her husband. She must be very sad. Are we going to go see her so we can hug her?” And I cried. Not only for our loss, but for her loss, and for my mother-in-law’s loss. And because my children have had to process so much pain already in their young lives.

               The last few years I have struggled with whether to shelter or expose my children to pain and loss and suffering.  But pain and loss are very real parts of life.  They will not be able to avoid those difficult moments as the get older and they have to know how to persevere through hard things and come out stronger. 

               I still pray that difficult moments will not find them.  I pray that we will not have to face the loss of anyone else that we love and I pray they will not have to mourn lost relationships.  I try to make sure that my kids lives are filled with as much sunshine, confetti and roses as possible and I try to teach them to embrace every single day head first.  But when those difficult moments come, so much more frequently than I would hope, I hope I have taught them to face them head on too.  We cry the tears, we embrace the sadness, we hug each other a little tighter, and we learn the lessons… together, one heartbreak at a time. 

Posted in Joy, parenting

Is A Surprise Worth A Lie?

We have been talking a lot about telling the truth around our house lately… about what the truth is and when it is okay to tell a lie. 

The kids have asked why sometimes parents lie to their kids and why adults would lie to each other.  It has brought up a lot of hard conversations that I have tried to handle with grace.  I have been learning to share my thoughts carefully these days since my kids love to share exactly what I say with everyone they know. 

Last night they asked if there are good lies and bad lies and how to tell the difference.

First, I do not think that lying to our children is ever a good practice.  It causes them to lose their trust in us and it can even cause them to lose their faith in people in general. 

But, we talked about how sometimes parents will lie to their children to keep something a surprise… by maybe telling them they are going one place when they are really going somewhere else.  The parents mean well and don’t consider that lying, but later on the child may only remember that their parents told them something different.  Why did they lie to me? 

Do I lie?  Sometimes…

I take a different approach with my kids… and I tell them outright if I am going to lie to them… which they reminded me of during this conversation.  Whenever I take them on a surprise trip, they love to try to guess where we are going.  I tell them upfront, even if they guess the surprise, I will not tell them and ruin the surprise.  Sometimes I will even say, one of your twenty guesses was correct, but I’m not going to tell you which one. 

Telling the truth builds trust.

I think it is important to build the element of trust with my kids.  If they are going to the dentist to have work done on their teeth, I tell them that yes, it is going to hurt.  If we are going to have to face a fear, I address it head on rather than letting it be a last minute surprise. 

When their dad was sick and they told me that they were scared of him dying, I never promised them that he was going to be okay.  Instead I told them that I got scared sometimes too, but that I prayed that God would heal him and I knew that no matter what, WE would be okay.  As a rule, I never make promises that I’m not sure I can keep to them.  If I’m not sure about something, I tell them upfront I don’t know.  And I rarely say never…

Proverbs 12:22 says, “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people that are trustworthy.”

I would take that verse a step further and say that our children delight in us too when they know they can trust us to follow thru on our words. 

So in answer to the kids question, no I don’t think that there are good lies and bad lies… I think it is important to speak truth to them so that they will grow up to be adults of strong character as well.

What do you think?  Are there situations when you think it would be okay to not tell the truth to a child?  Times when you think that there are “good” lies?

Posted in Joy, parenting

So Many Choices, But No Clear Answers

               It’s the first day of school for this bunch… and my first day for my online students as well.  It’s a day I have both looked forward to and dreaded for the last six months.  The number of decisions I have been responsible for during this pandemic sure have weighed heavy on my heart. I don’t know about you, but I crave options and hate them all at the same time.  No one likes being told what to do, but at the same time, I abhor making decisions.  And I am notorious for second guessing everything.

               The past two years I really struggled with the decision about where to send the kids to school.  Two years ago they attended a University model school, and last year they attended an amazing public school in our district.  Both years the Lord blessed my choice so much that I knew that the decision I had made was from Him.  And I never regretted it.  Despite all my fears about public school, all three of them had the teachers that I prayed for, that were what each needed and I could not be more thankful for the environment they were in.  And as a bonus, I got to work at their school a couple hours a week all year while keeping my university job!

