Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Did you grow up with many Christmas traditions?

As a missionary kid I grew up in France, Germany, and California so our traditions were somewhat flexible depending on where we were and what family was around. My favorite tradition started when I was in middle school. My mom decided to put up two Christmas trees that year: a real one for the living room, with all of our special ornaments, and a fake tree in our basement/rec room with only candy canes and chocolate ornaments (which they sell very cheaply in Europe).

I can tell you that our chocolate tree was a hit! My mom would refill the tree as necessary all throughout December.

We're still trying to figure out our Christmas traditions with our two young boys. It's tricky and I feel some tension about it: on the one hand, I'd love to make the this holiday season one filled with childhood magic and wonder! On the other hand, I'm tired. More importantly, I'd like for this to be a Christ-filled time of giving and love and gratefulness. And yet it's so easy and natural to fall into the trap of wanting more and more... the kids love presents, and I love giving them presents!

Some traditions are downright controversial: does your family do Elf on the shelf? I've heard of an alternative elf tradition called Kindness Elves, which sounds more appealing to me.

Somehow, I'd like to keep our Christmas traditions simple, and both fun and meaningful, without wearing me down.

Any tips for me? What does your family do?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Celebrating Advent

When I was younger, all I knew of advent was chocolate calendars (we're from a very low church background!) Now that I have kids of my own, I've been on the hunt for some more meaningful ways to celebrate advent.

Here are some ideas I've found:

1. Ann Voskamp has a delightful little book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas, which guides your family through daily biblical stories and images leading up to Christmas day. Alongside this book, you can also create a Jesse Tree - hanging various ornaments representing different biblical figures and events in the redemption story. There's a whole website devoted to making your own Jesse Tree, with free printable ornaments, gift tags, coloring pages, etc. Worth checking out!

2. Another idea I've heard of is to set up your nativity scene progressively, one set of figurines at a time, and saving baby Jesus for last. His arrival made all the more special on Christmas day!

3. Similarly, another twist on the nativity scene is to have the wisemen/magi start on one end of the house and journey closer and closer to baby Jesus as Christmas day draws closer.

4. From Rachel Held Evans, the "Pay attention" advent tree:

"Our focus will be on paying attention to the witness of the prophets, connecting them to the Christmas story and to our present longing for God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. For my own Advent calendar, I'll be picking out key words from the biblical prophecies assigned to each week (Isaiah 64:1-9; Isaiah 40:1-11; Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; and 2 Samuel 7:1-16) and adding them to my "Pay Attention" Advent tree.  (I've gone ahead and filled out the first one for Sunday, Nov. 30.) Check InstagramFacebookand Twitter for the key words each day, as well as reflections on Advent, prophecy, and God-with-us." 
5. And if you have artistically inclined children, consider printing out some blank templates of this advent tree and providing crayons and markers to decorate one shape at a time until Christmas day. Proudly display the progress on the refrigerator!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Whether you're near or far, the host or the guest, with family or not, I hope you all have a WONDERFUL THANKSGIVING!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Curl up with a Click, 6th edition

A compilation of some great reads around the internet - because I may not have time to curl up with a good book until the kids are 18!

On not "firepitting" our marriage (or our children) "I think it’s a normal human tendency. We put more effort in with our friends than we do with our family. We want to be hospitable, but we also want to impress. And while it’s wonderful to feel like we can be comfortable with our own spouses and children, I find that sometimes this means that we put less effort in, too."

Our "Mommy" problem - NY Times "Somehow, as we’ve learned to treat children as people with desires and rights of their own, we’ve stopped treating ourselves and one another as such."

How I do it all (not) "I don’t see what is gained by any of us pretending that somehow everything runs flawlessly behind the scenes."

12 Witty responses to "you have your hands full" (Number 1 is my personal favorite but I don't think I'd ever have the guts to say it!)

To the momma at Chick-Fil-A  "All of the times that we get to be mommy? All of the moments that are completely ordinary and yet often completely overwhelming? They’re worth it."

We need to stop saying 'Babies ruin bodies' "She knows  my heart - she knew it long before we met. And she loves me for it."

A Mother's Repentance  (If you only have time to read one, make it this one!)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Beauty for a Cause

Many years ago, I had a summer job as a night nanny for newborn triplets (they hired me to help with night feedings so one of them could sleep). Two girls and a boy... these were this couple's only children. I remember one morning, in the moments just as the sun was beginning to rise, the mom turned to me, a baby in each arm and one in her lap, and said:

"Now that I have my babies, I just wish we could all live in a bubble so that nothing and no one could ever hurt us or do us any harm."

At the time I remember thinking that she sounded a little paranoid and over-anxious. But I chalked it up to the sleep deprivation.

What I didn't know at the time is that once you have a child, your heart becomes glass. All too easily breakable. When you watch the news, when you hear of a tragedy, it shatters you in a way it didn't before. Suddenly every victim is potentially YOUR baby. And even when you remind yourself that it's not your baby, that your baby is right here trying to get the remote control in his mouth, you still want to cry alongside that grieving mother.

That's why my heart broke when I heard about impoverished families in Haiti who were giving their children to orphanages because they couldn't afford to feed them. The global orphan crisis is near and dear to my heart. And while I can't save every family, I can save one!

The Apparent Project artisans guild uses discarded materials such as cereal and cracker boxes, oil drums, and trash paper to create beautiful "upcycled" pieces of jewelry, journals, and stylish home decor. While redeeming the Haitian landscape, these artisans are also bringing new hope to their families, employing themselves for a brighter future and earning the means to pay for their children's food, shelter, and education. That means less orphans, less crime, less garbage, less stress, and a whole lot more beauty.

So friends, even though I would make a terrible salesperson, I decided to order a box of jewelry and Christmas ornaments to sell at our next MOPS meeting (11/18). ALL proceeds go directly to the mamma who made the jewelry, I get no commission :).

Here's just a sample of all the gorgeousness that came in the box:

Items range from $5 to $48. I hope you see something that you'd love or that would be a perfect gift for someone on your list this holiday season. Bring cash or your checkbook!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Graphic Tees for All the Moms

A fun little roundup of all the graphic tees that should be in my closet right this minute.

I'm So Tired -- Truth!

I am your Mother -- Because, Star Wars.

World's Okayest Mom -- And proud of it!

Because I said so -- I promised I wouldn't say it to my own kids, AND YET!

Soccer Mom -- I can see this shirt in my future.

I woke up like this -- You know it!

Mama Bear -- Awww!

How about you? Which one is your favorite?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Au Pairs

Au Pairs?

As a mother of 3 young children (and one more on the way), I can deeply relate to the conundrum of feeling pulled in so many directions.  Do I go back to work full-time, try to find part-time work, stay home with my kids?  Do I send them to daycare or hire a nanny?  Can I even afford to do these things?  How will I balance it all and stay sane at the same time?

When it comes to full-time childcare, forget day care and nannies (especially if you have 2 or more children).  There is a better option – au pairs.  What is an au pair?  Simply put, it’s a live-in nanny from a foreign country who can provide up to 45 hours of care per week in exchange for room and board, program fees and a very affordable weekly stipend (program/stipend costs average $362 a week per family).  The care is as flexible as you need it to be, which is wonderful for families that have changing schedules or gaps of time when care is needed.  In addition to flexibility, you can choose an au pair that speaks a specific language or comes from a certain part of the world and have them share their culture and language with your children.  No more driving around town dropping off and picking up the kids, no more runny noses all year long from daycare and it’s much more affordable than a local nanny who will charge upwards of $20/hour for 2 or more children (that would cost $900 a week for 45 hours of care). 

Au pairs have been in the US since 1986 when Au Pair in America piloted this wonderful cultural exchange program.  I hired an au pair when I moved to San Diego almost 2 years ago to help with my 3 children while I worked part-time and my husband deployed.  What an incredible experience.  I got the help I needed with the kids so that I could continue working, I had another adult in the house while my husband was gone and my children loved having another caring adult at home.  As a bonus, they even learned some Portuguese!

 To learn more about au pairs you can visit the Au Pair in America web site here: or contact me directly at or 202-280-9255

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Love Languages

Nonie Levi, Marriage and Family Therapist, came to speak to us yesterday and she was amazing as usual! She talked about how to communicate directly and honestly in our marriage, and how to make requests instead of demands.

She also referenced love languages as a way to meet our spouse's needs, and I wanted to make sure you had easy access to the love language quiz (it's free and easy to take). It was developed by Gary Chapman and he wrote a book to go along with it. There's also a book geared towards speaking your child's love language. Worth the read!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Morning

Granted, this is worst case scenario vs. best case scenario, but the fact that I'm posting this so early in the morning says it all!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Curl up with a Click, 5th edition

A compilation of some great reads around the internet - because I may not have time to curl up with a good book until the kids are 18!