               But now we have come full circle.  I decided early last year that I was going to keep them at the same school this year.  I was so excited about the options for the teachers they could each have, and then the pandemic hit.  My decision making/stressing started all over again… which leads us to today…  the first week of four weeks of remote learning before we return to in person learning in September.  To say I am sure about my decision would be a lie, but I know that when I have followed my gut in the past, I haven’t regretted it… so in the words of a dear friend, “I’m doing it scared…”

You Don’t Have to Have All the Answers Right Now 

              If you are like me and questioning your schooling decisions for this year… here’s what I want to tell you.   There are very few decisions in parenting that I have been 100% sure of.  Some of my greatest successes and my greatest failures as a parent have come from making choices I wasn’t totally sure about.  Sometimes there aren’t great options, and the choices aren’t ones that we would ever have chosen for ourselves.  It really is okay to “do it scared.” Bathe it in prayer, then live life, jump in with both feet and see where things go.  If you realize down the road you need to switch things up, that’s okay.  That may be the only way we get the confirmation that we are doing the right thing. 

               So we are starting out this school year with Philippians 4:6 as the verse for us to remember, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

               My days will be a little busier than I planned the next few weeks, but I am embracing every moment, and while I’m at it, I’ll be praying for you too!  Whatever decision you made for this year: homeschooling, in person, or remote… I’m praying you get the confirmation you need that you are doing the right thing! 

Posted in parenting

This Mama’s Heart…

                I have been thinking about and wanting to write this blog since Mother’s Day… it was a hard day for me this past year… as I reflected back on Mother’s days past, and Mother’s days to come and what being a mother really means to me.
                I’ve wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember.  Growing up, I babysat for anyone and everyone I could.  I loved kids and looked forward to the day when I would have my own.  I told anyone who asked that I wanted twelve (like stairsteps… two years apart… haha—what was I thinking?).  When Ben and I started dating, he wanted six… and I said maybe 4… maybe 6.  My only specification was that I definitely didn’t want 3 or 5.  Maybe it was the math teacher in me, but I didn’t like odd numbers ;-)… I wanted them each to have a “friend,” someone to play with all the time.   Little did we know that we would spend three years trying to grow our family before we finally got pregnant the first time.  We had over six months of fertility treatments, disappointments, and loss before finally getting pregnant with the twins.  After their emergency birth, we asked the doctor how soon would be too soon to start trying for more… he told us there was no reason to wait that he could see so we didn’t.  We prayed that more kiddos would come without treatment, but they didn’t.  15 months after the twin’s birth, we headed to a new fertility doctor and got pregnant with baby #3. 
                I loved being pregnant.  Maybe it was the amount of time, money and prayer that it took to get that way, but I loved it!  There were uncomfortable moments (I did have twins), but I loved every minute of knowing that I was growing a sweet baby (babies) inside of me.  I looked forward to a natural delivery with Kinsey and the opportunity to carry more babies to term and deliver them naturally as well.  I didn’t get what I wanted… and for months I have struggled with the feelings that resulted from her traumatic delivery and the separation that we had following it.  She wasn’t supposed to be the last baby that I had the opportunity to carry and even at 41+ weeks pregnant, I never thought that I wouldn’t be pregnant again.  It’s something that has been hard for me to come to terms with, even 11 months later. 
                 I don’t for one minute take for granted the fact that I AM a mother!  I am the mom of three precious angels and I love that I get to spend my days with them.  God gave me these sweet babies to birth and raise from the start and I love that.  However, on Mother’s Day last year and many days since, I have felt sorry for myself.  I felt sorry for myself because of all the babies that I still wanted to carry and all the children that I thought I was going to get to have.  It’s been a long year of struggling with myself and going back and forth over the “what ifs” and trying to figure out what, if anything, I could have done different.
                After Kinsey was born, I was just so happy to be alive and to know that she was healthy and well, that the reality of things didn’t set in at first.  As I started to come to grips with my feelings and the reality of the future, many people told me that it was okay to be mad at God for taking away my dream.  Many of Ben and my family members told me that THEY were mad at God for taking away our dream.  Despite all my angry and sad moments in the last 11 months, I have not been angry at God at all.  I’ve been mad at myself, I’ve been mad at the doctors, and I have even been mad at my past dreams, but I do not blame God.  Here’s why:
1.        God gave me this dream of being a mother.  It didn’t happen in my timing, and it didn’t happen the way we wanted it to.  It took a lot of struggling, but because Ben and I had this dream, we refused to give up.  We wouldn’t have these three beautiful children if it wasn’t for how important this dream was to us!   This dream that HE gave to us!
2.       God didn’t take away my ability to have future biological children.  Circumstances did.  It may not be the way that we wanted it to happen, but one thing Ben and I have learned throughout the past few years is that God has a plan that is way bigger than what we can even imagine or believe.  
3.       And thirdly because I WILL have more children.  My family is not finished and God still has BIG plans for us.
                 Ben and I sat down in September and had a serious talk about the future.  We talked about future jobs, future homes, and our future family.  We have always planned on adopting, but in our minds this was a far off goal.  We thought it would happen after our kids were older so we could adopt from the foster care system.  However, as we talked about how we saw our family growing and when, we both agreed that God was leading us to pursing and being open to adoption sooner rather than later.  We both realized that maybe the change in our circumstances was God’s way of saying we needed to pursue this path now, not years from now. 
                We started praying in September, specifically for the children that God might be preparing to be a part of our family, whether that day is soon or much later on.  In addition, we have been researching and calling around and meeting with adoption agencies and foster care workers like crazy and have hit quite a few roadblocks at the start of the this journey.  We are continuing to pray that God will lead us down the path that he has for us to follow in order for us to grow our family.   As we make decisions about where we are going to move to next, adoption and our three sweet kiddos play a huge part in our planning.  We ask that you, our friends, pray for us as we make those decisions and pray too for our future family as God leads us to them!  We desire nothing less than to be a tool for him as we share the love we have with others.