10 things to do differently BEFORE you lose your temper "I am not a hostage at the mercy of my six-year-old’s disdain for what I cooked for supper. His temper tantrum does not have to boss me into my own."

What Women Want "She paused dramatically and in a butter-cream-smooth tone, said: “Mom, if you just gave us more of the things we want, there would be less crying and being angry with you.”

What if having an extraordinary life isn't the point?  "Our big ideas to “change the world” can become ways of actually avoiding the opportunities we have every day, right where God has placed us, to glorify and enjoy Him and to enrich the lives of others."

Why are America's Post Partum Practices So Rough on New Mothers?  "It took me a good eight to nine weeks to be normal—I mean, physically able to not wear disposable underwear. But you’re supposed to be Facebook-ready two days after labor.”

A Literal and Metaphorical Breakthrough "I can’t thank her enough for touching me on the arm that morning and offering her support. I have too often wanted to do the same for someone else but held back because I didn’t want another mother to think that I was being judgmental"

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Children's Books

In my next life, I'd love to be a librarian whose only job is to read picture books aloud to young children. It's my favorite thing to do! Fortunately, my two year old loves books! We love to go to the library, but I've been working on building my own collection.

A while back, one of my favorite bloggers put together a fantastic list of the Top 50 Picture Books for children. She also shared 11 Best Designed Board Books for your toddler. (Have you read any of them?) Recently, B.J Novak (Ryan, the temp, from The Office) has been making waves with his new book: The Book with No Pictures. It's designed for preschoolers up to second graders, and it's meant to both show the power of words, and also to be hilarious!

Here's a funny clip of him reading his new book to some students at a school assembly:

What do you think? Would your kiddo enjoy a book with no pictures?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Be You, Bravely

Be inspired! Be encouraged!

From Amena Brown at MOMcon 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Around Town

One of the things I love about San Diego is that there's just so much to do here! And a lot of it doesn't even cost anything (free is my favorite!). This is especially true around the holidays. Halloween is just around the corner so I thought I'd share this great list of things to do in San Diego this month.

I'd also like to plug the amazing Fall Festival at Point Loma Nazarene University, coming up on Saturday the 25th. It's totally FREE and open to the community!

I went last year with my toddler and he just loved it! Hopefully, I'll see you there! 

Do you have any favorite local activities this time of year?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Three Bean Salad

I'm sharing my favorite bean salad with you all today! I love to have a big bowl of this on hand for weekday lunches. I'm not much of a sandwich fan, and I hate to waste precious naptime cooking something, so this is a real life saver for me.

I highly recommend doubling this recipe!

Three Bean Salad
(adapted from this recipe)


1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar (or White Vinegar works well too!)
2 Tbsp Sugar
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
2 cups Green Beans, freshly blanched if possible or 1 can cut green beans
1 can, 15.5 can Garbonzo Beans, rinsed
1 can, 15.5 can Kidney Beans, rinsed
1 large Shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced


Whisk together sugar, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic and shallots. Set aside.
In a large bowl stir together green beans, Garbonzo beans, and kidney beans. Pour the sauce over the top and fold together to combine until all vegetables are coated in sauce. Cover and place in the fridge to chill and allow the flavors to meld. Serve cold and stir before serving.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Curl up with a Click, 4th edition

A compilation of some great reads around the internet - because I may not have time to curl up with a good book until the kids are 18!

Three fads that are killing your joy "It is a God-given drive to be the best mom you can be, but our calling becomes an idol if our joy depends on our performance."

This artist updates her 2 year old daughter's artwork Just... wow.

The motherheart of God: fierce, strong, wild "My mothering heart holds the fiercest, strongest, wildest and most protective love I have ever known. And it is nothing, nothing, nothing compared to the way the motherheart of God loves me."

48 tips from the world's worst potty trainer (a cautionary tale)  "7. Post your decision on when to potty train on Facebook. Solicit dozens of unwanted opinions."

A quick fix for a pouting kid "In that difficult moment, choose to connect with your kid. Confront the issue head-on."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Exciting News

If you like to pamper yourself, make sure to come to our 9/30 meeting with Kim Benson (occupational therapist). The Hidden Spa has decided to sponsor us, and I'll be giving away $30 gift certificates to TWO lucky moms in a random drawing!

As always, please RSVP here and let us know if you'll need childcare! The sooner we know, the better!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My New Favorite Podcast

Do you listen to podcasts? I used to listen to them on long road trips (before kids, ha!). I recently discovered a great podcast for parents called The Longest Shortest Time. Have you heard of it? They're about 20 minutes long, fun to listen to and very easy to relate to.

Here's one that will make you cry: The Shortest Day

Here's one that will make you laugh: The Parent's Guide to Eating Over the Sink
They made a little video to go along with this one. I giggled the whole way through because I have so been there!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Welcome Back to MOPS

Welcome back to MOPS, ladies! I'm so excited for our new year to begin. There's lots of fun stuff in store!

I came across this beautiful poem in the book Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey (highly recommended, by the way!) and wanted to share it with you as my prayer for us in the upcoming year.

Let Us Be Women Who Love

Let us be women who Love.
Let us be women willing to lay down our sword words, our sharp looks, our ignorant silence and towering stance and fill the earth now with extravagant Love.
Let us be women who Love.
Let us be women who make room.
Let us be women who open our arms and invite others into an honest, spacious, glorious embrace.

Let us be women who carry each other.
Let us be women who give from what we have.
Let us be women who leap to do the difficult things, the unexpected things and the necessary things.
Let us be women who live for Peace.
Let us be women who breathe Hope.
Let us be women who create beauty.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us be a sanctuary where God may dwell.
Let us be a garden for tender souls.
Let us be a table where others may feast on the goodness of God.
Let us be a womb for Life to grow.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us rise to the questions of our time.
Let us speak to the injustices in our world.
Let us move the mountains of fear and intimidation.
Let us shout down the walls that separate and divide.
Let us fill the earth with the fragrance of Love.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us listen for those who have been silenced.
Let us honour those who have been devalued.
Let us say, Enough! with abuse, abandonment, diminishing and hiding.
Let us not rest until every person is free and equal.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who are savvy, smart and wise.
Let us be women who shine with the light of God in us.
Let us be women who take courage and sing the song in our hearts.
Let us be women who say, Yes to the beautiful, unique purpose seeded in our souls.
Let us be women who call out the song in another’s heart.
Let us be women who teach our children to do the same.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who Love, in spite of fear.
Let us be women who Love, in spite of our stories.
Let us be women who Love loudly, beautifully, Divinely.
Let us be women who Love.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Best Books to Teach Manners

Toddlers have no idea what it means to function in polite society. They're adorable little narcissists, really, but it can get to be a problem when we leave the house or interact with others in general.

If you're in the same boat, I've compiled a list of some great teaching books you may want to read with your little ones.

Excuse Me by Karen Katz

What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick

Time to Say Please by Mo Willems

Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller

Don't Do That by Tony Ross

How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

Nobunny's Perfect by Anna Dewdney

Rules of the Wild by Bridget Levin

What about you? Do you have any favorites to recommend?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Curl up with a Click, 3rd edition

A compilation of some great reads around the internet - because I may not have time to curl up with a good book until the kids are 18!

What should a 4 year old know?  "We are such a competitive culture that even our preschoolers have become trophies and bragging rights. Childhood shouldn’t be a race."

Be sexy, but not too sexy, and other stupid things we're telling girls "Girls, sit by me, let me tell you a story, and let’s hope it has a happy ending."

The important thing about yelling "She’s scared of me, I thought with the most painful realization imaginable. My 6-year-old child is scared of my reaction to her innocent mistake.
With deep sorrow, I realized that was not the mother I wanted my children to grow up with, nor was it how I wanted to live the rest of my life."
Dear White Moms This was a powerful read. So heartbreaking. We're all in this mothering thing together!
Teach us to realize the brevity of life "I feel like parenting is defined by this constant angsty tension – wanting so much for a hard phase to be over, simultaneously feeling guilty that we are wishing it away, and then immediately grieving each stage as soon as it has passed."

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cards for a New Mom

My sister is expecting her first, and I've been having so much fun finding a congratulatory card for her! Nothing says you care more than sending a handmade card.... but in my case, it's more like nothing says you care-but-are-too-busy than buying a handmade card made by someone else!

Here's a fun roundup of some of my favorites:

1.  / 2.  / 3.  / 4.  / 5.  / 6.  / 7. 

If you're looking for the perfect gift to go along with that card, check out these great ideas!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Shopping Consignment

If you're on the lookout for kids' clothes and gear at a discount, mark your calendar for the Just Between Friends sale happening October 11-13!