James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Posted in parenting

The journey to baby #3!!

Since we announced Baby #3 was on the way this past July (arrival expected around New Years!!!), we have been asked so many questions regarding this pregnancy and whether it was an accident, planned or if we had to use fertility treatments again… I have answered these questions for so many people, I thought maybe it would be useful to write a blog post and share what this journey has consisted of!

When Ben and I first started talking about starting our family, we both agreed we wanted a big family 4-6 kids (I know, what a blessing right??) and that spacing them out by a few years would be ideal.  After several years of trying to conceive and suffering disappointment & heartache, we were finally blessed with our amazing twins (after a year of fertility testing/treatments, etc).  At that point we decided that should God choose to bless us with more children (without medical intervention), we would happily take them whenever he chose to send them our way. 

A couple weeks before the twins first birthday, Ben found out that he was going to be leaving in April for 6 months.  We didn’t want to wait to pursue future children after his trip was over so we went ahead and scheduled an appointment to see a fertility specialist in Nashville.  I went to the first appointment alone while he was out of the country in January and was told that the earliest we could get in for treatment was the middle of April.  When he got home, we talked and prayed about it and decided that God knew what he was doing and we knew that things would align for him to still be home at the middle of April. 

Many of you know that when Ben returned home he had a series of seizures that led to us finding out he had a massive cancerous brain tumor.  Even with surgery, the doctors were not very encouraging about the future.  Ben was told he would not be allowed to take the trip in April and again we prayed about whether to move forward with the scheduled treatments.  I have been questioned several times on the fact that Ben and I chose to go ahead with the treatments despite his diagnosis, even without any follow up scans to determine whether the tumor had returned.  It boils down to the fact that we had FAITH that he was going to be fine and despite our moments of weakness, there was absolutely no way we were going to allow this to halt our plans for a bigger family!  Our God is bigger than any cancer and we both knew that we were meant to have more children together!

We started our treatment cycle at the end of March and even before our “two week wait” was up, we knew we were expecting.  I happily went into the doctor’s office for the official confirmation.  Anyone who has had trouble conceiving or who has gone through fertility treatments knows that for the first few weeks it is a numbers game.  They have you come back several times to confirm that your numbers are rising appropriately and eventually allow you to see that first heartbeat on ultrasound.  My numbers rose the first two visits, but after the third visit, they dropped dramatically.  The nurses who called told me to prepare for a miscarriage, but that they would check my numbers again in a week.  Ben and I prayed unceasingly for the following week… and I truly believe it was his FAITH that caused those numbers to continue going up. After the following appointment the nurses told me that they thought the drop in numbers was due to what could have been another multiple pregnancy, but that everything seemed to look good now and they scheduled us for our first ultrasound! 

The first ultrasound showed a strong heartbeat and so did the following several.  The specialist we saw in Nashville wanted to keep me on the hormone supplements through the first trimester in order to make sure everything was off to the best start and at 12 weeks they scheduled me to see a perinatologist for some further testing because of how the pregnancy started and our previous history (preterm labor, pre-eclampsia, etc).  It was at this appointment that the specialist told me we would be having another little girl.  I was not convinced that she could possibly be accurate at 12 weeks, so when we announced we were expecting the following week, we refrained from sharing that part of our news :-).

We were also excited to share the news of this pregnancy with both of our parents in person this time around.  We traveled through Ohio on the way to spend the 4th of July in Maine with my family and told Ben’s parents and then mine!  After contacting all our brothers and sisters (we have a lot you know)… we let our news seep out into the FB world!

Since then it has pretty much been “smooth sailing” as far as pregnancy goes.  There have been no complications to date & several subsequent ultrasounds have confirmed that we are indeed having a girl!  We are currently 33 weeks along and unlike last pregnancy I haven’t spent the last seven weeks on bedrest!  We are looking forward to meeting this sweet baby girl in about 7 weeks!

Some other questions I have been asked but haven’t answered above:
**What would you have done if it was multiples again?  We would have rejoiced!! Ben and I both prayed for a healthy pregnancy, the opportunity for a natural childbirth experience, and no need to supplement with formula this time around.  God saw fit to give us 1 child this time around; maybe we will get more next time 😉

**Do you plan to have more children?  YES, Definitely… whether by birth or adoption, we definitely plan to have more.  We both believe that God has called us to have a houseful! 

**Would you do further fertility treatments?  Yes, if necessary.  God has provided the funds for the previous treatments and while we hope and pray that further treatments won’t be necessary, we are willing to go through this process again if necessary!

God has been so FAITHFUL this year and Ben and I have been tremendously blessed by the outpouring of love, support and prayers that we have received from all of our friends and family!  Thank you so much & we look forward to introducing you to our next addition!!

Posted in parenting

11 months old already?

Josh and Savannah are only a month from their first birthday and I can hardly believe how fast they have grown.  Has it really almost been a year since they arrived?  I can’t imagine our lives without them, but at the same time it has flown by so quickly.

Joshua is starting to pull up and cruise along the furniture, and he is finally “walking” along with us when we hold his hands instead of immediately sitting down.  His separation anxiety is at it’s peak right now (I hope) and he hates to see anyone leave the room (especially mommy!). He is starting to chatter more and more and Ben and I love hearing them talk to us.  He also loves to be chased… he will take off across the room and if you don’t follow fast enough, he will turn around and come back to within a foot of you and then turn back in the other direction to crawl away while laughing!

Savannah is definitely little Miss Independent.  She will take a few steps (hands free) between Ben and I, but still doesn’t have enough courage to walk on her own.  She loves being on her feet though, and it is very hard to keep her still!  She will push her toys around the living room, and gets frustrated when walls and furniture get in her way.

They both have enjoyed having a Christmas tree in the living room, but hate that mommy and daddy have it fenced off.  Savannah spends a little bit of time everyday with her hands through the fence trying to pull off ornaments and even unwrapping presents if she can get her hands on them.

We have had to invest in real baby gates to block off the staircases and the dining room to keep the twins in “safe” play areas.  Savannah has tried climbing over these fences already and Joshua sure does love to follow her around.  The other day I was distracted in the kitchen and heard them both laughing hysterically.  I found Joshua a few steps up the stairs to our room and Savannah was a few steps from the top!  Her laughter got louder as I got closer and she took off in a hurry!

Since Ben will be off a week at Christmas time, he is going to help me make the bottle/sippy cup transition and help me attempt to put the kids on a regular meal schedule (which means mommy has to come up with three baby friendly meals a day!).  It is bound to be an interesting month!

Here are a few pictures of the kids this month!

The rocking chairs were a Hanukkah gift from daddy and the teddy bears were a gift from a sweet friend… now if only Savannah could learn that they are made for sitting in and not standing on….